Dallas @ Miami
Recommended bet: DAL -3
Cover Probability: 56.34%
Cover Edge: 7.55%
-WR Michael Gallup (knee) was injured week 2. He is likely to miss 2 – 4 weeks.
-DE Antwaun Woods (knee) was injured week 2. He missed week 3 and is still not practicing.
-DE Tyrone Crawford (hip) was injured week 2. He missed week 3 and is still not practicing.
-DT Daniel Ross (shoulder) was placed on season-ending IR.
New Orleans Saints:
-QB Drew Brees (thumb) was injured week 2 and is on IR (return designation).
-WR Tre’Quan Smith was INACTIVE week 3. He is not practicing this week.
-DI Sheldon Rankins (Achilles) was INACTIVE weeks 1 – 3. He is limited in practice this week.
We preach at First and Thirty to get your bets in early. Lines are more efficient at closing, and we’ve found that the lines end up moving toward the model. When the model was run, Dallas was a 3 point favorite, and now (writing this early Saturday) they sit at 2.5. Not only did the line move away from the model, but it did so while crossing a crucial 3 point barrier. Though I don’t have stats on that, I’d think that’s pretty rare.
If you haven’t bet this game yet, be fortunate that you can actually get it at a much better spread than what we recommended. 2.5 also puts it into “Wong teaser” range — more on that here if you’re a tease fan.
When Dallas has the ball:
I love efficient football. There is nothing better than seeing a coach make smart decisions on a play by play basis, especially when they make the opposing coach look like a giant dummy in the process. It’s even better when that coach has a QB that can make the correct read and drop accurate passes into the hands of his receivers. And that’s why the Cowboys have been one of the most exciting offenses in football to start the season — the combination of OC Kellen Moore’s playcalling with the arm of Dak Prescott has been truly special.
Let’s start with Dak, who is completing 74.5% of his passes, 9.8 yards per attempt, 9 TDs, and 2 picks. His QB rating sits at 128 (that’s high) and his PFF grade (90.4) is second in the league behind Tom Brady. Kellen Moore is calling play-action on almost 40% of Prescott’s dropbacks (2nd most behind Jimmy G, who is lead by offensive genius Kyle Shannahan), and on those throws Prescott has a 137.5 QB rating. I have no idea if Prescott will regress, but he’s got a hell of a coach at his back, so let’s enjoy the ride.
Speaking of great, the Cowboys have the best offensive line in football (again). At receiver, Amari Cooper is leading the way with 238 yards and 4 TDs (Dak has a casual 152.4 QB rating when targeting Amari). Michael Gallup still needs another week or so to recover from a knee injury he suffered week 2, so that leads Randall Cobb and Devin Smith as the next options at receiver. If running back is your thing, I hear this Zeke Elliot guy is kinda good. This is a top offense in football.
The Saints defense has been pretty abysmal to start the year — they rank 27th in defensive DVOA (25th against the run, 29th against the pass) and have given up 28, 27, and 27 points this season). Though they have two very good edge rushers in Cameron Jordan (20 pressures) and Marcus Davenport (15), they’ve been horrendous in coverage. Their top corner is supposed to be Marshon Lattimore, but he’s been one of the worst corners in football to start the season. Lattimore has been targeted 27 times this season (4th most in the league), and he’s given up 20 catches (74.1%) for 341 yards, 2 touchdowns, zero picks, and only 1 pass breakup. The corners behind Lattimore are Eli Apple (who is my second favorite Eli in the NFL to make fun of), and PJ Williams. Both Apple and Williams actually have compatible stats to Lattimore, which is honestly shocking to have three corners who are getting lit up like a Christmas tree. Against the run, the Saints are weak along the defensive interior and laughably bad at linebacker, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that they’ve given up 5.1 yards per attempt this season.
When the Saints have the ball:
We got a solid look at what a Bress-less Saints offense would look like last week, and even though they dropped a 33 burger on the Seahawks, there’s cause for concern. Teddy Bridgewater’s stats were decent enough (70.4% completion percentage, 2 TDs, 0 picks), but he only gained 6.6 yards per attempt. Bridgewater’s aDOT (average depth of target) was a hilariously low 3.5 yards (lowest of all 32 QBs last week), which tells us he threw a lot of dink and dunk passes and completed them. Whoop de doo, Basil.
The dink and dunk thing has to be more about the quarterback than anything, as he’s playing behind a legit top-5 offensive line. Right tackle Ryan Ramczyk shutting down JJ Watt week 1 might go down as the best single game offensive line performance in football this year. By the way, there was some talk about how gadget QB Taysom Hill would fit into the picture, and he played a grand total of 4 snaps last weekend didn’t attempt a single pass. It’s Teddy’s show for now.
If you haven’t paid much attention to the Saints this year, you probably won’t be surprised to know that the offense still revolves around Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara. The two are accounting for 55% of all Saints targets this year, and have both been as impressive as you’d imagine. There isn’t much to write about the other guys — newly aquired TE Jared Cook has just 5 catches for the entire year, Ted Ginn Jr. is playing like he’s 34, and Tre’Quan Smith is hurt and hasn’t been productive on the field at all.
The Cowboys on defense rank 7th in Football Outsiders predictive DAVE rankings and 9th in PFF rankings. Though they’re starting to get a case of the injury bug at edge defender (Antwaun Woods and Tyrone Crawford will both likely miss this one), they’re deep enough where it shouldn’t matter. Demarcus Lawrence has racked up 14 pressures so far, and is yet again one of the best in the business at getting in your quarterbacks face. Maliek Collins is also a solid interior rusher, and he sits at a respectable 11 pressures himself. At corner, Chidobe Awuzie continues to struggle — PFF has him at a 59 coverage grade. Anthony Brown starts opposite Awuzie, and he hasn’t been much better. Their bright spot has been third corner Jourdun Lewis — QBs have a 58.3 rating when targeting him this season and safety Jeff Heath, who has been excellent both in coverage and as a tackler (0 missed tackles so far). The Cowboys are giving up 4.7 yards per attempt against the run, but their rushing DVOA sits at 7th best, so that’s more likely related to schedule and situation rather than how productive they’ve been.
Here’s to the Cowboys improving to 4-0.
That’s it for now, bitches.