The big showdown of the day resides in the NFC East. Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys take on Robert Griffin III for the division crown, and all eyes will be watching. Let's take a closer look at the betting angles.
Last week, Vegas didn't have a look-ahead line for this game thanks to the unknown status of Robert Griffin III. In fact, we didn't see a point spread for this game until late this week either. Not many quarterbacks have meant as much to their team as RG3, so his health is going to single-handedly swing a lot of money by kickoff. The interesting aspect of the opening line is that the sportsbook made it clear which team they thought had the edge when they made the Redskisn -3.5 point favorites. Since then money has come in on the Cowboys and right now the number sits between -3.5 and -3 (odds from SBRforum). You can grab the favorable number for each side by paying a little extra juice.
I was a bit surprised with this line for a couple reasons. First, this is an NFC East game between teams that are fairly close in the power rankings. Second, unlike most of the games on Sunday, there is so much on the line that there isn't any discrepancy in motivation. Third, moving off the key number of "3" is very significant. It takes a lot of money to move on or off this number and I'm not surprised that action has taken advantage of this by betting on the Cowboys.
Questions at QB and the "Make-or-Break" Moments
RG3 not only has questions about how he'll play in a big game as a rookie QB, but there's lingering questions about the health of his knee. Last week he was relegated to the role of pocket-passer, but he's expected to be more mobile this week. Yet, given his reckless abandon style to win at all costs, it's debatable how much of an issue his knee will be at all.
Meanwhile, Tony Romo has been very vocal this week about his issues in the past regarding big games. The stats say one thing, the records say another. In fact, Romo has 18 touchdowns and only 2 interceptions in the last two Decembers, but he's 1-5 in win-or-go-home games (including playoffs).
He can laugh those days off all he wants, but until he proves otherwise that dark cloud is always going to follow him around. Even this year he's taken a lot of heat from critics (including myself), but sometimes this was unwarranted. It's easy to overlook the problems they've had on the O-line, not to mention some questionable coaching and non-existant running game.
With Romo playing well now and a healthy Murray in the back-field, the table could be set for a much different outcome than we saw on Thanksgiving between these two clubs.
And despite Romo's spotty history, you have to give him the edge here based on experience alone. No one is going to be surprised if RG3 throws some bad interceptions or gets caught trying to do too much.
That said, will there be anything that comes as a surprise with these two?
Surrounding them are two teams will need to overcome problems they've had in "make-or-break" moments. The Cowboys continue to get bogged down when they get inside the red zone, while the Redskins continue to be very inconsistent on third down. Yes, RG3 has almost single-handedly rejuvenated the Skins this year and help put them in a position to steal the division crown, but the advanced stats don't lie. When drives are on the line, the Skins have had trouble converting this season. The simple fact is RG3 can't do everything himself, and outside of Alfred Morris, his supporting cast has been subpar.
I predict that the team that overcomes their problems in these trouble spots will walk away victorious.
What will unfold on Sunday night? That's the million dollar question. The Skins defense has actually improved quite a bit from earlier in the year, but whether that was inspired play or a fundamental adjustment is up for debate. RG3's health is a wild card. Romo's "choker" label might, or might not be, an issue. The storylines are endless, but I'm not taking a side in this game. Based on the numbers and the information we have, I'd have to lean towards the home team if I was forced to make a choice. I'm much more willing to take a chance on the up-and-coming RG3 and momentum of home support vs Romo overcoming his demons and a questionable coaching staff.