2015 NFC Wild Card Playoffs
Detroit Lions at Dallas Cowboys
AT&T Stadium – Arlington, Texas
Sunday, January 4, 2015, 4:40 pm Eastern, TV: Fox
Opening Line: Dallas -7
Current Line: Dallas -6 1/2 (-115)
Opening Total: 48
Current Total: 48 1/2
Opening Money Line: Cowboys -330 / Lions +270
Current Money Line: Cowboys -300 / Lions +250
Both the Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions have had some playoff futility in recent years. The two teams have combined for two playoff wins since 1996, both by the Cowboys. The 12-4 Cowboys host the 11-5 Lions in the NFC Wild Card Playoffs Sunday afternoon. If Dallas wins then they will travel to the Green Bay Packers next week for the divisional playoffs. A Detroit win would send them to Seattle to play the Seahawks. The Carolina Panthers will face the other team depending on who wins.
The Dallas Cowboys won the NFC East and qualified for the playoffs for the first time since 2009. The Lions lost last week at the Packers in a battle for the NFC North Division title. The Lions had already clinched a playoff berth the week before for the first time since 2011. Detroit hasn’t won a playoff game since beating the Cowboys in the 1991 Divisional playoffs.
Since 2001, the series is tied 5-5 between the Cowboys and Lions. Detroit has won two straight games against the Cowboys including 31-30 last season in Detroit. The Lions overcame double digit second half deficits in both of the two most recent wins against the Cowboys.
Detroit is coached by Jim Caldwell. Detroit has road losses at the Carolina Panthers 24-7, Arizona Cardinals 14-6, New England Patriots 34-9 and Packers last week 30-20, and at home to the Buffalo Bills 17-14. The Lions have home wins over the New York Giants 35-14, Packers 19-7, New Orleans Saints 24-23, Miami Dolphins 20-16, Chicago Bears 34-17, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 34-17 and Minnesota Vikings 16-14. Detroit also has road wins at the New York Jets 24-17, Minnesota Vikings 17-3 Atlanta Falcons 22-21 in London and Bears 20-14. Detroit had won 4 straight games before the Green Bay loss. The Lions are 7-9 ATS and the total is 5-11 this season. Detroit was an 8.5 point underdog against Chicago and the total was 46.5.
Dallas is coached by Jason Garrett. The Cowboys lost at home to the San Francisco 49ers 28-17, Washington Redskins 20-17 in overtime, Arizona Cardinals 28-17 and Philadelphia Eagles 33-10. The Cowboys have road wins at the Titans 26-10, St. Louis Rams 34-31, Seattle Seahawks 30-23, New York Giants 31-28, Chicago Bears 41-28, and Eagles 38-27, Redskins 44-17 last week, plus home wins over the New Orleans Saints 38-17, Houston Texans 20-17 in overtime, Giants 31-21 and Indianapolis Colts 42-7. Dallas has won 4 straight games. The Cowboys were virtually locked into the #3 seed last week but still played their starters for the whole game against the Redskins. Dallas is 10-6 ATS and the total is 9-6-1 this season. The Cowboys were 6 point favorite against the Redskins and the total was 47.5.
For years, the Detroit Lions were known for having an explosive offense and a so-so defense at best. This year the script has been flipped as the Lions are struggling to move the ball and have a dominant defense. Detroit is outscoring teams 20-18 this season. The Lions are #22 in scoring and #3 in points allowed. Detroit is averaging 341 yards per game including 252 passing and 89 rushing yards per game. The Lions are #19 in total offense, #12 in passing and #28 in rushing. On defense, Detroit is #2 in total defense allowing 301 yards per game including 232 passing and 69 rushing yards. The Lions are #13 in pass defense and #1 in rush defense. Detroit is 96/243 on third and fourth down conversions and opponents are 83/222. Detroit has allowed 45 sacks and forced 42 this season. The Lions are +7 in turnovers. Detroit has 2 defensive touchdowns this season and has allowed a special teams touchdown.
Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford has completed 60.3% of his passes for 4,257 yards with 22 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, along with 2 rushing touchdowns and 93 rushing yards. Running back Joique Bell has 223 carries for 860 yards and 7 touchdowns, plus 34 catches for 322 yards and a touchdown. Reggie Bush has 76 carries for 297 yards and 2 touchdowns, plus 40 catches for 253 yards. Bush is battling a nagging ankle injury that has cost him several games this season but isn’t listed on the injury report this week.
Receiver Golden Tate has 99 catches for 1,331 yards and 4 touchdowns. Calvin Johnson has 77 catches for 1,077 yards and 8 touchdowns, despite missing three games with an ankle injury. Theo Riddick has 34 catches for 316 yards and 4 touchdowns. Tight end Joseph Fauria is out for the season with an ankle injury. Five defensive players and three offensive linemen are listed as doubtful or out.
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Dallas is outscoring teams 29-22 this season. The Cowboys are #5 in scoring and #15 in points allowed. Dallas is averaging 384 yards per game on offense including 237 passing and 147 rushing yards per game. The Cowboys are #7 in total offense and #2 in rushing. Dallas is allowing 355 yards per game including 252 passing and 103 rushing yards per game. The Cowboys are #19 in total defense and #26 in pass defense. The rush defense is #8 though. Dallas is 98/207 on third and fourth down conversions and opponents are 99/224. Dallas has 28 sacks and has allowed 30 this season. The Cowboys are +6 in turnovers. Dallas has three defensive touchdowns and has allowed three this season.
Dallas quarterback Tony Romo is battling small fractures in his back after undergoing offseason back surgery and also a fractured rib. He has played the last 7 games after missing the Arizona game. Romo has completed 69.9% of his passes for 3,705 yards with 34 touchdowns and 9 interceptions, plus 61 rushing yards. He had the highest December quarterback rating in NFL history and Romo is generating some late MVP buzz.
Running back DeMarco Murray is putting up some MVP like numbers of his own and has 392 carries for 1,845 yards and 11 touchdowns, along with 57 catches for 416 yards. He won the rushing title, but has had some fumbling issues. Murray suffered a broken hand late in the win against the Eagles. He underwent surgery to repair the break on his left hand. He has started the last two games. Joseph Randle has 51 carries for 343 yards and 4 touchdowns. Lance Dunbar could also get some carries. He has 99 rushing yards and 18 catches for 217 yards.
Receiver Dez Bryant has 88 catches for 1,320 yards and 16 touchdowns. Terrance Williams has 37 catches for 621 yards and 8 touchdowns. Tight end Jason Witten has 64 catches for 703 yards and 5 touchdowns. Cole Beasley has 37 catches for 420 yards and 4 touchdowns. Gavin Escobar only has 9 catches but 4 touchdowns. Fourteen defensive players are listed on the injury report.
Detroit is 8-20-1 ATS in road games, 2-5 overall, 2-6 against NFC teams, 1-6 against teams with winning records, and 0-5 against teams with winning home records. The underdog has covered 4 of the last 5 in this series.
Dallas is 4-0 ATS after gaining more than 350 yards, and overall, 8-1 after allowing more than 350 yards, 5-11 in January, 2-6 in playoff games, and after passing for 250 yards or more, 1-4 on fieldturf and after allowing 250 passing yards or more. The last 5 games have gone over the total in this series and the over is 4-1 in the last 5 in Dallas in the series.
The Dallas defense has been far from great but it has been good enough. Dallas has been red hot recently but they might find it difficult to run against the league’s best rush defense. Matthew Stafford is 0-16 on the road in his NFL career against teams with winning records. I think the Cowboys win and get a late score to cover.