Tennessee Titans vs. Dallas Cowboys
Line: Dallas -10
Where: Nissan Stadium, Nashville, Tennessee
When: Thursday, 12/29 at 8:15 p.m. ET
TV: Amazon Prime
Dallas will be looking to keep its razor-thin NFC East hopes alive when it travels to Tennessee for a primetime meeting on Thursday night.
The Cowboys have already clinched a playoff berth and are coming off a 40-34 win over Philadelphia, but they are still trailing the Eagles by two games in the division standings. Philadelphia is listed at -3000 to win the division at FanDuel, while Dallas is priced at 14/1.
Tennessee is in an entirely different situation heading into this game, as the Titans suddenly find themselves fighting for a playoff berth altogether. They were once sitting atop the AFC South with a 7-3 record, but they have lost five straight games and are now tied with Jacksonville atop the division standings. FanDuel has the Jaguars at -250/+200 to win the division.
Dallas opened as a 3-point favorite for Thursday night’s game, but that line has moved all the way to -10.5 after the Titans looked terrible without quarterback Ryan Tannehill last Saturday. The total has also fallen from 44.5 to 40.5 as of Tuesday afternoon, with Tannehill set to miss another game.
Rookie quarterback Malik Wallis completed just 14 of 23 passes for 99 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions in the loss to Houston. Star running back Derrick Henry racked up 126 rushing yards and a touchdown on 23 carries, but it was not enough to overcome the absence of a passing attack along with three turnovers.
“We’re not built right now to be able to overcome those things,” Titans head coach Mike Vrabel said. “…The margin for error is very thin.”
Tennessee also placed starting center Ben Jones and starting right guard Nate Davis on the injured reserve last week. The Titans have struggled offensively even with Tannehill on the field, ranked No. 30 in the league in yards per game (294.4). They are facing a Dallas defense that is No. 14, allowing 332.5 yards per game.
The Cowboys have done the bulk of their damage on the other side of the ball, as evidenced by their 40-34 win against Philadelphia last week. They have scored at least 27 points in eight straight games after covering the 4-point spread in their win over the Eagles.
Quarterback Dak Prescott finished with 347 passing yards and three touchdowns and was boosted by four Philadelphia turnovers. Prescott has dealt with some turnover problems of his own, throwing an NFL-worst 11 interceptions since returning from a broken thumb in Week 7.
“Adversity is something he eats for lunch,” Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy said. “Dak’s the same person every day, in the fire, at practice, in the class. I just think it speaks volumes of his approach.”
Dallas has the seventh-best rushing attack in the NFL, averaging 143.1 rushing yards per game. Running back Tony Pollard has rushed for 988 yards and nine touchdowns, while Ezekiel Elliott is not far behind with 829 yards and 11 scores. They are facing a Tennessee defense that is No. 23 in total defense (359.7) and No. 11 in scoring defense (20.8).
The Titans have gone 0-4-1 against the spread during their five-game losing streak, but they are 4-0 SU and ATS in their last four games as home underdogs. They have gone ‘under’ in nine of their last 12 games, while Dallas has cashed the ‘over’ in each of its last five games. The Cowboys are 11-4 ATS in their last 15 road games.
The pick: Tennessee +10.5 (Bookmaker)
Tennessee always seems to show up and compete when it looks like everything is stacked against them under Vrabel. The Titans are not going to have much of a passing attack on Thursday, but they still have the league’s best running back and a defense that has a bend but don’t break mentality. Dallas is coming off an emotional comeback win against its division rival, and now it has to go on the road in primetime when its motivation could be lacking. The Cowboys don’t have much of a shot at the No. 1 seed in the NFC, and they know that a favorable matchup against Tampa Bay could be coming their way. They will be happy to leave Nashville with a win in what is surely to be a low-scoring, ugly affair, creating value on the double-digit spread.