• Bet Dak Prescott to go OVER 250 passing yards: Dallas plays at one of the fastest paces in the NFL, so Prescott will still be throwing and the Cowboys will be running plenty of plays deep into this game, allowing Dak to rack up the yards and tripling our payout in the process.
• Take the Dallas Cowboys spread (-5.5, +390): While Prescott and the Cowboys put forth a dud in Week 18, Dallas still ranks as one of the NFL's top offenses in most efficiency metrics.
Estimated reading time: 3 mins
Last updated: Friday, Jan. 13, 8:30 am ET
Bet: QB Dak Prescott Over 250 Passing Yards and Dallas Cowboys (-5.5, +390 — DraftKings)
It is certainly true that Prescott and the Cowboys put forth their worst effort of the season in their Week 18 loss against the Washington Commanders. But we should not let the recency of this performance distract from the larger sample of how these teams have played over the course of the season. If anything, we should take advantage of markets moving off the initial line in favor of Tampa Bay. Why?
Since Prescott returned from injury back in Week 7, the Cowboys have been the NFL’s best offense by “Drive Quality,” which essentially measures how well the offense moves the ball. It is no confidence that in the same time span they lead the NFL in percentage of drives ending in a touchdown and rank sixth in expected points added per play. Choose your efficiency metric, and Dallas will be among the very best offensively.
And the defense, as we’ve been accustomed to seeing in these past couple of years, has been among the league's best. Tampa Bay, by contrast, is average on defense and fielded one of the league's worst offenses throughout the season. From a larger sample, then, the fundamentals clearly suggest that the Cowboys are the far superior team despite the market pricing suggesting otherwise.
But aside from the mismatch from a fundamentals perspective, there are further reasons to be bullish on Dallas in this matchup.
- Whereas Tom Brady has been average from a clean pocket, he is among the league's worst when facing pressure. Dallas leads the NFL (by far) with a 43% pressure rate.
- Now, it would be fair to say that Brady will be able to mitigate the pressure by getting rid of the ball quickly. But the Cowboys are the NFL’s best defense at defending quick passes, allowing -0.10 EPA per play on those plays. Either the Buccaneers will need to execute a quick offense playing right into Dallas' strengths, or they will need to run longer developing routes — which they’ve been unsuccessful with all year and which would leave them exposed to the Cowboys' pass rush.
To this point, we’ve explored reasons for liking the alternate spread on the Cowboys, but we have yet to explore why we are including Prescott's passing yards, as well. Here are a few angles to consider:
- Over the second half of the season, Tampa Bay was among the biggest pass funnels on defense, meaning that they are far better at defending the run than they the pass. The Buccaneers' defense has the seventh-worst EPA per dropback (0.066), and the eighth-best rush EPA (-0.158). This is likely why teams pass over expected against Tampa Bay at the eighth-highest rate in the NFL, and Prescott and the Cowboys will likely be no exception. And against a poor pass defense, they should have no trouble moving the ball through the air.
- Further bolstering the case for yards — a volume stat — is that this game should feature plenty of plays. The Buccaneers and Cowboys are the Nos. 1 and 2 teams at playing at the fastest pace in neutral game scripts.
- Lastly, whereas sportsbooks generally price passing yards and big leads inversely, the relationship doesn’t hold up so well with the Cowboys. They pass over expected nearly 3% of the time when winning by more than a score, and they play at the fastest pace in the NFL in those situations. If the game goes according to the script outlined above, Prescott will still be throwing and the Cowboys will be running plenty of plays deep into this game, allowing Dak to still rack up the yards and tripling our payout in the process.