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Game Notes

Dallas Cowboys vs the New York Giants: Defense the Key to Victory

John Williams



DeMarcus Lawrence, Franchise Tags and Realities for Dallas Cowboys

Week two is finally here. Finally the Dallas Cowboys and we the fanbase can put behind us last week's loss -- mostly -- and look toward this week's matchup with the New York Giants. A division rival who also sits at 0-1 is great medicine to forget about a let down of a season opener.


This is a really interesting matchup that each team has some areas that they can take advantage. Both the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants have strengths and weaknesses and as I began breaking it down, it appears that the Dallas Cowboys biggest strength is the New York Giants greatest weakness.

So, without further adieu, let's dive in.

When the Dallas Cowboys Have the Ball

It's safe to say that last week was a disappointment on the offensive side of the football. Nothing really seemed to go right for Dak Prescott and the offense until they went no-huddle in the third quarter to try and get something going.

I'd love to see them open this week with no-huddle and hurry up to get Dak Prescott and the offense in a bit of a rhythm. But, knowing what we know about this offensive staff, that doesn't seem very likely.

When the Dallas Cowboys Run

We all know that this is the bread and butter of America's Team. They want to establish the run, wear you down with the run, and finish you off with the run. Everything that they're about on the offensive side of the football is about the run.

The problem is that everyone in the NFL and their grandmother's knows it.

Having an identity is one thing, but being locked into their identity has become a detriment to the team. You could see it on pretty much every first down on Sunday. When they ran, they ran into fronts that had more defenders than the team could block and rarely did it go for more than a three yard gain.

Every team is going to come into a game with the Dallas Cowboys with a sole focus on stopping the run.

The Dallas Cowboys weren't the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday. Some of that was due to the play of the Carolina Panthers and some of that was due to lacking variety of play call on certain down and distances.

Warren Sharp provided this gem the other day. It shows the percentage of plays a team passes or runs on first down. The Dallas Cowboys 58% of first down run plays is the second highest rate in the NFL over the last three years. Only the Chicago Bears run the ball on first down at a higher frequency.

Warren Sharp on Twitter

Jason Garrett doesn't know what defines a "conservative offense". How about pass rates on first down in the first half. Last 3 yrs pictured. (Note where the good teams sit.)

Predictable much?!?!

Teams get this data and know that they can have their lineman guess run on first down and there's a really good chance that they're right.

Ezekiel Elliott ran for only 69 yards on Sunday on 15 carries. Elliott did average 4.6 yards per carry, but if you watched the game, you noticed that it was tough sledding for the Dallas Cowboys run game.

Ezekiel Elliott didn't play in the preseason and hasn't really had big games to start the season his first two years. Zeke has been a slow starter. He's averaging 63 yards rushing per game, with 3.5 yards per carry and has only three rushing touchdowns in games played the first two weeks of the season in his first three seasons (five games).

In Elliott's three games against the Giants, he's averaged 22.7 carries for 87.3 yards, and 0.3 touchdowns per game. They've done a pretty good job at bottling him up. But given that two of those three games occurred in the first week of the season, it's hard to know if it's beginning of season rust, or if it's the Giants containing Elliott.

Dak Prescott was somewhat hesitant to run at times last week, opting to throw the ball out of bounds as opposed to making something happen with his feet. He ran five times for only 19 yards, but may have been hindered a bit by an ankle injury that happened midway through the second quarter.

Despite struggles in week one, you know that they're going to continue to run the ball. What we can hope for is that the Cowboys coaching staff allows Dak Prescott to pass more on first down so that the New York Giants defense can't be sitting on the run.

The New York Giants defense had a difficult task in week one facing the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jaguars against the Giants ran for 4.72 yards per carry and 137 rushing yards in their week one win. This, while Leonard Fournette only received nine carries (41 yards and 4.55 yards per carry) as he was forced to leave the game due to injury. T.J. Yeldon came in and ran 14 times for 51 yards for 3.64 yards per carry.

Quarterback Blake Bortles had a nice day on the ground as well, carrying the ball four times for 42 yards.

The player that the Dallas Cowboys will have to account for along the defensive line is Damon "Snacks" Harrison. He's one of the better interior defensive lineman in the NFL and will be a challenge for Joe Looney, Zack Martin, and Connor Williams to control. If they are able to win that matchup along the interior, something they struggled with against Carolina, then the Dallas Cowboys should have a good day running the football.

When the Dallas Cowboys Pass

The Dallas Cowboys want to set up the pass by being effective in the running game. The problem that they've run into at times over the last nine games is that they haven't been super effective in the running game, thus making the passing game less efficient. They also haven't been throwing it well, so teams don't really have to worry as much about the pass.

We saw it against the Carolina Panthers. The Panthers' defense didn't have much respect for Dak Prescott and challenged him to beat them. They loaded the box and made it difficult for the identity of the team to get the ball rolling.

The New York Giants only allowed the Jaguars to throw for 168 passing yards in week one. They currently rank ninth in the NFL in passing yards allowed.

Janoris Jenkins is still one of the better defensive backs in the NFL. On five targets in week one, he only allowed two catches, though they both went for greater than 15 yards. One a 17 yard reception to Dede Westbrook and the other a 31 yard reception to Keelan Cole.

Eli Apple played well on Sunday as well, only allowing one reception on four targets.

Surprisingly, Landon Collins, one of the best safeties in the NFL surrendered receptions on all four of his targets.

The Dallas Cowboys may not have the best passing game in the NFL, but if the Jacksonville Jaguars led by Blake Bortles can find some success against this pass defense, then Dak Prescott and the Cowboys should be able to as well.

They're actually very similar in their lack of top-tier receiving talent, as well as quarterbacks who have struggled to throw the ball at times in their careers. Both the Jaguars and the Cowboys want to run the ball and play defense.

Dak Prescott completed 65% of his passes, but his 5.86 yards per attempt is less than ideal. Generally you want to see that number over seven yards per attempt. There's been a lot said about Dak Prescott's week one, and the simple fact of the matter is that he has to be better. It's his third year in the NFL and it's time to show progress and not regression or stagnation. For the Dallas Cowboys to win on Sunday, they need Dak to be the Dak Prescott that helped them win 18 games in his first 24 starts.

The receiver to watch this week for the Dallas Cowboys is Cole Beasley. Beasley followed up a strong offseason with seven catches on eight targets for 73 yards. The seven receptions were the most he'd had since week three of 2016 when he put up an identical seven catches for 73 yards against the Chicago Bears.

With the Dallas Cowboys offensive staff moving him around more and opening up his route tree, it's allowed Beasley to be more active in the passing game. No longer is he relegated to slot duties only, but can work on the outside as well.

For the Dallas Cowboys, they'll have to figure out how to create balance among the receiving corp to find success. Cole Beasley, as great as he is, can't carry the receiving load all by himself. Allen Hurns, Michael Gallup, Deonte Thompson, Terrance Williams, and Tavon Austin have to help Beasley and Dak.

Cowboys Blog - Giants' Fans Bank on Eli to Produce in Week 1

10/19/2014 - New York Giants vs. Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas - New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning #10 surveys the defense during the 3rd quarter.

When the New York Giants Have the Ball

The New York Giants have one of the better skill position groups in the NFL. With Odell Beckham Jr on your team, it almost doesn't matter who the rest of the guys are, because he makes your skill position group so much better.

They've got four guys who are pretty good to great weapons in Beckham, Evan Engram, Sterling Shepard, and Saquon Barkley. Slowing these guys down is going to be a team defensive effort, but it all starts up front.

When the New York Giants Run

New York Giants Running Back Saquon Barkley was the subject of much debate leading up to and after the 2018 NFL Draft. He was the best running back in the draft. Of that there was and is no debate. The debate, rather, centered around whether the Giants should take a running back at second overall or whatever quarterback fell to them.

The choice seemed obvious in a draft with several quarterbacks who were being debated as the top pick in this year's draft. Eli Manning had been benched the season before and many thought that drafting a quarterback was inevitable. Until it wasn't. The team went with Barkley to help add an explosive running dimension the team has missed since the Tiki Barber days.

Saquon Barkley's debut with the Giants started out really slowly. Saquon's first 16 carries went for only 37 yards. Then he broke a 68 yard run that kept New York in the game in the middle of the fourth quarter bringing the score to 20-15. After the long run, Barkley only carried the ball one more time as the Giants had to go pass heavy to try to catch up.

Still his overall line looks really good for his rookie debut against one of the best defenses in the NFL. 18 carries, 106 yards, two receptions for 22 yards, and a touchdown. Not too shabby.

The Dallas Cowboys allowed 147 yards rushing in week one to the Carolina Panthers, though 58 was to dual threat quarterback Cam Newton. Panthers running backs ran 18 times for 86 yards and a touchdown.

You aren't going to have to worry about Eli Manning running the football on you like Cam Newton did, and so your defense already has a leg up compared to its week one matchup.

Containing Saquon Barkley will be a tough task, but one that is doable. The Dallas Cowboys have an edge along the defensive line and will be able to win their one on one matchups to slow Barkley down.

When the New York Giants Pass

Odell Beckham, Jr. Evan Engram, Sterling Shepard, and Saquon Barkley. These are the names that the Dallas Cowboys defense will attempt to cover on Sunday against the New York Giants.

This is one of the best receiving groups in the NFL led by the immensely talented Beckham who had 11 catches for 111 yards in the Giants week one loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Eli fed him 15 targets, which was more than twice the number of Sterling Shepard who was second on the team in targets and receiving. He did most of his work over the middle of the field on Sunday, which would put Sean Lee, Jaylon Smith, and/or Leighton Vander Esch in for a lot of work when Dallas runs its cover three zone.

Seems like he's back and healthy and ready to roll. He's going to be a difficult cover for whoever gets that assignment.

The Cowboys have some gamers in their secondary in Chidobe Awuzie, Byron Jones, Anthony Brown, Kavon Frazier, and Jeff Heath. These guys aren't going to allow things to be easy for the Giants pass catchers.

The Dallas Cowboys' defensive line has an advantage over the Giants offensive line.

In week one the New York Giants offensive line allowed 20 pressures to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Yes, you read that right. 20!!! That was more than half of Eli Manning's 37 drop backs. That's an insane amount. What's even more insane is that Eli was only sacked twice during the game. Eli gets rid of the ball quickly, and so the coverage is going to have to be tight and ready to make plays on the football when he does let it loose.

The Dallas Cowboys defensive line was credited with 16 pressures in week one and three sacks of Cam Newton.

How well the Dallas Cowboys rush is able to pressure and affect Manning is a key factor that will decide the outcome of this week's game.

Matchup of the Week

How well the Dallas Cowboys defense covers the New York Giants skill position players and gets after Eli Manning is going to tell the tale of this game. We know that Eli Manning will turn the ball over. In his career he's averaged an interception per game.

When the opportunities arise, can the Dallas Cowboys take advantage?

I don't think I'm going out on a limb by saying the Dallas defensive line has a big advantage over the offensive line of the New York Giants. Whether they will be able to use that advantage to create negative plays -- either sacks or turnovers -- is a big key in the game.

For the New York Giants, they will need to limit the damage done on the ground by Ezekiel Elliott. If the running game for the Dallas Cowboys gets off to a strong start, it will open up the passing game and make for a long day for the New York Giants defense.


Last week I predicted a double-digit win for the Dallas Cowboys and that fell flat on its face, though I did predict Carolina's score correctly. I still see the Cowboys as the victors in this game, but I believe it will be a close one. I think it's a fairly even matchup, but the play of their respective offensive and defensive lines will be the difference and I believe the Dallas Cowboys are better in the trenches on both sides of the ball.

20-17. Cowboys Win. 

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Tell me, Cowboys Nation, how do you see this game turning out?

Dallas Cowboys optimist bringing factual reasonable takes to Cowboys Nation and the NFL Community. I wasn't always a Cowboys fan, but I got here as quick as I could.

Game Notes

Sean’s Scout: Cowboys Blitzes Keep Giants Play Makers in Check

Sean Martin



Sean's Scout: Cowboys Blitzes Keep Giants Play Makers in Check
(Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports)

Coming into their week two match up against the New York Giants, the Dallas Cowboys knew they could control the game with -- for the first time in years against Eli Manning -- their pass rush and strong secondary. Exposing a weak Giants offensive line went well beyond the Cowboys front four in this win though.

The Cowboys put Manning on the turf six times, with Passing Game Coordinator Kris Richard relentlessly dialing up pressure. With the depth at linebacker to match up with Saquon Barkley and Evan Engram, along with Byron Jones' efforts on Odell Beckham Jr., it's no secret how the Cowboys defense forced Manning to dump the ball to his running back for 14 receptions.

Barkley's longest catch going for ten yards, this was a nearly flawless game for Rod Marinelli's defense to even the Cowboys record at 1-1. Expecting much of the same from their front seven against a poor Seahawks OL, now is a good time to look back at some of the pressure packages the Cowboys used in week two.

With a core of versatile linebackers they can trust, the Cowboys deployed Jaylon Smith, Sean Lee, Damien Wilson, and Leighton Vander Esch all over the field to present the Giants with different looks. What made the Cowboys defensive play calling so successful was their LBs ability to cover ground quickly and create depth in coverage.

By doing so, the Giants could not take any chances down the field, their longest passing play going for 37 yards.


Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

On this play, even with the Giants looking to get the ball out quickly, the pressure from Smith and Wilson disrupt the timing. Sean Lee, the only Cowboys linebacker not sent after Manning on the play, ends up rallying from his starting WILL position to get in on the tackle. The Giants did not have the numbers up front to block Damien Wilson attacking from SAM, although more impressively, Smith was able to rip through a partial block from the right guard and get ahead of Wilson on their rush.


Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

This next blitz shows off the Cowboys strong coverage downfield against the Giants. Cornerback Anthony Brown had his fingerprints all over this game in the back end for Dallas, but on this play comes out of the slot after Manning. Sensing the pressure at his feet, Manning steps up and actually puts himself in position to deliver a good ball, but is forced into yet another check down.

While linebacker blitzes are part of the "Richard effect" on the Cowboys defense, a well-timed slot blitz is a staple of Rod Marinelli's scheme. Using Brown a number of times in this role off the strong side, the Giants had no answers for the different pressures Dallas sent their way against Ereck Flowers at right tackle.


Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

Even when Smith was picked up, as he was in the above play, the Cowboys capitalized on missed blocking assignments to get home with their front four. Taco Charlton the benefactor at RDE here, watch as Barkley rushes to keep Lee from having a straight run at his QB - allowing Charlton to do the same off the edge. Running untouched on the play, Charlton does a nice job taking a sharp angle to Manning and chasing him to the ground.


Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

As much as the Cowboys cornerbacks were a huge part of the team's confidence in sending pressure, their safeties also performed well in coverage. I wrote about the above play on Monday morning in my Sean's Scout that immediately follows every Cowboys game:

"That's a fantastic play by Jeff Heath to run across the field and tackle Evan Engram short of the line to gain on third down.

The Giants drive would continue with a fourth down conversion, but the Cowboys defense did eventually force a punt.

The Cowboys safeties were primarily called upon to play in run support in this game, a role Heath has struggled in previously. Showing off his strengths as an athletic and rangy defensive back on this play, Heath didn't get pushed up the field by Engram on his release, hunting him down after the catch in front of a fired up Dallas bench."

Heath picking up Engram is just one example of a Cowboys defender exceeding expectations in coverage. Smith was able to run with Beckham Jr., as was Charlton on separate plays later in the game.


Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

The only fitting way to conclude this film study is with a DeMarcus Lawrence sack. The Cowboys best individual defender, Lawrence had his way with Flowers as we all expected. Playing to another one of Tank's strengths here though, Lawrence rushes to the inside off a well-executed T/E stunt with Tyrone Crawford.

Also sending Brown at Manning again, the Giants pass pro leaves Lawrence unabated to the quarterback. Unlikely to escape the grasp of Lawrence on such a free rush, Manning does try to abort the pocket, but had Brown crashing down on him to collapse things.

Lawrence might not earn many easier sacks this season. None of the Cowboys starters on defense are more capable of using their own ability to get to the QB than Lawrence still, who is getting all the help he needs from Richard as his play caller.

Through just two games, the Cowboys commitment to forcing the issue on defense has potential to keep this team atop the NFC East as the offense comes into its own.

Depending on the development of their own passing game, this may have to be a defense that can win Dallas games. The only way to do so is with sacks and turnovers.

The latter is something Marinelli's defenses have always excelled at when at full strength (the Cowboys are expecting Randy Gregory back as early as this week and DT David Irving comes off suspension in week five). The former is something the Cowboys are creating with a deeply talented front seven, orchestrated by one of the best in the business.

The Cowboys will look to build on their nine sacks this season against the Seahawks on Sunday, a team that's allowed the most in the league at 12. Their timing to go after Russell Wilson will be tested more than it was against the Giants, with Richard also better positioned to aid the Cowboys against his former team.

Tell us what you think about "Sean’s Scout: Cowboys Blitzes Keep Giants Play Makers in Check" in the comments below. You can also email me at, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

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Game Notes

Dallas Cowboys’ Path to Victory Over the Seattle Seahawks

John Williams



Dallas Cowboys' Path to Victory Over the Seattle Seahawks

In every game, whether it's a sporting event or a board game there is a path -- and sometimes more than one -- to victory. For the Dallas Cowboys, it's no different. As they get set to face a Seattle Seahawks team that is 0-2 for the first time since 2015, they'll have to win in several areas to bring home the W.

After starting out 0-2 in 2015, the Seahawks finished the season with a 10-6 record and won their wild card game over the Minnesota Vikings before falling in the divisional round to the Carolina Panthers.

The Seahawks are one of those teams that you can get down, but can never count out. If the Dallas Cowboys want to come out on top in their trip to the Pacific Northwest, they are going to have to come ready to play.

In particular, these are the things that the Dallas Cowboys have to achieve to be the victors on Sunday.

Limit Big Plays

The Seattle Seahawks are a very interesting offensive case study. They have one of the better quarterbacks in the league, but have invested very little in trying to protect their most important asset.

They rely on Russell Wilson's improvisational ability and penchant for big plays.

In 2017, Wilson had a quarterback rating of 100.9 on attempts greater than 20 yards down the field, per Pro Football Focus. He threw the ball "deep" 91 times, completing 31 passes for 1,134 yards, 12 touchdowns and five interceptions. He had the most deep attempts in the league last season and tied with Alex Smith with the most touchdowns on deep attempts. Wilson's yardage was nearly 200 yards more than the next best in the NFL on deep passing.

Wilson's going to take some deep shots. If you watched the Monday Night Football game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Chicago Bears, you noticed that even though Wilson was getting battered, it didn't deter him from taking shots deep down the field. Sometimes into unfavorable coverages.

The secondary has an advantage over the Seattle Seahawks group of wide receivers, but they'll have to stay disciplined and not allow the big pass plays to beat them.

In a game where they were being dominated for more than three quarters, the Seahawks were able to hang around and had a chance at the end because of their penchant for big plays.

Don't get beat deep.

Wrangling Russell Wilson

The Seattle Seahawks have allowed the most sacks in the league through two weeks. They've allowed six in each of their first two games this season. The Dallas Cowboys are going to have opportunities to sack Russell Wilson this week.

They have to take advantage.

Like Cam Newton in week one, Russell Wilson is a very elusive quarterback. Not only is he really good at making plays with his legs, he can be difficult to bring down. The Dallas Cowboys will have to work to keep Wilson in the pocket and finish when they get an opportunity to bring him down. He's not a physical presence like Newton is, but he's slippery and has some of that Tony Romo elusiveness to him.

If the potential tackler doesn't get Wilson down on first contact, it could lead to big plays both through the air and on the ground. Wilson averages 33.6 yards per game on the ground in his career and 5.7 yards per attempt. In order to get off the field on third down, they're going to have to prevent Wilson from using his legs to pick up third downs.

Establishing the Pass to Set Up the Run

At this point in the Dallas Cowboys offensive approach, everyone in the world knows what the Dallas Cowboys want to do on offense. They want to run the ball.

The Dallas Cowboys did a great job using this knowledge to their advantage on the first series of the game against the New York Giants.

On the first play of the game, they used a Run-Pass Option, with a clear out to the flat by Tight End Geoff Swaim, and found Allen Hurns on a slant to set up a second and short. Then after picking up that second and short with a run by Ezekiel Elliott, they used a straight play action out of a two running back, one tight end set, and hit Tavon Austin for the 64 yard touchdown.

Dak's willingness to throw the ball deep on a couple other occasions helped open up the run. The deep ball has to be a threat in order to back defenses off the line of scrimmage and do what you do best: Run the Ball. If they aren't going to back off, then you have to keep throwing it until you hit the deep ball enough that it forces them to do so.

The Dallas Cowboys were able to run the ball pretty effectively for the rest of the game, even if they didn't hit a lot of big plays. With the New York Giants interior defensive line, it was going to be tough sledding anyway. Getting things going through the air, helped out immensely.

The Seattle Seahawks are going to try to do what everyone does; put the ball in Dak Prescott's hands. If they're going to win on Sunday, it's going to be because Prescott had another efficient game throwing the ball.

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This game sets up really well for the Dallas Cowboys to improve their record to 2-1 and keep pace with the upper tier teams in the NFC. Every win matters, but these NFC games matter even a bit more. No game in the NFL is a cakewalk and this game is no different. If the Dallas Cowboys aren't able to do the above, it could be a long day for America's Team. 

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Game Notes

#SEAvsDAL: Betting Preview, Trends, And Prediction

Kevin Brady



Cowboys Wishlist Christmas Edition: Seahawks @ Cowboys

The Dallas Cowboys found a way to get their first win last Sunday, defeating the New York Giants from start to finish, 20-13.

Now at 1-1 and locked in a three way tie for 1st place in the NFC East, Dallas is looking to string together a few victories and create some early separation. Seattle is now sitting at 0-2, and while that's typically a hole teams cannot climb out of in the NFL, the Seahawks will be desperately fighting to avoid an 0-3 start.

The Seahawks opened up as 3 point home favorites against the Cowboys, with the over/under set at 44.5 points.

Dallas Cowboys

After an abysmal season opener against Carolina, the Cowboys came out firing against the Giants on Sunday night. Dallas led by as many as 17 points in the fourth quarter, and ended up holding on as the Giants made a late garbage-time run.

Dak Prescott looked as comfortable in the pocket as he as in weeks, finding Tavon Austin for a 64 yard touchdown pass on the opening drive. Ezekiel Elliott scored another rushing touchdown, and the Cowboys defense was straight up dominant.

Now, the Cowboys defensive line has another chance to increase their sack total against the Seahawks' weak offensive line. And you know DeMarcus Lawrence is salivating.

Dallas improved to 1-1 straight up and against the spread, covering the 3 point spread set by Vegas a week ago. Both Cowboys games have gone under thus far as well.

Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks fell to 0-2 on Monday night with a tough road loss to the Chicago Bears. Khalil Mack dominated the Seahawks offensive line, dictating protections and keeping Russell Wilson uncomfortable all night long.

The Seahawks haven't been able to get much of a run game going this season, despite their insistence upon doing so. Russell Wilson is their offense, and if the Cowboys can pressure him and force him into hero-ball throws, they should have success on Sunday. After all, this was the Bears recipe for success on Monday night.

Seattle is 0-2 straight up and 0-1-1 against the spread this season.


  • The score total has gone under 5 straight Cowboys' games.
  • Dallas is 2-4 against the spread their last six times playing at Seattle.
  • Seattle is 1-5 against the spread their last six games at home.
  • The under has hit 4 of the last 5 Cowboys/Seahawks games.


While I've thought hard about picking the under for the third straight week (I'm 2-0 doing so), I'll pick the actual game for you guys this time. I think the Cowboys will get this road win and improve to 2-1 behind dominant defensive line play and a strong running game.

This match up favors Dallas in multiple ways and I expect them to take advantage of Seattle's weak spots.

I like the Cowboys +3 a lot this Sunday.

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