Duff’s Lock of the Week: One For The Cowboys

Posted at 10:21 2010-01-08

Thanks to our friends at Bet 24/7, this new PNW feature will allow you to follow the rare highs and frequent lows of my favourite vice – sports betting. Best of all, if you fade me, you are a decent chance of making some coin.

It will be Groundhog Day as the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles go at it again for the second time in less than a week at Cowboys Stadium. There’s a whole lot more at stake this time round, with the winner advancing in the post-season and the loser taking an extended leave of absence until next season.

Week 17 saw the Cowboys thump the Eagles 24-0 in a continuation of a run that is building momentum every single week.  While many of the playoffs were already set in stone at the start of week 17, meaning a lot of games with nothing on the line, the Eagles had the opportunity to secure a first week bye, had they beat the Cowboys. Of course the Cowboys rocketed to an easy win, capturing the third seed, and setting up a rematch against the Eagles in the Wild Card round.

History, if it means anything, favours the Eagles, who have won from the sixth seed (where they are currently) multiple times, and are a perfect seven from seven in their opening playoff match up each year under current head coach Andy Reid.

1996 was the last time the Cowboys won an NFL playoff game. At the time Savage Garden (remember them?) was the hottest thing on the Australian music scene, and current Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo had just started high school. Since that time the Cowboys have exited the playoffs out the back door on five occasions – something that makes St George Illawarra look like experienced playoff campaigners. The Cowboys have also choked big time in the home stretch of the season on more than a few occasions, leaving themselves out of the NFL’s biggest show.

The Cowboys back end season woes have been well documented. The last time they had posted a winning record in the final four games of the season was back in 2001. This year they reeled off three straight victories to end the year, beating the previously unbeaten New Orleans Saints, shutting out the stumbling Washington Redskins, and trouncing the Eagles as mentioned.

So there is cause to believe they will get off the slide.

In the last game Tony Romo threw for 311 yards and a pair of touchdowns as the Cowboys put up 474 total yards of offence, while keeping the Eagles to just 228 yards. Giving even more cause for hope is the fact that the Cowboys defence has recorded back-to-back shutouts – something almost unheard of at NFL level.

Philadelphia were completely held in check in week 17 as the Cows’ D imposed its will. Eagles veteran Quarterback Donovan McNabb had a quiet game completing a mild 20/36-223 yards last Sunday against a consistent and constant barrage of Dallas pressure.

The Eagles looked one dimensional against the Cowboys, getting nothing going on the ground, allowing Dallas to shutdown their big time pass offence. Even with Tight End Brent Celek coming up with seven receptions for 96 yards, the Eagles couldn’t find the end zone. The Cowboys will once again focus their energies on shutting down Philly’s big play receivers’ DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. This will mean that the Eagles will need to go somewhere else to get the business done. I don’t see it happening.

While the Eagles have Brian Westbrook back at full strength and the danger of Michael Vick out of a wildcat package, they have lost one of their impact run blockers in Jamaal Jackson who went down against Denver in December, and is unlikely to see any more action this season. Dallas don’t give up run yards easily either, conceding only 90.5yds per game in rush offence.

It’s hard to believe but Dallas ranks second offensively to the explosive New Orleans Saints aerial attack in the NFL. Tony Romo has been renowned for being hot and cold, and this season has seen him hotter than Melbourne in mid-January. He’s had no shortage of options with Marion Barber and Felix Jones helping pounding the ball, and an all-star laden cast on the offensive line. Wide receiver Miles Austin has stepped up to the plate taking possession of the target man role after the departure of Terrell Owens. Tight End Jason Witten and slot receiver Patrick Crayton can account for a whole bag of yards if the Eagles try to hone in on Austin.

Of course what better reason to bet the game than the fact that two Australians will be on display. Mat McBriar will handle the punting duties for the Cowboys, while former AFL player Sav Rocca will be his opposite man on the Eagles.

The money public dollars at least tend to agree that the Cowboys are set to end their playoff drought. The line has been moving out with the Cowboys increasing in favouritism since the market opened. At the moment they sit at -4.5 point favourites and yet the coin keeps coming.

Duff’s dollars are also going in the direction of the Cowboys at -4.5 for $1.86 on Bet 24/7.

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