NFL – Cooper can shine on Cowboys debut

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NFL nut Kyle Brown (@Kyleianbrown) runs the rule over the Monday night's NFL clash between Tennessee Titans and Dallas Cowboys.

Tennessee Titans @ Dallas Cowboys | Tuesday 6th November 2018, 01:15 | Sky Sports

You must be brave if you’re back here reading my recommendations after I suggested taking the Oakland Raiders to cause an upset at 13/10 on TNF last week. Despite the odds drifting and Oakland ending up as pre-match favourites, they were humbled 34-3 and left me red faced. Anyway, here’s hoping for a better outcome this time around.

Following a bye for either side, the Dallas Cowboys will host the Tennessee Titans on Monday Night Football this week. Both sides are sitting with a record of 3-4 and will be aiming to finish in a wild card spot for the play-offs, at best.

Dallas have picked up all three of their wins at home this season and will hope to continue that trend against a Tennessee side who haven’t won since September.

There were some notable personnel changes for the Cowboys over the bye week. Amari Cooper will look to fill the void left by Dez Bryant after the Cowboys sent Oakland a first round draft pick, and all indications from the Dallas camp suggest he’ll have an instant impact and play a big role in this forthcoming match-up.

Marc Colombo has taken the reigns of the offensive line, which may be the fresh start the line needs to revitalise their season – they haven’t actually been that bad, but still nowhere near the level that their talent makes them capable of.

Dallas are already fourth in the league when it comes to rushing yards per-game, so if Colombo can get his group of players playing to their absolute best, then Zeke Elliot could be set to improve his already blistering NFL career stats. A coaching change will also likely reap rewards for Dak Prescott, who has been struggling to make throws given his lack of time in the pocket.

Similarly, the Cowboys aren’t the only team in need of a more efficient passing attack, as Tennessee sit 31st amongst the league for passing yards per-game and passing touchdowns.

The Titans were agonisingly close to winning their last match-up (against the LA Chargers in London), with rookie head coach Mike Vrabel electing to go for a two-point conversion on the last drive to win the game, rather than tying it up with an extra point attempt. While it may not have paid off, it was gutsy, and would have showed the offence that he has complete faith in their abilities.

However, quarterback Marcos Mariota just isn’t the same player this season as he normally is. Dealing with an elbow injury for much of the season, he has only passed over 130 yards on two occasions this season. Matters aren’t helped by the lack of a reliable, scary wide receiver to throw to: Davis, Taylor and Sharpe only have one touchdown apiece through seven games.

Dallas will certainly be viewed as a winnable game in the eyes of the Titans camp, but Mariota needs to improve quickly. The Houston Texans, now on a six-game winning spree, look set to lock up the division sooner rather than later, so if the Titans are to have any chance at catching up then this game is a must-win.

The betting angle

Dallas are priced as five-point favourites, and the over/under points market is set around 40.5. Until I see the Dallas defence stepping up on a regular basis, I can’t justify backing them to win comfortably. That said, with how poor Tennessee are on offense, this is as good a game for the Dallas defence as any.

I really do buy into the Amari Cooper trade. While Dallas gave up a hell of a lot to acquire the inconsistent receiver, I believe this change of scenery is exactly what he needs to rediscover his form. He currently seems to be priced in the touchdown markets as if he is being eased into his new surroundings, but with OC Scott Linehan confirming he will see significant playtime, I’m happy to back him to shine on his debut.

He’s 16/5 to score anytime (Betfair), 16/1 to score first (SkyBet) and 40/1 to score twice (Paddy Power). Given that this was a statement-trade, I’m expecting them to do everything they can to get the ball in Coopers hands.

Away from the touchdown market, I like the sound of Dallas leading by half time. Mariota takes a while to get himself into games this year – posting a 67.6 passer rating in the first half compared to a 91.7 in the second.

With Dallas on home turf, I expect them to start strongly and go into the half with a lead to protect and/or add to. Dallas/Dallas HT/FT is best priced at even-money with Boylesports, and a first-half handicap of -3.5 is available at evens, on SkyBet.

Best Bets

Tennessee Titans @ Dallas Cowboys – Dallas Cowboys -3.5 first-half handicap (1/1 SkyBet)

Tennessee Titans @ Dallas Cowboys – Amari Cooper to score a touchdown at anytime (16/5 Betfair)

Tennessee Titans @ Dallas Cowboys – Amari Cooper to score two or more touchdowns (40/1 Paddy Power)

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