Saturday Night NFL Football Picks: Cowboys face Bucs in NFC matchup

Dallas Cowboys at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Saturday, 12/17/11, 8:20 PM EST, TV:  NFL
Opening Point Spread:  Dallas -7
Current Betting Line:  Dallas -7
Opening Total:  46
Current Total:  47.5
Odds Courtesy of Bookmaker

Buccaneers Cowboys NFL Betting Preview
Josh Freeman and LeGarrette Blount hope to lead the Bucs to an upset of the Cowboys on Saturday night.

The Dallas Cowboys have a lot to play for on Saturday night while the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are simply playing spoilers.  Many bettors have heard this story before only to see the team without a shot at the playoffs find extra motivation, rise to the occasion and pull off the upset.

Do the Buccaneers (4-9) have what it takes to end a seven-game losing streak and knock off the Cowboys (7-6) at home?  That remains to be seen, but Tampa Bay hopes to take advantage of a Dallas defense which surrendered 510 yards last week in a 37-34 loss to the New York Giants.

The Cowboys (-7, O/U 47.5) also lost rookie running back DeMarco Murray to a fractured ankle against the Giants, and he will be replaced by former starter Felix Jones.  Murray was on pace to become their first 1,000-yard rusher in five years.  Instead, Jones will need to continue to step up after rushing for 106 yards on 16 carries last week.

Dallas quarterback Tony Romo benefit from the balanced offense with Murray behind him, throwing just three interceptions in the last eight games.  Romo threw eight picks in the team’s first five games, only two of which were wins.  He is coming off his first four-touchdown performance since 2007 and had his fifth 300-yard game of the season with 321.

Romo’s counterpart for Tampa Bay has not enjoyed the same kind of success this year following an impressive second season in 2010.  Bucs QB Josh Freeman has regressed after throwing 25 touchdowns and just six interceptions last season, totaling 10 scores and 18 picks in 2011 for the highest total in the NFL.

Freeman is still recovering from a shoulder injury, and it showed in a 41-14 loss at Jacksonville last week.  He completed 16 of 30 passes for 181 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions against the Jaguars.  Both of Tampa’s scores came on touchdown runs, one by Freeman and the other by running back LeGarrette Blount.

Blount had 93 rushing yards combined over the past two games after he totaled 103 or more in each of the team’s previous two games.  Opponents have outgained the Bucs on the ground in the last three games along with six of seven, covering the spread each time they had more rushing yards.

Tampa Bay is 2-8 against the spread in its past 10 games with the OVER cashing in four of five.   The Cowboys have struggled against the line recently as well, going 0-4 ATS in their last four, although they have won the past three meetings with the Bucs both straight-up and ATS.

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