The Cowboys are 3-point favorites on Sunday against the Saints at home. We know that the oddsmakers generally start with a base 3-point advantage for home teams in the NFL. We also know that for all intents and purposes Cowboys Stadium is essentially a neutral field for the Cowboys. It follows that most experts like the Saints to win on Sunday.
The over/under is set at a relatively high 51.5, the highest value on Sunday, indicating that a fairly high-scoring affair is expected. Of course, that makes it just as likely that the exact opposite will happen. Such is the way of expert predictions, and whether or not those experts have any idea of what they are talking about remains to be seen.
In the meantime, here's a sampling of what they are predicting for Sunday's game, sorted in descending order by aggregate score, starting from a high of 67 down to a low of 57:
Pete Prisco, CBS Sports
||37-30||This is the Sean Payton Bowl. Do the Saints really want to win? It could mean the Cowboys job comes open, and Payton goes there. Dallas will have problems with the Saints offense, but I think the Cowboys will score as well. Should be fun to watch. Tony Romo outduels Drew Brees.|
Elliot Harrison, NFL.com
||38-24||This has the makings of a shootout. Yes, I know the New Orleans Saints just pitched a shutout against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Get that image out of your head. Now. Tony Romo has been playing at a much higher level than Josh Freeman. Not to mention, this game is not in New Orleans. (Alright, I just mentioned that.) The Saints' pass rush is not a team strength, so they won't be able to capitalize on the Dallas Cowboys' biggest weakness: the offensive line. I do anticipate Drew Brees exposing Dallas' inside linebackers in coverage against backs and tight end Jimmy Graham. Thus, this will be a high-scoring game.
|Vinny Iyer, Sporting News||34-27||The Saints' defense, rising from the frustrations of an inconsistent season, was impressive in Week 15's shutout against a good Bucs offense. The Cowboys, however, are humming, with the running of DeMarco Murray setting up big-time play from Tony Romo. With weapons to match to Drew Brees, Romo will keep Dallas ahead and help Jason Garrett make sure Sean Payton stays in New Orleans in 2013.|
|Greg Cote, Miami Herald||34-27
||Dallas controls its path to division title by winning its last two games and cannot afford to lose here. Saints are all but eliminated and an oh-so-dangerous spoiler here. I’m concerned Dallas is 0-5 against the spread as a home fave, but N’Awlins hasn’t been a strong road squad.|
|Peter Schrager, Foxsports||34-27||I told you the Cowboys were going to the playoffs this summer. I stood behind that statement when they fell to 3-5 after the Sunday night loss in Atlanta. I sat alone in front of the Dallas bandwagon when RG3 embarrassed their defense on Thanksgiving. I’ve been riding the Cowboys through thick and thin, and now’s not the time to get off the train. Big wins over the Bengals and Steelers have put them in perfect position to win the NFC East. Drew Brees and New Orleans looked awfully good (and angry) in their 41-0 drubbing of the Buccaneers last week, but I’m giving Tony Romo — who’s been downright wonderful this entire season — the edge in this one.|
Peter King, SI.com
||30-27||The Cowboys never make it easy. Sunday will be no different. Tony Romo's having the best stretch drive of his career, which will need to continue for Dallas to win the East. Romo threw four interceptions Oct. 28 against the Giants. Since then, he's thrown three.|
|The Fifth Down, New York Times||- -||After beating the Steelers last week to move into a tie for the N.F.C. East division lead, the Cowboys are closing the season with quite a bit of momentum.
Momentum has swung the other way for New Orleans. At one point it looked like the Saints’ awful start would not stop them from marching to the playoffs, as they put together a stretch of strong midseason games. But their chances are now slim. They need to win both remaining games, along with receiving an enormous amount of help from other teams.
|Chris Schultz, TSN||- -||This is a classic story of a team that has nothing to lose - New Orleans - and a team that has everything to lose - Dallas. Tony Romo is playing his best right now, with 12 touchdown passes and only three interceptions over the last three games. And he keeps plays alive no matter the situation. The Saints' 41-0 win over the Bucs was misleading. Four Bucs interceptions and a fumble determined the game. Yes, Dallas got lucky too. The fumble kick return and the Brandon Carr interception were critical but with last moment wins over Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, Dallas responds too because they have been under pressure all season long|
Many sites publish their picks without providing any specific commentary. The opinions here vary much more than in the table above:
|Pro Football Focus||3||5|
|NFL Around The League||1||4|
|Inside the NFL||1||1|
Summing up all the predictions we've polled above, the Cowboys look like 48-33 favorites. Overall, that looks slightly more balanced than the first table with the individual quotes, but the Cowboys are still favored for the win.
How do you feel about that?