Dak Prescott #4 of the Dallas Cowboys uses a Gatorade towel to wipe his hand against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy during the NFL preseason game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Los Angeles Chargers
Left: Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images, Right: Photo by Jevone Moore/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Cowboys are Only Four Point Favorites Against the Jaguars. Here's Why.

A game that no one expect to be interesting in at the beginning of the season has caught my eye in Week 15. The 10-3 Dallas Cowboys are traveling to play the 5-8 Jaguars in Jacksonville. On the surface, you would think this game would be a walk in the park for the Cowboys. Dallas after all, is 6-1 since quarterback Dak Prescott returned to the lineup, and their only loss was on the road in overtime. All but one of those six Dallas wins have been by eight or more points, so I just don't understand why the Cowboys are only favored by only 4 points on Sunday? I'm going to dive into the nuances of this game and see if we can make it make sense.

Are the Jaguars Turning a Corner?

Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Doug Pederson watches his team warm up prior to a football game against the Cleveland Browns

Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images

After a 2-6 start under new head coach Doug Pederson, the Jaguars have started to play much better football since the start of November and it begins with the performance of former number one overall pick Trevor Lawrence.

Over his last five games Lawrence has thrown 10 touchdowns without an interception and in four of those five games he has posted a quarterback rating over over 100. The Jaguars have climbed to fifth in the NFL in scoring and have averaged 26 points over their last three games.

While the offense has started to show the potential fans hoped would come from so many high draft picks, the defense has yet to rise to the same level. Over the same five game stretch the Jags have not held a single opponent under 20 points, instead giving up nearly 30 per game over their last three contests.

The Jaguars recent surge however, combined with a slide from the Tennessee Titans has Jacksonville competing in the AFC South and still in the hunt for a playoff berth in mid-December for the first time in a long time. Jacksonville's motivation to win remains as strong as ever this late in the season.

Can the Cowboys Keep it Within Four Points?

Micah Parsons #11 of the Dallas Cowboys reacts after sacking Joe Burrow #9 of the Cincinnati Bengals

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At first glance there isn't too much. The Cowboys have scored at least 24 points in each of their last seven games with Prescott back in the lineup, and three times they've scored 40 or more.

It's not like there is a particular matchup factor that would lead you to believe the Cowboys offense will struggle. Dallas has one of the best rushing attacks in football and the Jaguars have struggled stopping the ground game. Things aren't much different if the Cowboys go with a pass heavy approach. Dallas has allowed the fewest sacks in the NFL and the Jaguars are near the bottom of the league in defensive QB pressures.

On the other side of the ball, yes Trevor Lawrence has been on fire, but now he faces the No. 2 pass defense in the NFL and a tenacious defensive line led by defensive player of the year candidate Michah Parsons. While the Jags defense has been fantastic at generating turnovers, the Cowboys defense has been even better, generating a whopping 23 in 13 games.

So There's Something Outside the Numbers? A Narrative that is Making this Line Appear so Small?

Travis Etienne Jr. (1) of the Jacksonville Jaguars celebrates a rushing touchdown against the Denver Broncos with teammate Trevor Lawrence (16)

Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Bingo. The "trap game" scenario. Some bettors believe the Cowboys are "looking ahead" to next week's matchup against the division leading 12-1 Eagles. The Eagles defeated the Cowboys in Philadelphia earlier this year when Cooper Rush was under center, and one school of thought is that Dallas will be so focused on getting revenge for that loss against their rival, the Cowboys won't have their full attention on Jacksonville this Sunday.

I might be going against the trend, but I don't believe this line of thinking will have a big enough impact. While it wouldn't be unrealistic for the Cowboys to get off to a slow start, once the game begins Dallas just has a true talent edge on both sides of the ball that will prove difficult for Jacksonville to contend with.

Both public bettors and specifically sharp early money have been placed on the Jaguars. Jacksonville is receiving 57% of the bets and an incredible 88% of the early money. Bettors are also going heavy on the over on a point total of 47.5 or 48 points, with nearly 90 percent of the early wagers hoping for a shootout.

Stick with the Sharp Money and Bet on the Jags in a Trap Game? Or Bet the Cowboys to Win and Cover?

Dak Prescott #4 of the Dallas Cowboys walks on to the field before the third quarter against the Los Angeles Rams

Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

I don't love betting against sharp money, but I think this is a clear oversight where too much is being placed in the look ahead narrative and on the recency bias of the strong play by the Jaguars.

Dallas has a massive advantage on both lines and has been dominating opponents consistently winning by multiple scores. There is no reason to believe the having the Eagles on the horizon will be enough to derail this train.

I love Dallas -4.5  in this game and I like the under, because I see a rout in favor of the sportsbooks and the Cowboys here. Dallas walks into Jacksonville and comes away with a 31-10 win. They can start thinking about the Eagles on the flight back to Texas after they dismantle Jacksonville. The Jaguars will need to win out after Sunday's game if they want to have any prayer of making it to the postseason, which could set them up for a winner-take-all Week 18 showdown against the Titans.

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