Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles (-5, 55 o/u)
Running back DeMarco Murray was more than quiet in his debut with the Philadelphia Eagles (0-1, 0-0 Home) on Monday; last year’s NFL rushing leader was downright invisible, with just nine yards on eight carries during a 26-24 loss to Atlanta. Murray will look to bounce back when Philly hosts his former team, the Dallas Cowboys (1-0, 0-0 Away), in a huge NFC East battle at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday (4:25 PM Eastern).
Murray’s performance against Atlanta did come with a silver lining: he was able to find the end zone twice (once on the ground and once through the air). But his inability to kick start the run-game was a big part of why the Eagles fell behind early and ultimately failed to cover as three-point favorites.
“It was a little surprising,” Murray said to the Associated Press in regards to how he was used against the Falcons. “But we have a lot of weapons. A lot of individuals need to get the ball. As long as we’re winning, I’m fine with it.”
“You’re always trying to do what moves the offense,” added Eagles head coach Chip Kelly. “There are going to be times when we run the ball 60 times and times when we have to pass the ball 60 times. It depends on the game.”
Kelly tried to ride the arm of QB Sam Bradford in the opener, calling 52 pass plays for the former Ram. Bradford had a terrible first half – when Philly fell behind – 20-3, but he had the offense humming in the second as the team’s comeback effort fell just short. Bradford ended up going 36 of 52 for 336 yards and a major, but also tossed two picks. He can’t really be blamed for the second, though. With just 1:11 on the clock, he put the ball squarely in the hands of Jordan Matthews, only to see it slip through the receiver’s mitts and into waiting arms of Atlanta safety Ricardo Allen.
Meanwhile, Dallas overcame four costly turnovers in Week 1 to earn an emotional comeback win over the New York Giants (27-26). The Cowboy defense, which surprised many pundits last year with its solid play, got off to another good start, holding the G-Men to 289 total yards.
When they weren’t too busy giving the football away, the Dallas offense also looked good in Week 1, moving the ball basically at will against a suspect New York defense – especially once they fell behind.
But they’ll be hard-pressed to do the same against the Eagles this weekend having lost star WR Dez Bryant for upwards of eight weeks (broken foot).
The team worked out former Giant wideout Hakeem Nicks along with a couple other relative unknowns, but it’s still unclear who will be lining up opposite Terrence Williams in the starting lineup.
With Bryant out, the Cowboys will have to be careful not to fall behind early and get forced away from the run-game. Joseph Randle had a decent showing in his first start at RB, averaging 4.1 YPC; but he only got 16 carries as the team had to go pass-heavy in its comeback effort.
Like Philly, Dallas didn’t come through for bettors last week, failing to cover as six-point home favorites. That continued a trend of mediocre ATS results at home for Dallas. But the Cowboys were dynamite both SU and ATS on the road last year, going 8-0 and 7-1, respectively, including a road win (SU and ATS) at Philadelphia.
That win brought their record to 5-1 SU (and 4-2 ATS) in their last six at Lincoln Financial Field.
The injury to Dez is going to impact Dallas’ ability to move the ball, but the Philly defense hasn’t made the big strides some had predicted (with the additions of Kiko Alonso, Byron Maxwell, and Walter Thurmond III). Look for the Cowboys to pound the ball on the ground, slow the pace of the game, and keep this huge divisional matchup close. Take Dallas and the points.
Pick: Dallas +5.
(Photo credit: Billy Bob Bain (http://www.flickr.com/photos/astros/2120408008/) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo may appear cropped.)