Cowboys at Patriots Prediction: How Can You Bet Against New England at Home?

Mike Fisher

FOXBORO, MA - Could predicting the outcome of today's Week 12 showdown be as simple as weighing 'Irresistible Force (the Dallas Cowboys offense) vs. Immovable Object (the New England Patriots defense)''?

We can start with that simple formula in working to breakdown today's afternoon showdown at Gillette Stadium between a 6-4 Cowboys team that leads the NFC East and that is leading the NFL in total offense and yards per play (6.7), and a Patriots team that at 9-1 leads the AFC East, the AFC and the entire NFL, powered by the league's top defense.

The Pats have a reputation as an explosive offensive team under QB Tom Brady, but in fact he'll be the first to tell us that this year's edition of the six-time Super Bowl champs is about special teams and defense. The Patriots don't run the ball well and Brady, at age 42, is quicker than ever when it comes to throwing the ball short or throwing it away. Outside of Julian Edelman, New England also lacks consistency in terms of weaponry, the likes of Josh Gordon and Antonio Brown having spent but a relative minute there.

But on defense? The Pats, when at home, have allowed 14 points or fewer in seven straight regular-season outings. Under coach Bill Belichick, they are the NFL's best at confusion an offense with sometimes literally a different defensive look every series. And the math inside the math? Incredibly, New England's defense has allowed just four TD passes while stealing 19 interceptions.

A 4/19 TD-to-INT ratio? Ridiculous. How does Dallas combat that? Maybe by not necessarily challenging the New England secondary featuring shutdown corner Stephon Gilmore. Teams have run against the Pats; as Evan Silva points out, over their last seven games, New England has given up 655 rushing yards and over five yards per carry.

But, there's a but: They’ve allowed just one TD by a running back all year. Can New England "take away the top weapon'' (another Belichick trademark) in, say, Amari Cooper, and double-team another weapon (say, Michael Gallup) and play bend-but-don't break against Zeke? If so, the NFL's top offense will get topped. ... and the Cowboys will find themselves in a lower-scoring-than-expected game.

Maybe Dallas can find gaps to close via special teams, where the Cowboys have been inexplicably bad in the return/coverage game. Maybe unpredictable "exotics'' (yes, another Belichick specialty) need to, for one week, be a Dallas specialty. Or maybe there is a matchup to be won by a lesser light, like second tight end Blake Jarwin.

In the end, though, there is a reason - well, as you see above, lots of reasons - the oddsmakers have New England as a 6.5-point favorite ... the first time Dallas has been an underdog all year.

There are other games in which the Cowboys can flex their offensive muscle. But betting against these Patriots at home, where they've won 17 straight? That's how gamblers go broke.

Prediction: Patriots 26, Cowboys 24.

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