DALLAS COWBOYS (4-3)
at DETROIT LIONS (4-3)
Kickoff: Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
Line: Detroit -3, Total: 50.5
The surging Cowboys seek a third straight victory on Sunday when they visit a struggling Lions defense.
Detroit has allowed 420 total YPG since Week 3, but its offense has converted 44.2% of third downs (4th-best in NFL) and QB Matthew Stafford has been stellar (304 pass YPG, 15 TD, 4 INT). Dallas QB Tony Romo has nearly identical stats (287 pass YPG, 15 TD, 5 INT), but his teamís defense has been stepped up big recently by holding the potent Redskins and Eagles offenses to 9.5 PPG in the past two games. The Cowboys are 5-2 SU in this series since 2003, but the Lions erased a 27-3 deficit (thanks in large part to two Romo pick-sixes) to win 34-30 in the most recent meeting in 2011. Both teams have some negative trends for this matchup though. Since 1992, Dallas is 5-22 ATS (19%) on the road after allowing nine points or less, and is 8-26 ATS (24%) away off two or more consecutive Unders since 1992. But Detroit is a dreadful 1-12 ATS versus excellent passing teams (completion pct. of at least 64%) over the past three seasons and 2-11 ATS off one or more straight Overs in the past two seasons.
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The Cowboys have scored 28.6 PPG this season (3rd in NFL) thanks to the league's third-best red-zone efficiency (68%). The Tony Romo-led air attack ranks eighth in the NFL with 269 passing YPG, with a huge contribution from WR Dez Bryant who has 569 receiving yards and six receiving touchdowns (tied for 3rd in NFL). With starting WR Miles Austin still slowed by a hamstring injury, rookie WR Terrance Williams has put together four productive games in a row, grabbing 19 passes for 320 yards and three scores. Although the Dallas rushing attack has a mere 83 YPG (24th in NFL), it appears that starting RB DeMarco Murray will be able to return to action this week after missing the win at Philadelphia because of a knee injury. Murray has rushed for 428 yards on 4.7 YPC and is a huge upgrade from backup RB Joseph Randle, who is averaging just 2.7 YPC on his 30 attempts. On defense, Dallas has been doing a great job of creating turnovers with seven takeaways over the past three games. But this aggressiveness sometimes leads to big plays, as the Cowboys rank 30th in pass defense (292 YPG) and 29th in total defense (394 YPG). The pass rush has been strong this season though with 3+ sacks in five of the seven games.
Like Dallas, Detroit also has a pass-first offense with 295 passing YPG (5th in NFL), but just 92 rushing YPG (21st in league). And also like Dallas, the air attack includes an elite wide receiver in Calvin Johnson, who already has more touchdown catches (6 TD in six games) than he did last year (5 TD in 16 games). Johnson's knee injury finally appears to be a thing of the past, as he busted out for season highs in receptions (nine) and receiving yards (155) in last week's 27-24 loss to the Bengals. RB Reggie Bush is also a key to this offense both as a ball carrier and receiver, as he has 426 rushing yards (4.4 YPC) and is second on the team in receiving yards with 305, totaling three touchdowns during his large workload. The Lions defense has generally struggled this season despite being on the field for just 28:22. They have given up the second-most yards in the NFL (397 YPG) and rank last in the league in yards per carry allowed (5.1 YPC). However, Detroit has stood tall when it has matter most with the NFL's fifth-best red zone defense (42%) and second-best defense on third downs (29.9%). But after generating 11 takeaways in its first four games, Detroit has forced just two turnovers in the past three contests. The pass rush has also been horrible recently with just four sacks over the past three games.