NFL forecast: Eagles can kick Cowboys while down

By Matt Youmans  (VSiN senior editor) 

October 19, 2019 08:32 PM
Ezekiel Elliott and the Cowboys are riding a three-game losing skid into Sunday night's showdown with the Eagles.
© USA Today Images

There is no end to the soap opera in Dallas. The drama has shifted from running back Ezekiel Elliott’s training-camp holdout in Cabo to quarterback Dak Prescott’s absurd potential contract to coach Jason Garrett’s job status, with the latter being an annual theme.

A three-game losing streak has put Garrett in trouble again. Prescott has two touchdown passes and four interceptions during the skid, cooling off considerably since his hot start against three soft defenses (Giants, Redskins and Dolphins.) The Cowboys’ problems have had a lot to do with injuries on the offensive line.

But the Dallas defense has been surprisingly vulnerable and was just shredded by Sam Darnold in his return from mono. Darnold passed for 338 yards and two touchdowns in the Jets’ 24-22 win. Carson Wentz and the Eagles, who rank ninth in scoring offense at 26.8 points per game, are capable of doing similar damage Sunday night.

Philadelphia coach Doug Pederson did not exactly guarantee this win, but he has reasons to be confident. This is an opportunity for the Eagles to kick the Cowboys while they are down and take control of the division.

Road underdogs are 41-20-1 ATS (67.2 percent) through Week 6, and divisional ‘dogs are 18-11 ATS. Trends are sometimes meaningless or random, but here’s an eye opener — Dallas is 1-18-1 ATS as a home favorite when coming off a SU and ATS loss, with Garrett responsible for 13 of those spread losses.

On the downside for the ‘dog, the injury report for the Eagles is a mess with wideout DeSean Jackson and offensive tackle Jason Peters among five key players ruled out. The injury outlook for the Dallas offense appears more positive with help returning for Prescott, who could get hot against a soft Philadelphia secondary that was just torched by Kirk Cousins.

I bet the Eagles plus-3 early in the week. I do not like this play as much after the negative injury news, but will stick with the ‘dog and continue to fade the Cowboys.

Four more plays for Week 7 (home team in CAPS):

* GIANTS (-3) over Cardinals: Rookie quarterback Daniel Jones has been surprisingly good and will get big-time help with the returns of running back Saquon Barkley and tight end Evan Engram. The Giants are 2-2 straight up and ATS with Jones starting, dropping the past two to the Patriots and Vikings, who each boast top-five defenses. Arizona has allowed 23 points or more in all six games. The Cardinals are getting star cornerback Patrick Peterson back from suspension, but he’s not an immediate cure for a defense that ranks 30th in yards allowed (414 ypg) and 29th in scoring (28.5 ppg). Barkley’s comeback should give the Giants a big boost.

* PACKERS (-4½) over Raiders: The Raiders, 3-2 and halfway to their posted season win total of six, are an unsolved mystery. This team looked to be a lost cause after the Antonio Brown mess. On top of that, Oakland is down two key players with linebacker Vontaze Burfict’s suspension and wide receiver Tyrell Williams’ foot injury. Derek Carr leads the league in completion percentage (73.3), and rookie Josh Jacobs has proven to be the tough runner Jon Gruden needed for his offense. The Gruden critics have to give him credit for navigating the chaos and a brutal travel schedule. The Raiders are past the midpoint of a five-game trip from Minneapolis to Indianapolis to London to Green Bay to Houston. The Packers have injury issues at wide receiver, too, but Aaron Rodgers is finding new playmakers and is overdue for a big game. The bottom line is this number is cheap. Two weeks ago, Green Bay figured to be laying 7½ or 8 here. At some point, the travel must take a toll on the Raiders.

* BEARS (-4) over Saints: Teddy Bridgewater has been a steady game manager for New Orleans, but it will be difficult for him to manage the Chicago defense without injured running back Alvin Kamara. After a bad loss to the Raiders and a bye, expect a big effort from the Bears, who are 9-2 ATS in their past 11 regular-season games at Soldier Field. Chicago should win with either Chase Daniel or Mitchell Trubisky at quarterback.

* JETS (plus-10) over Patriots: A shaky New England offensive line has made Tom Brady look ordinary lately. The Jets are getting needed help at the right time with the return of linebacker C.J. Mosley, the quarterback of the defense. The Patriots have played six games against six feeble offenses. If Sam Darnold plays nearly as well as last week, the home ‘dog will be live. (Caesars and CG Technology are offering a double-digit line, with most books still at 9½.) 

Last week: 3-2 against the spread

Season: 17-13

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