Friday, December 24, 2010

Upon Further Review: Cowboys win, but don't cover, 33-30

Thanks a lot, Comcast. Because of my non-existent Internet last week, I was unable to put together a well-researched prediction, and now I'm paying the price.  The Cowboys won the game 33-30, but failed to cover the 7 point spread. The most frustrating part of it was that the Boys looked like they had this game well in hand, leading by 20 points midway through the third quarter. But then Rex Grossman went to work, ultimately throwing for 322 yards and 4 TDs. How the Cowboys allowed him to throw it so prolifically escapes me, given that the Skins mounted no credible rushing attack (only 14 attempts). But the Dallas secondary looked quite poor, especially after Gerald Sensabough went down with an injury. Not only that, but the Cowboys reverted to some of their stupid, penalty-inflicted habits characteristic of the Wade Phillips era. The result was a narrow 3-point win in what should have been an easy cover.


1. As a commenter implored me, stop picking the Cowboys. The stats are undeniable: they are now 0-3 ATS when I pick them, yet I am 2-0 when I pick against them (the commenter forgot this game from last year).  On the one hand, I know more about the Cowboys than any other team in the league; I follow them more closely, and I feel more attuned to their strengths and weaknesses. On the other hand, emotion might very well cloud impartial judgment when it comes to predicting their games -- this week I think I gravitated to it because my internet was out and it was the game with which I was already most familiar.

I hate to make a strict rule forbidding any picks of the Cowboys anymore (as I basically have already done for the Seahawks and Chiefs this season), but I should certainly not knee-jerk focus on the Cowboys like I did this week.

2. Beware the backup QB. I thought that the Redskins were in shambles -- the Shanahans had lost the team, they were forced to jettison their expensive and celebrated veteran QB, and they were coming off a brutal loss, courtesy of a bobbled snap on a PAT. But Grossman played pretty well, appearing to energize the sorry Redskins. I've said before that picking heavy favorites playing against backup QBs can  be risky (witness the 14-point favorite Pats barely escaping Johnny Flynn last week). It's hard to say exactly why the Boys blew the lead like they did -- maybe they're just bad, or maybe the game demonstrated their resilience in winning a close one -- but they did appear to coast for a while in the second half, thinking that they had sealed things up.

3. The Hilton 100 theory went only 1-1. The Cowboys (at -6) amassed the most picks, followed closely by the Bears over the Vikings. The Cowboys obviously did not cover, missing by 3, while the Bears dominated the Vikings by 26. The theory now moves to 12-4, with a still impressive average margin of victory. Too bad it couldn't have come through for the Boys this week, since BadNFL really needed it.

I'm wishing that I had picked the Jets +6 @ Pittsburgh instead. I think that Troy Polamalu may be the most valuable player in the league, and I've really hated the way that the Steelers' offense looked. That game was the most picked game, by a wide margin, among Hilton top contestants, and it's one that I was strongly considering taking. Oh well.

4. East Coast Travel Theory is validated: the Cardinals had to travel for an early game at Carolina, whom I've said (and most agree) is now the worst team in the league. The Cardinals easily failed to cover that game, losing by a touchdown, and most analysts agree that they essentially self-destructed against a team that's generally even worse than they are. Interesting.

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