Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 10:00 AM
WC - Seahawks at Cowboys
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Seattle at Dallas (-2, 43.5), 8:15 pm ET, FOX
The Cowboys were the NFC’s worst division winner. They pulled got to 10 wins by pulling off an “upset” of the Giants in East Rutherford in Week 17, playing regulars Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper and hero Cole Beasley far longer than anyone expected to emerge with a 36-35 win.
It could’ve certainly come back to bite them had anyone suffered an injury, but since they won, the Cowboys take the field with additional swagger, having won seven of eight contests to close the regular season. The outlier came in a 23-0 loss at the Colts where the offense never found a spark.
Dallas is 7-1 at home, which affords it additional confidence. Its lone loss at AT&T Stadium also came in a game where Prescott and Co. were blanked in the second half. Tennessee did the trick on a Monday night back in early November, continuing a bleak trend despite the acquisition of Cooper that had the Cowboys looking like they would be watching games in January, not hosting them. They scored 17 or fewer points in five of their first eight contests. Over the season’s second-half, it only happened twice.
Seattle was one of those teams that put the shackles on the Cowboys early in the season, handing them a 24-13 loss as a parting gift on their visit to the Pacific Northwest in Week 3. Prescott was picked off twice and threw for just 168 yards. He was sacked five times and harassed even more. Despite 127 yards on just 16 carries from Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas failed to find the end zone until the fourth quarter. Tight end Geoff Swaim caught a team-best five balls. Beasley led all wide receivers with just three receptions.
If the Seahawks are going to pull the upset, their defense will likely have to again rise to the occasion. Beyond Cooper not being involved in that first encounter, another significant difference between today and their Sept. 23 meeting is that Earl Thomas won’t be setting the tone in the defensive backfield like he did against the team he publicly asked to trade for him weeks earlier. He picked off two passes that day, sending a clear message. The following Sunday, he was lost for the season with a broken bone in his left leg. With safety Kam Chancellor on IR and Richard Sherman playing for the 49ers, the Legion of Boom was officially no more come Week 4.
From that standpoint, the job Pete Carroll has done pulling 10 wins and a playoff appearance out of a team many expected would fall off has to rank among his top coaching jobs to date. If he can advance out of this weekend, it would solidify that argument. The defense lost LB Mychal Kendricks last month but comes into this contest relatively healthy.
K.J. Wright, who was out of the lineup for a large chunk of the season, finally looked like his old self earlier last month and is now expected to be a force next to Bobby Wagner, who was again voted to the Pro Bowl. A secondary tasked with keeping Cooper from enjoying a big night will get starting safety Tedric Thompson back from a chest injury and has upgraded corner Shaquill Griffin to probable following an ankle sprain suffered against the Cardinals last weekend. For more on injuries, be sure to read below.
The Seahawks have actually given up 24 or more points in seven of nine games since the beginning of November, so we’ll see if having a relatively healthy group helps Carroll and defensive coordinator Ken Norton, Jr. find the right formula to lock in here. It’s no great mystery that the Cowboys are going to want to ride Elliott to ensure he takes the pressure off Prescott. The NFL’s top rusher for the second time in three years finished with 1,434 yards despite being inactive for last Sunday’s win due to various ailments that Dallas is hoping he’s conquered entering this one. Although he’s only got 100-yard rushing game over his past four games, Elliott has become much more of a receiver out of the backfield, making 52 of his 77 receptions this season over his last eight outings.
Seattle will ride the prolific arm of Russell Wilson, who threw for a career-best 35 touchdowns, third-best in the league and a Seahawks all-time record. He was picked off just seven times. The Seahawks flirted with matching an NFL record for fewest turnovers in a season before Wilson was picked off by Arizona, but there’s no question they’re alive because they didn’t beat themselves often. Leading the NFL in rushing also helped despite having multiple running backs in place due to various injuries. Chris Carson, the preferred option who wound up with a team-best 1,151 yards after surpassing the 100-yard mark in each of Seattle’s final three games, is healthy and should be a handful for a Cowboys defense that ranked fifth against the run in the entire NFL.
Elliott will be facing a Seattle defense that barely finished in the top-half (13th) against the ground attack and was right around the middle-of-the-pack against the pass and in total yards allowed.
Wilson will be performing against a Dallas defense that took aim at him all afternoon despite losing the previous meeting, so an improved offensive line will be under the microscope here. They allowed their quarterback to be sacked six times last week by the Cards. There are developments up front to be wary of in the injury report below.
The Cowboys should continue to blitz often based on how effective sending extra defenders has been for them this season, but Wilson’s ability to improvise makes him extremely dangerous. He’ll be looking to beat a secondary that has been stingy all season, led by corner Byron Jones, who has been beaten for just a pair of touchdowns all season.
This will be the second playoff meeting between the teams, who met in 2006 in a game memorable for Tony Romo dropping the ball on a hold for a key late field-goal try in a 21-20 loss in Seattle. Keep reading below for more info on the series between these teams.
Prescott will be playing in just his second playoff game here and threw three touchdown passes in a strong performance against Green Bay back in 2016. Wilson, a Super Bowl champ back in 2014 who has thrown for 20 scores and run for two more over a dozen career postseason appearances. He’s 8-4 and is perfect in playoff openers. Considering the 30-year-old is playing the sharpest football of his career, he’s going to be tough to stop if this game is tight down the stretch.
On the other hand, Prescott finished off five game-winning drives this season, third behind just Drew Brees and Deshaun Watson, and he led the Cowboys to a game-tying drive against the Packers in his only playoff game as a rookie. At home, he’s also likely to be formidable if the game is on the line.
While the kickers are polar opposites in 40-year-old veteran Sebastian Janikowski and talented Brett Maher, who finally stuck after being cut in camp and a career in the CFL, both are very capable of a game-winning kick. The spread here looks right. This is basically a pick’em that the Cowboys deserve to be favored in as the home team, but no one will be surprised if it comes down to who possesses the ball last.
Projected season win total: 8 (Over +100, Under -120)
Preseason odds to win NFC West: 11/2
Odds to win NFC (Preseason/Current): 30/1 to 12/1
Odds to win Super Bowl (Preseason/Current): 60/1 to 25/1
Season win total: 8.5 (Over -120, Under +100)
Preseason Odds to win NFC East: 7/2
Odds to win NFC (Preseason/Current): 15/1 to 12/1
Odds to win Super Bowl (Preseason/Current): 30/1 to 25/1
FUTURES OUTCOMES/LINE MOVEMENT
If you bet on these teams to have winning seasons, you're sitting pretty since both outperformed expectations in season win totals provided by the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook. The Seahawks failed to cash any divisional futures since the favored Rams (1-to-2) held serve, but Dallas cashed at +350 over the favored defending champion Eagles (5-to-7).
Playoff props at Westgate paid out +160 on the Cowboys reaching the postseason and +280 on the Seahawks. Buy a friend a beverage if you were on the winning side. Fading these teams to reach the playoffs stung. A 'no' call on Dallas playing into January cost you -190, while Seattle was an even costlier loss (-360). The Cowboys are roughly in the same neighborhood odds-wise to win the NFC and Super Bowl as they were entering Week 1, while the odds were far more lucrative for the Seahawks, who now have identical odds as Dallas.
As far as this matchup is concerned, the Cowboys opened at -2.5 before dropping all the way down to 2.5 and eventually reaching the level where it currently resides at -2.
Dallas opened at -140/-150 on the money line and is available at -130 at the moment. If you like the home 'dog outright, a payout on a Seahawks win will get you +110 to +120 depending on the shop.
The Seahawks came into the week hoping of guard J.R. Sweezy to be healthy enough to make an impact at his position next to left tackle Dwayne Brown after he missed time with a foot injury. Brown is good to go after dealing with knee soreness. Guard D.J. Fluker is also set to play after a hamstring issue. As stated above, they got great news on Griffin and Thompson in the secondary and have Bradley McDougald (knee) available as well. Backup safety Delano Hill went on IR with a hip injury and fullback Tre Madden is 'doubtful' with a hamstring issue.
Dallas has ruled out David Irving and list guard Xavier Su'a Filo as doubtful, but are also as healthy as they've been in weeks. Sean Lee was a healthy scratch last week but should be at his sharpest after his latest hamstring injury. Up front, tackle Tyron Smith (neck) and guard Zack Martin (knee) practiced in full on Thursday and are good to go. Safety Darian Thompson and WR Tavon Austin are listed as 'questionable' but should play.
Saturday’s nights total opened has fluctuated from 41.5-to-43.5. Since they can close the roof at AT&T Stadium, weather won't be a factor. Temperatures in Arlington are expected to be in the mid-50's. The 'over' went 9-7 in Seahawks games this season, prevailing in six of seven. The 'under' was 9-7 in Cowboys games. As you'll see below, the 'under' is 8-2 in the last 10 matchups between these teams
Weekly “Total Talk” writer Chris David of VegasInsider.com provided his thoughts on this matchup and both Saturday contests here:
RECENT MEETINGS (Seattle 6-4 SU, 5-5 ATS last 10; UNDER 8-2)
9/23/18 Seattle 24-13 vs. Dallas (SEA -1, 40)
12/24/17 Seattle 21-12 at Dallas (SEA +4.5, 47)
11/1/15 Seattle 13-12 at Dallas (DAL +4.5, 41)
10/12/14 Dallas 30-23 at Seattle (DAL +9.5, 47)
9/16/12 Seattle 27-7 vs. Dallas (SEA +3, 43)
11/6/11 Dallas 23-13 vs. Seattle (SEA +11, 45)
11/1/09 Dallas 38-17 vs. Seattle (DAL -9.5, 46)
11/27/08 Dallas 34-9 vs. Seattle (DAL -12, 46.5)
1/6/07 Seattle 21-20 vs. Dallas (DAL +2, 48.5)
10/23/05 Seattle 13-10 vs. Dallas (SEA -3, 45.5)
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