Betting Preview and Prediction: Dallas at Philadelphia

Dallas RB Ezekiel Elliott needs 85 rushing yards at Philadelphia to get to 1,000 rushing yards for the fourth time in his six-year career.

Philadelphia Eagles vs. Dallas Cowboys

Line: Dallas -5

Total: 43

Where: Lincoln Financial Field

When: Saturday, 1/8 at 8:15 p.m. ET

TV: ABC

One of the trickiest parts about handicapping the final week of the NFL regular season has always been figuring out which teams are going to rest starters.

This might be the first Week 18 in NFL history, but that principle still applies. Philadelphia is set to host Dallas on Saturday night in a matchup between two NFC East teams that have clinched playoff berths.  

Oddsmakers opened the Cowboys as 3.5-point road favorites, but the line ballooned to -5 following some COVID-19 news within the Philadelphia organization. There has also been a slight adjustment to the total, as it has dropped from 44.5 to 43 or 43.5 as of Friday morning.

The Eagles placed 12 players on the COVID-19 list on Monday, including seven starters. As a result, they are likely going to be without defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, tight end Dallas Goedert, center Jason Kelce and running backs Jordan Howard and Boston Scott. Running back Miles Sanders is also out with a broken hand, so Philadelphia would be down to rookie Kenny Gainwell as the only available running back if Howard and Scott stay on the COVID-19 list.

Quarterback Jalen Hurts has also been listed on the injury report with an ankle issue. Head coach Nick Sirianni said he and his staff are still undecided when it comes to resting starters on Saturday night.

“We haven’t decided anything there yet,” Sirianni said. “We don’t have to decide right now. We’re preparing like we would normally prepare…So, we’re trying to get our plan ready. We’re trying to rip through that.”

Philadelphia is currently sitting at No. 7 in the NFC playoff picture—it could move up as high as No. 6 with a win and a San Francisco loss. The Eagles’ chances of winning in the first round of the playoffs do not change much based on their opponent, which could end up being the Rams, Buccaneers, Cowboys or Cardinals.

As for Dallas, it can only get the No. 2 seed with a win and losses from the Rams and Bucs. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said his team is not planning on resting starters against Philadelphia.

“We plan to play. We plan to win,” Jones said Tuesday on 105.3 The Fan. “…I think we’re better served by going out there and executing and having our team out there really playing like it’s the playoff game we’ll be playing next week.”

The Cowboys will keep the NFC’s No. 4 seed in 28 of the 32 possible Week 18 scenarios. They are coming off a 25-22 loss to Arizona on Sunday, which snapped a four-game winning streak. Dallas blew out Philadelphia in a 41-21 final in Week 3.

Quarterback Dak Prescott has completed 68.4 percent of his passes for 4,154 yards and 32 touchdowns this season. His top target has been speedy wide receiver CeeDee Lamb, who has caught 77 passes for 1,057 yards and six touchdowns. Tight end Dalton Schultz and wide receiver Amari Cooper have both gone over 700 yards as well.

Running back Zeke Elliott leads the rushing attack with 219 carries for 915 yards and 10 touchdowns. Backup Tony Pollard has added 130 attempts for 719 yards and four scores, averaging 5.5 yards per carry. However, Elliott and Pollard combined for just 25 rushing yards against Arizona last week.

They will be facing a Philadelphia defense that ranks No. 14, allowing 362.8 yards per game. Dallas has been much better defensively, holding six of its last eight opponents to 20 points or less. The Cowboys rank second in yards allowed per game overall this season.

They have gone ‘under’ the total in eight of their last 10 games, including their last five straight road games. Philadelphia has been trending in the opposite direction, going ‘over’ in seven of its last 10 contests.

The Cowboys have been one of the most profitable teams in the NFL this year, covering the spread in 12 of their 16 games. They have covered in six of the last eight head-to-head meetings between these teams.

The pick: Dallas -5

This line has slowly started to creep up towards Dallas being favored by a touchdown and I would not be surprised if it closes at that number. Philadelphia has nearly half of its starters listed as questionable due to either COVID-19 or injuries. The Eagles are not wanting to disclose whether they will rest starters completely, so I think it’s a safe bet that most of those guys will be out when this game kicks off. On the other side, it sounds like Dallas will be playing its starters and trying to stay alive for the No. 2 seed. The Cowboys have already been one of the best teams to back this season, so I will gladly wager on them against what could wind up being primarily second-string players for Philadelphia.

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