The Dallas Cowboys kicked off the AFC South stretch of their schedule in Week 13 by dismantling the Indianapolis Colts. On Sunday afternoon America’s team hosts the last-place team in all of football, the Houston Texans. The 1-10-1 Texans haven’t been victorious since defeating the Jaguars in Week 5, and they probably aren’t the best candidates to knock off the streaking Cowboys on the road. That doesn’t mean the Cowboys and Texans’ Week 14 won’t have any points of contention. Here are three bold predictions for the NFL’s version of the Texas Bowl on Sunday afternoon.
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The Texans will cover the spread
Now look, the predictions are supposed to be bold, right? The Dallas Cowboys are listed by FanDuel as 16.5-point favorites over the Texans. That’s a large line in the NFL no matter who is playing. There are a few reasons to believe that the Cowboys may not be at their dominant peak against Houston come Sunday afternoon. Davis Mills is probably the first one. Houston went away from Mills and benched him in favor of Kyle Allen ahead of Week 11, but the Texans obviously did not see the improvement they thought they would after making the change. Texans head coach Lovie Smith announced on Wednesday that Mills would be back under center for the Texans in Arlington. Mills doesn’t give the Texans nearly enough juice to fix all of their problems, but he gives them a higher ceiling at least. If Mills plays as well as he did last season the Cowboys’ defense will have a tougher time than they would against any version of Allen.
The past few weeks at the Star have been a media frenzy, even for the Cowboys. Odell Beckham Jr. can have that effect. If DeMarcus Lawrence’s comments about whether or not he was interested in bringing OBJ into the fold are any indication, the media circus might be getting old to some around the Cowboys’ locker room. There is little reason to believe the Cowboys won’t come out focused Sunday afternoon, but any distraction at all can be a negative. The OBJ recruiting parade certainly falls into the “distraction” category.
When it’s all said and done, 17 points is just a very large deficit. This is the NFL where anything can happen after all. The Texans don’t even really have to keep things close to cover the spread. All it would take is a garbage time touchdown with the Cowboys’ backups in at the end of the game up by 23 points. The Cowboys will win on Sunday and they’ll do it handily, but it might not be exactly the kind of blowout that Vegas is selling.
Cowboys get another multi-sack game from Micah Parsons
Parsons didn’t record a sack in Week 13, and a look back at his game log from this season suggests that he’s due for a couple in Week 14. In five games following a 0-sack performance this season, Parsons has totaled six sacks, and the last time he failed to get to the quarterback in a game, he had back-to-back multi-sack performances in the weeks following.
The Colts’ offensive line has allowed more sacks than any other in football this year, but the Texans are hot on their heels. Texans quarterbacks have gone down 33 times this season, eighth most in the league. Laremy Tunsil is an elite presence at left tackle for Houston, but other than that it’s a pretty exploitable group for Parsons. Expect a big day from the DPOY contender as he looks to make life difficult for Davis Mills.
Cowboys running backs set season-high in rushing
What better candidate for the Cowboys’ 1-2 punch to have their best game of the year against than the defense that allows more rushing yards than anyone in football? Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard have been phenomenal lately for the Cowboys. Since Week 11, the pair have combined to average 4.75 yards per carry for 442 total yards and eight total touchdowns.
The Cowboys have leaned into their identity as a run-first team. One player who has proven to be a major asset to that end lately is Tyler Smith. Smith slid over to left guard while Jason Peters took over at left tackle at times against Indianapolis. One result of that development was an impressive lead-blocking effort by the Tulsa rookie that allowed Pollard to score a 30-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter. With the Cowboys runners producing as well as they have all year and the offensive line making plays like the one Smith made in Week 13, this running game is unlikely to be shut down anytime soon. Definitely not by the Texans in Week 14.