John Breech of CBSSports argues that the Cowboys have a lot more riding on this game than the Colts do:
I need to point out that the Colts have basically locked up the No. 3 or 4 seed in the AFC. The only way they could get a first-round bye is if they go 2-0 to end the season and either the Broncos or Patriots go 0-2. That's not going to happen and I think Chuck Pagano knows that. I expect to see a vanilla playbook from Indy, which means lots of Trent Richardson, which means the Colts don't win.
A little further below, Greg Cote of the Miami Herald writes that Indianapolis might limit its starters on Sunday, while Sam Farmer of the LA Times opines that the Colts will keep their foot on the gas to capitalize on their very remote chance at the No. 2 seed.
In the end, none of this matters. The Cowboys have to win this game regardless of what the Colts will or won't do, and our panel of pigskin pundits we review below is leaning towards the Cowboys in this game.
Peter Schrager, Foxsports (9-4)
||31-27||Back in August, I predicted 10 wins and a playoff berth from the Cowboys this season. The island I was on when I said that made Revis Island look like Penn Station. I've spent the past four months patting myself on the back and reminding anyone who'll listen that I called it. Though last Sunday night's win was an impressive road W in a "must-win" situation, the Cowboys still need victories in their final two games of the season to lock up a spot in the final field of 12. Indianapolis hasn't played great in games against good teams this year, with Baltimore and Cincinnati serving as its only really impressive victories in 2014. I don't know what to make of the Colts, and the Cowboys are apparently a better team on the road than at home, but I like Dallas in the best game of the weekend.|
Pete Prisco, CBS Sports (9-5)
||31-24||The Cowboys are riding high after beating the Eagles last Sunday night, but this is a tough game and the Cowboys have not been good at home. Even so, I think the physical offensive line will control the ball and help keep Andrew Luck on the sideline. The Cowboys win it, even if DeMarco Murray doesn't play.|
Greg Cote, Miami Herald (9-5)
||31-23||Dallas’ playoff shot is put at 85 percent. ’Boys clinch with a win if Packers and Lions lose, and sew up division with a win if Eagles lose. Indy already has won its division, cannot improve its seeding and could limit its starters here.|
Sam Farmer, LA Times (9-5)
||28-24||Colts have a remote chance of getting the No. 2 berth, so they have a reason to keep their foot on the gas. Indianapolis gets the edge, especially with a banged-up DeMarco Murray questionable to play.|
Mike Florio, Pro Football Talk (9-5)
||34-23||The Cowboys realize the stakes of this one; a win moves them closer to a division title and a loss could ultimately knock them out of the playoffs, again. DeMarco Murray will play, Tony Romo will deliver, and the Cowboys will continue one of their most surprising seasons ever.|
Vinny Iyer, Sporting News (8-8)
||27-24||The Colts do want to run a little bit more to control games, and should like the matchup, more so for Daniel Herron than Trent Richardson. The Cowboys did become more aggressive throwing downfield last week, and it worked very well in Philadelphia.The difference is, the Cowboys don’t have anyone to really cover Luck’s diverse wide receivers and tight ends. The Colts have Vontae Davis, who can shadow and contain Dez Bryant and let them take their chances with Romo’s other targets. As well as the Cowboys have played in going 7-0 on the road, they are 3-4 at home, losing to quality opponents. Indianapolis qualifies as such.|
Elliot Harrison, NFL.com (7-7)
||30-28||Look for the Dallas defense to get enough situational stops to stay in the game, despite allowing the Colts between 400 and 450 yards of offense. Indy will have trouble stopping the Cowboys' run game, even if it is a Joseph Randle- Lance Dunbar cocktail. Moreover, Tony Romo and Dez Bryant have something special going. Devoid of an elite pass rush, Colts fans might find themselves counting the seconds out loud as Romo chills in the pocket.|
Michael Smith, Pro Football Talk (6-8)
||30-20||The Colts don’t have much to play for after wrapping up the AFC South last week, while the Cowboys have plenty to play for as they could still finish anywhere from first seed in the NFC to out of the playoffs entirely. And yet I have a funny feeling that Andrew Luck is going to exploit the holes in the Cowboys’ defense and put up big numbers in a Colts win.|
Eight of the nine pick 'em panels we track below also favor the Cowboys, and only the SB Nation panel has the Colts as their consensus pick.
|USA Today||6||1||.626 (62-37)|
|NFL Around The League||3||2||.571 (40-30)|
|Dallas Morning News||6||3||.559 (66-52)|
|SB Nation||3||5||.541 (53-45)|
|Pro Football Focus||4||4||.474 (54-60)|
What all game predictions in the first table have in common is that they all predict a high scoring game. Every single prediction has a combined score of 50 points or more. The sportsbooks have set the over/under for the game at 55.5 combined points, the highest total of the weekend (along with the expected shootout in the Falcons @ Saints game).
If you were a betting person, would you take the over (the combined total score will be more than 55.5 points) or the under (the combined total score will be less than 55.5 points)?