Two teams who have seen their NFL playoffs hopes take a beating recently meet on Tuesday evening as the Baltimore Ravens host the Dallas Cowboys.
Neither organisations have lived up to their pre-season hype having started the year as favourites to win their respective division. Instead, a wildcard playoff place is the best they can hope and for Dallas, even that now looks beyond them.
Jackson’s Return Crucial to Baltimore’s Chances
Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson was officially activated off the reserve/Covid-19 list on Monday, meaning he should start Tuesday night’s encounter.
The reigning NFL MVP tested positive on Thanksgiving but he has completed his 10-day quarantine having had to miss last Wednesday’s 19-14 defeat to NFC North rivals Pittsburgh Steelers.
Jackson wasn’t the only member of the Ravens to miss that loss in Pittsburgh with running backs Mark Ingram and JK Dobbins and defensive ends Calais Campbell and Jihad Ward also activated from the reserve/Covid-19 list.
The returns of Jackson and Campbell, in particular, are likely to be key to Baltimore’s chances as they battle for a third successive trip to the postseason.
The Ravens are now 6-5 on the year after losing three in a row, with their offence having struggled to get going in those defeats. However, a meeting with the defensively-weak Cowboys could be just what the doctor ordered.
Despite signs of improvement in recent weeks, Dallas has still allowed a league-worst 32.6 points per game on average.
With Dallas struggling on defence, the Ravens really need to be making a statement, and the AFC North giants should cover the -7.5 handicap at
Dallas Ready to Dig In
The Cowboys’ hopes of a successful season pretty much disappeared when quarterback Dak Prescott suffered a serious ankle injury in Week 5. Dallas have lost five of their last six to slip to 3-8, but somehow, they are not mathematically out of the playoff hunt.
A win on Tuesday could see them move into third in the NFC East, and to within one victory of Washington and the New York Giants. Favourable games on the horizon against the likes of Philadelphia Eagles, Cincinnati Bengals and the Giants mean all is not lost for the Cowboys.
Running-back Ezekiel Elliott and wide receiver Amari Cooper will look to give back-up quarterback Andy Dalton some options on offence and Tuesday’s game could go back and forth as both teams try to flex their muscles.
While Baltimore should cover the handicap, that is not to say Tuesday’s encounter will not be high scoring. The Cowboys have allowed more rushing yards than any team in the NFL, and they are going to need to fight fire with fire in order to make this respectable.
Over 45.5 points looks inviting at odds of
1/1 and three of the last five meetings between these two have gone over on the total points line.
Classy Zeke to Lead Cowboys Charge
After a lacklustre start to the season, the Cowboys will look to Elliott for some inspiration.
He has struggled to find his best form, but Tuesday’s game could be the start of his recovery. Baltimore haven’t looked as solid in defence when trying to stop the run and Elliott will be hoping to follow in the footsteps of Derrick Henry. The Tennessee Titans ace ran for 133 yards a few weeks ago against the Ravens, scoring a touchdown to boot.
1/1 to score anytime, and that is good value for a player that has shown he can be the man for the big occasion.