Dallas at Los Angeles -5 O/U 36
Recommendation: Los Angeles
If you’ve watched preseason games at the Edward Jones Dome in St Louis in recent years, you’ve probably noticed the lethargic crowds in a half-filled stadium. That won’t be the case on Saturday night in LA, where 90,000 fans are expected to watch their home debut; a rare preseason setting where the energy for the home team is likely to be palpable.
Rams head coach Jeff Fisher isn’t taking this preseason home opener lightly. After becoming the first NFL coach in 20 years to keep his job following four consecutive losing seasons, Fisher knows that there’s a ton of pressure to achieve in his first year in LA. His quote: “(We’re not going) 7-9 or 8-8 or 9-7, OK? Or 10-6 for that matter. This team’s too talented. I am not going to settle for that, OK? I know what I am doing.”
Of course, coach-speak can be overrated in August, but there’s no question that LA has expectations this August. Dallas does not. The Cowboys lost their first two preseason games last year by a combined 40-13 margin. They lost all four preseason games in 2014 by five points or more, including an ugly 27-7 Week 1 blowout loss. In fact, their last Week 1 preseason win came back in 2012, with a 3-0 victory over Oakland. I’m confident that three points won’t be enough for Dallas to win or cover this one, and head coach Jason Garrett sure doesn’t seem as if he’s treating this year’s preseason opener any differently!
The Cowboys have a top-heavy roster. They’ve paid their superstars well, but those stars have been injury prone, and the quality depth behind them has been extremely limited. That’s been most obvious at the quarterback position, where it’s going to be Dak Prescott and Jameil Showers for the full 60 minutes on Saturday Night in an effort to keep Tony Romo from taking hits, with backup Kellen Moore already hurt. Prescott will be facing NFL competition for the first time; Showers was in training camp last year but he’s notched just 125 total yards of preseason passing under his belt.
St. Louis will be giving a rookie QB ample playing time as well, but that rookie QB was #1 overall draft pick Jared Goff, not a 4th rounder like Prescott. LA will also have Case Keenum starting and Sean Mannion coming off the bench; two veterans who are primed to move the offense. Even with the pointspread creeping higher as we approach kickoff, this is a classic preseason contest where one team cares and the other team just wants to get out of town healthy.
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