SharpClarke's Best Week 17 NFL Bet: DET @ DAL
This week's best bet takes us to the rare Saturday Night Football game between the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys. Both teams have something to fight for in this game, but each team's primary goal relies on other teams losing. The Cowboys need the Eagles to trip up against the Cardinals or Giants to have a shot at the NFC East, and the Lions need the 49ers to lose (perhaps in addition to the Eagles) to have a shot at the number one seed and first-round bye. Ultimately, this is a game that matters, and both teams will be putting forth a strong effort. I view both teams fairly similarly, so I am going to take the points with the underdog Lions here. Let's dive into the matchup.
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DET offense v DAL defense
This should be a favorable matchup for the Lions, even on the road. If you've been reading my write-ups for a while, you know I don't necessarily buy into the idea that an efficient rushing offense has an advantage against a poor rushing defense, because running the ball is still suboptimal. But in some cases, whether or not a team can run the ball successfully completely transforms the offense. This typically happens when a pressure-sensitive quarterback who struggles with post-snap processing can use the successful ground game to keep the pocket clean and force defenders closer to the line of scrimmage to create space with an effective passing scheme. That's exactly who Jared Goff is, and that's a huge element of the Lions' offensive success.
The Cowboys have allowed the highest success rate to opposing running backs this season. We saw In real time what a good offensive line can do to the interior of the Cowboys' defense (particularly without Jonathan Hankins) when the Bills ran it down their throat all game. The Dolphins did not have the same kind of success, but they do not have an elite offensive line. The Cowboys can be bullied up front, and that's what I expect here. The Lions also find ways to attack defenses' weaknesses. Their struggles have come against teams that don't really have any weaknesses (like the Ravens). But the Cowboys are lacking depth, particularly with their injuries. They are starting some players who are not great, and the Lions will try to isolate that with their formations that can run a variety of plays from the same set. If Brian Johnson brings his A-game, this should be a very good day for the Lions' offense.
DAL offense v. DET defense
To be fair, it should be a very good day for the Cowboys' offense as well. When they've played at home, where Dak Prescott can manipulate the line of scrimmage pre-snap, they've been at their best. They also excel when they can exploit lapses in coverage. The Lions do not have a good coverage unit, and I expect the Cowboys to capitalize. I don't have any strong reason why the Cowboys will struggle here, but I do think when a highly-graded offense goes against a poorly-graded defense, the projected outcomes tend to skew optimistic. It's very difficult for any offense against any defense to avoid all mistakes, such as holding penalties, fumbles, and drops, which can happen against any opponent. It's fair to expect a solid performance from Dallas, but given how I project the Lions' offense to perform, they will need to hit the high end of their range of outcomes to justify laying so many points. The Lions may need some variance to win outright, but they might be able to trade blow for blow, even in a game that does not offer them easy opportunities.
I will say that this Lions' defense has been playing hard lately and stops the run well. If the Cowboys do build a lead, there is a chance the Lions can turn possessions into punts if the Cowboys try to run the clock. That's a favorable situation when you are getting the underdog against the spread. Ultimately though, I'm just hoping for an above-average performance from the defense to get the job done.
I liked this earlier in the week at DET +6.5 and DET +6. The market has moved down a little bit to +5.5 or +4.5, depending on where you are looking. That's a meaningful move, but based on my simulations, I see value down to DET +4.5. If it gets to +4 or lower by kickoff, then I would consider passing the game. But if this had opened +5.5 and stayed there all week, I would still be betting it. So, I won't let the fact that a better number previously existed prevent me from making a bet I like. If anything, the movement down signals strong support for Detroit (granted at a higher number), which I would love to see continue into close.
Following up last week's road dog with another road underdog bet, I'll lock in DET +5.5. As of the time of writing, the best line is -105 at Bookmaker. But DET +5.5 -108 is available at DraftKings, and -110 is available at Caesars, BetMGM, and Bet365. Given that the 5 is not all that valuable, the line +4.5 -104 at FanDuel is also a fine option. Good luck if you follow along!
DET +5.5 (-110) (Caesars, DraftKings, Bookmaker, BetMGM, Bet365, etc.)
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