Monday Night Football: Cowboys are dialled in for the win at fortress AT&T
Romilly Evans previews another high-octane MNF clash, where he expects Dak Prescott and Co to benefit from some welcome home comforts at their homefield stronghold...
"With Sean Lee back fresh and firing from his hamstring pull, coupled to stalwarts like Tyron Smith and La'El Collins, Dallas are stripping fitter than Tennessee"
Tennessee Titans @ Dallas Cowboys
Start-time: Tuesday, 01:15
TV: Live on Sky Sports Action
Away struggles to continue for Tennessee on the road to Dallas
When my editor dropped this match on my lap this week, I thought I was going to struggle to generate the requisite word count. After all, to my jaundiced eye, any analysis doesn't seem to need to extend much beyond the headline facts and triggers: the Dallas Cowboys are 3-0 at their AT&T Stadium stronghold again this season, while the Tennessee Titans clearly struggle on the road (1-3 so far). There you go, we're done.
However, in the tightly contested world of the NFL, things are seldom as they superficially seem, so we'd better have a look at what lies beneath their home-and-away form. Both teams hold identical records at 3-4 and stand on the proverbial postseason precipice. A win here gets either side back to 50-50, however. And seeing as they each hail from substandard divisions, a .500 record might actually punch a playoff ticket in either the NFC East or AFC South this term.
Therefore, neither Dallas nor Tennessee can really afford a slip here, as there's much to play for. But, at home and in the national spotlight of MNF, America's Team naturally have the most to lose. Especially with the Philly Eagles springing to life and Washington already holding some vital head-to-head advantages in the East.
The Cowboys still sport one of the league's best rushing offenses - Ezekiel Elliott is already past the 600-yard mark for the current campaign - and now they're committing to that sound ground-gain strategy, elite athletes can belatedly blossom elsewhere among the receiving crew. Cue latest acquisition Amari Cooper fresh from an imploding Oakland who should be thankful at this opportunity. Not to mention the onerous terms to which Jerry Jones agreed in signing him.
That said, having released stud wideout Dez Bryant this year, Dak Prescott has laboured to find a legitimate go-to guy for the deep downfield strikes. All these struggles arriving, despite signing up both Michael Gallup and Allen Hurns to bolster an ostensibly strong receiving roster. In short, Prescott no longer has any excuses in Dallas. He must back up his breakout rookie season, lest the home faithful begin to rue the day he took over from Tony Romo.
Cowboys to strip fitter from their bye week
Unsurprisingly, and symptomatic of this middle course of the regular season, the Cowboys are nursing a few wounded warriors. That said, with Sean Lee back fresh and firing from his hamstring pull, coupled to the stalwart availability of offensive linesmen Tyron Smith and La'El Collins, Dallas are stripping fitter than Tennessee after their combined bye weeks. The Titans, of course, are returning from their agonising loss at Wembley. In fact, seeing as they're winning the war against Tennessee on the treatment table, it should be a case of 'Boys against back-ups here, so it's a small surprise to see Dallas only on offer as field-goal favourites at home.
On the other side of the park, maverick Marcus Mariota pulls the Titans' reins, and his natural dual-threat flair can always turn the tables on my greatest expectations to the contrary. As ever, then, the quarterback is the key variable. Yet, after a Week One elbow injury, Mariota remains slow-to-go, averaging a paltry 171.7 yards per game and throwing five picks (next to only three touchdowns). I'll continue to oppose him, particularly in Dallas' AT&T cauldron, until he rediscovers his arm-speed and pocket-poise.
Therefore, let's support Dallas across the board - and on a couple of generous handicap lines to boot. Their recent 40-7 hammering of the stalling Jags may not prove as promising a formline as it at first appeared, but Jacksonville are still a far better outfit than Tennessee. Keep the faith with Prescott and Cooper reviving hope here.
Back Dallas Cowboys (-4.5) to win on the Match Handicap @ 19/20 on the Betfair Sportsbook
Back Dallas Cowboys(-3.5) to win on the First Half Handicap @ 4/5 on the Betfair Sportsbook
Back Over 23.5 Dallas Cowboys Total Points @ 19/20 on the Betfair Sportsbook
Back Dallas Cowboys Touchdown as First Scoring Play @ 2/1 on the Betfair Sportsbook
Back A. Cooper to score First / Anytime Touchdown @ 11/1 / 21/10 on the Betfair Sportsbook