NFL against the spread picks: Cowboys have tough task at Patriots

For the Dallas Cowboys to put away the Philadelphia Eagles before the two teams meet in Week 16, they might need to win a game or two they’re not expected to win.

Sunday at the New England Patriots could be one of them.

The Cowboys come in as 6.5-point underdogs at BetMGM, but that seems steep. The Patriots’ offensive issues have been discussed a lot, and receiver Mohamed Sanu might miss Sunday’s game with an ankle injury. New England’s defense is stellar, but this will be a test for those who believe the Patriots have built that reputation against terrible teams.

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This is a game that could vault Dak Prescott into a different level. He is having a tremendous season, but Lamar Jackson, Russell Wilson and a few others are getting more attention. That could start to change with a big game against the NFL’s best pass defense. The 4:25 p.m. Eastern time start, with only one other game happening in the second window of games on Sunday, ensures that most of the country will be watching two of the NFL’s flagship teams. A huge performance and a win could get Prescott into the MVP conversation.

The Cowboys have a tough schedule in the second half of the season, much tougher than the Eagles’ remaining schedule. There should be a sense of urgency. I don’t think the Cowboys will pull off the upset, but 6.5 points is too many. This will be a close game and an entertaining one for a huge audience. And if the Cowboys can upset the Patriots, it will have some huge ramifications in the playoff picture.

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott has a big challenge against the Patriots on Sunday. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott has a big challenge against the Patriots on Sunday. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)

Here are the rest of the Week 12 picks, with point spreads from BetMGM:

Colts (+3.5) over Texans (picked Thursday): I wonder if the Colts regret having such a conservative, run-heavy game plan. Their receivers were beat up, but so was Houston’s secondary. They could have won that game with just a couple more big plays.

Dolphins (+10.5) over Browns: The Dolphins have been competitive lately, and I’m not sure the Browns should be double-digit favorites over anyone. Well, maybe the Bengals. This line is too high.

Bills (-4) over Broncos: The Broncos have been surprisingly competitive since Brandon Allen took over as the starter. It still seems like a mismatch. If the Bills can’t cover, it will fuel all those who look at the advanced stats and think the Bills aren’t nearly as good as their record.

Steelers (-6.5) over Bengals: It’s hard to take the Steelers laying this many points on the road, given that their already limited offense will be shorthanded. But how many points is rookie quarterback Ryan Finley really going to lead the Bengals to against a very good Steelers defense?

Giants (+6) over Bears: Again, you have to ask yourself: How many points can the Bears offense really score? A week ago, the Rams basically took the air out of the ball and dared the Bears to score enough to beat them. Chicago put up seven points.

Jets (+3) over Raiders: I don’t love this spot for the Raiders, going all the way out east for an early start. It also wouldn’t be a total surprise if the Jets lay an egg. Beating up Washington last week didn’t prove Sam Darnold and the Jets are back. A win over the Raiders, a legitimate wild-card contender, would be better.

Panthers (+9.5) over Saints: Even though the Saints got an easy win over the Buccaneers last week, something still seems a little off. The offense was good but far from great against a bad Tampa Bay defense. Panthers quarterback Kyle Allen has fallen back to earth and Carolina has its own issues, but let’s see if the Saints look like the powerhouse they’re perceived to be.

Buccaneers (+4) over Falcons: The Falcons were one of the worst defenses in the NFL through eight games. They’ve been one of the best the last two weeks. It makes no sense. I’m still not convinced a defense can change that dramatically overnight.

Lions (-3.5) over Redskins: Even against a bad Lions defense, I don’t know why I’d pick Washington at this point. The Redskins’ offense is miserable.

Eagles (-1.5) over Seahawks: If Philadelphia wins, they could really get on a roll against a soft schedule. If they lose — even against a very good Seattle team — we’ll have to start talking about them as one of the most disappointing teams in the NFL.

Jaguars (+3.5) over Titans: This seems like a game in which Derrick Henry can take advantage of a suspect Jaguars run defense. So we’ll probably see the Titans coaching staff ignore Henry for half of the game and make things tougher than they need to be.

49ers (-3) over Packers: This is a great test for the 49ers’ defense, and I think they’ll be up to it. On the flip side, if the Packers can go to Santa Clara and get a win, it will legitimize them as a true Super Bowl contender.

Rams (+3) over Ravens: Maybe it’s still hanging on to the Rams of last season, but it seems crazy to think they are a field-goal underdog at home. Jared Goff will have to show up in this game. That’s a big question.

Last week: 5-9
Season to date: 77-84-2

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Frank Schwab is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

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