- Washington’s offense has the fifth-highest success rate in the NFL over the past three weeks.
The middle of three Thanksgiving matchups is yet another NFC East game between underwhelming foes. But what if one of these teams isn’t as bad as they seem?
You might think I’m talking about the favored Cowboys, who knocked off the Vikings last week, but I’m not. Alex Smith has played the majority of the past three games for Washington. It’s a small sample, but per Sharp Football Stats, Washington’s offense has the fifth-highest success rate in the NFL from Week 9 to Week 11. Smith catches a lot of flak for taking so many checkdowns, and it’s a fair point, but he’s been accurate and kept the chains moving for the most part, albeit against some questionable defenses in the Giants, Lions, and Bengals. The good news is the Cowboys are also a very questionable defense.
Now Washington has gone 1-2 in those games, so let’s not get crazy. But their two losses came by a field goal each, and they lost the turnover battle in those two games six to zero. Smith threw three interceptions against the Giants, but he took over mid-game after a Kyle Allen injury. Washington also lost three fumbles over those two games, and fumbles are notoriously fluky.
All I’m saying is that Washington has been at least a decent offense, save for the turnovers, under Smith. And they won’t probably need to be much more than that against Dallas. The Cowboys are soft against the run, and Antonio Gibson recorded his first and only 100-yard rushing game to date in the first meeting between these two teams in Week 7. He’ll certainly be a threat to do that again.
But Dallas is also beatable through the air. Their pass defense is 28th in explosive pass rate allowed, so Smith might be able to get the ball downfield to Terry McLaurin for a big play or two. Even if he can’t, Dallas has allowed positive efficiency in the shorter areas of the field, where Smith typically lives.
To be fair, Dallas’s offense could be coming along a bit, too. They got the ground game going with Ezekiel Elliott last week to the tune of 103 yards on 21 carries, and backup Tony Pollard ripped off a 42-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. But while Andy Dalton played better, he still only threw for 203 yards on just 32 attempts; Dallas mostly tried to run the ball and stay in the game, and it worked against Minnesota.
That will be a little tougher against a strong Washington defensive front. Even if you don’t buy into the Washington offense, the key to this game could lie on the defensive side, where Washington’s unit is far superior to Dallas’s. The last time these teams met, Dalton was knocked from the game with a concussion, but that occurred after the midway point of the third quarter, and he was just 9-for-19 for 75 yards through more than a half.
I’m not buying what Dallas showed us last week as being repeatable here. So even if both offenses are bad, I’m siding with the team with the better defense. If Smith can run an efficient enough offense to put up a solid number on the Cowboys’ weak defense, even better. Give me Washington on the moneyline.
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Washington ML @ +130
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Week 12 is finally upon us. As is tradition we have 3 Thanksgiving games, the highlight of which is the third and final game, which sees the Ravens facing the unbeaten Steelers. On Sunday Night Football we see football's oldest rivalry as the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers meet and on Monday we see the Seahawks at the Eagles. The biggest game of the week for neutrals is probably the Chiefs at Buccaneers, which will pit Tom Brady against Patrick Mahomes.
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