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Texans @ Cowboys Expert Picks: Dallas Facing A Trap Game Against Houston?

The Cowboys are strongly favored for Sunday's game, but in no way does that mean it will be an easy game.

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Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Many Cowboys fans are looking forward to Sunday’s game against the Houston Texans and expect the Cowboys to continue their winning ways after dismantling the Saints last week.

Other Cowboys fans are worried that the game against the Texans is a classic trap game: After beating New Orleans (2013 playoff participant) last week, and with the game against the defending Super Bowl champions looming next week, the Cowboys could look at the Texans (worst record in the league last year) as an easy win and take the game for granted.

Even the most die-hard fan will concede that with the Cowboys, this is always a possibility. And suddenly, Garrett's mantra of taking it "one day at a time, one game at a time" makes a lot of sense.

Whether you believe in trap games or not, and there is ample evidence to suggest that there is no such thing as a trap game, the fact is that almost nobody expects the Texans to win on Sunday. Let's take a look at what our panel of prominent pigskin pundits predict for the game:

Pick Score Comment
Vinny Iyer, Sporting News
Dal_medium 27-14 Everything’s bigger in Texas when the Lone Star’s two NFL teams start 3-1. J.J. Watt is the best player in the game, quarterbacks included. No defender in the league has so much impact on games. Watt, however, can only do so much here. Dallas’ offensive line can slow him down a bit, and DeMarco Murray’s continued brilliant running will take pressure off Tony Romo in the face of Watt. How about that Cowboys’ defense? It has been far from terrible, and it will keep looking good against Ryan Fitzpatrick. If only the Texans could put Watt at QB.
Michael Smith, Pro Football Talk Dal_medium 23-20 The battle for Texas is a battle of two teams that are playing better than most people expected. The Texans have an efficient offense and a strong defensive front led by MVP candidate J.J. Watt, but the Cowboys may have the best offensive line in the league, and they’ll control the game on the ground to win a close one.
Greg Cote, Miami Herald
Dal_medium 31-20 Game of the Week committee gave this one a quick glance. Natural rivals last met in 2010. ’Boys RB DeMarco Murray has 100-plus yards and a TD in all four games. Only better streaks to start a season were by Jim Brown in 1958 and by O.J. Simpson in ’75. Murray could stay hot vs. a HOU run-D allowing 130 yards per game. Meanwhile, Texans RB Arian Foster (hamstring) is iffy. I still don’t quite trust the Cowboys (bet Jerry Jones doesn’t, either), but we’ll take a leap of faith here.

Read more here:
Sam Farmer, LA Times Dal_medium 21-17 The Cowboys have a better quarterback and they were terrific Sunday night. Their offensive line is solid, and they're averaging a league-best 165.0 yards rushing. Texans are 24th against the run.
Peter Schrager, Foxsports
Dal_medium 27-23 Consider the job Bill O’Brien has done through four weeks and you have to put him in the Coach of the Year conversation. Ryan Fitzpatrick is his starting quarterback, Jadeveon Clowney has been out with an injury, and J.J. Watt has more touchdowns this year than Arian Foster and Andre Johnson … and the Texans are currently in first place in the AFC South. Okay, now consider the job Jason Garrett has done. He’s in that conversation, too. But how about Jerry Jones, player personnel executive? Yes, you laugh. But look at what Rolando McClain is doing this season. Look at what the Cowboys’ young draft picks are doing. And look at that offensive line. Jerry Jones is known for being an impulsive, irrational draft guy. Well, with fans clamoring for skill position players and dazzling rookie names, the Cowboys have drafted three rocks on the offensive line in Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, and Zack Martin in the first round. I’m taking the Cowboys, again. Nobody had them being good this year. I said NOBODY. Click here, guys.
Pete Prisco, CBS Sports
Dal_medium 30-16 This battle for Texas surprisingly features two 3-1 teams. The Cowboys are rolling on offense, and the defense played better against the Saints. Houston has overachieved, but this is a big step up for them on the road. I think that shows. Dallas rolls.
Elliot Harrison,
Dal_medium 29-17 Here's what you'll see in Dallas: DeMarco Murray getting the football 25 to 30 times for the Cowboys against a Texans defense that is allowing 5 yards per rush this season. Here's what you won't see: J.J. Watt and that Houston front seven harassing Tony Romo all day. Give the veteran quarterback 26 attempts. In fact, the way that Dallas offensive line has been way-laying its opposition, there's no reason not to have a 55:45 run-pass ratio Sunday at JerrahWorld. Texans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick will beat Orlando Scandrick with a deep ball to DeAndre Hopkins, but the Cowboys' defense just needs to hold the fort until a couple of interception opportunities come along. It will happen.
Mike Florio, Pro Football Talk
Dal_medium 24-17 Did anyone expect either of these teams to be 3-1? They both are, and barring a tie one will be 4-1. Advantage home team. As long as DeMarco Murray and Tony Romo stay healthy.

The other pick'em panels we regularly monitor got killed for their pick last week, when they favored the Saints by 53-12 votes. For the season, these panels have struggled to accurately predict Cowboys games, not even breaking even in sum. Another pick 'em panel not listed here, and whose nine panelists have all predicted the Cowboys to win every game so far this season, is standing pretty with a .750 prediction accuracy after four games.

Site Cowboys Texans Cowboys Season
Pick Accuracy
USA Today 7 1 .607 (17-11)
NFL Around The League 5 0 .600 (12-8)
Foxsports 3 1 .563 (9-7)
Pro Football Focus 8 0 .515 (17-16)
SB Nation 5 2 .500 (14-14)
ESPN 14 0 .464 (26-30)
CBSSports 7 1 .455 (15-18)
Dallas Morning News 9 0 .417 (15-21)
Yahoosports 2 0 .250 (2-6)
Total 60 5 .492 (127-131)

When public opinion is so heavily skewed in one direction you've got to wonder whether it has sunk in yet that Sunday's game features two teams sitting at 3-1, and that the 2014 Texans have very little to do with the 2013 team that finished 2-14.

What are your expectations for Sunday's game? Will it be as easy for the Cowboys as the opinions above indicate, or will the game be as tough as the two teams' records suggest it could be?

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