DENVER BRONCOS (4-0)
at DALLAS COWBOYS (2-2)
Kickoff: Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET
Line: Denver -7, Total: 56
The high-flying Broncos look to roll past their third NFC East opponent in four weeks when they visit the Cowboys on Sunday.
Denver has won its four games by an average of 22.0 PPG and leads the NFL in scoring (44.8 PPG), total offense (484 YPG), kick returns (36.8 average) and third-down conversion rate (55.3%). QB Peyton Manning has thrown for an amazing 1,470 yards (368 YPG), 16 TD and 0 INT so far. Dallas has scored 33.5 PPG in two home wins, but was outscored 20-0 in the final 30 minutes of its loss at San Diego last week. The Broncos have four straight SU wins (3-1 ATS) in this series, beating the Cowboys 17-10 when they last met in 2009 in Denver. The Broncos are 13-2 ATS (87%) when favored over the past two seasons, but only 3-12 ATS (20%) after scoring 30+ points in three straight games since 1992. Dallas is 12-3 ATS (80%) at home after allowing 300+ passing yards since 1992, but the team is also 1-8 ATS (11%) at home after an ATS defeat in the past three years.
Can the Cowboys slow down the Broncos on Sunday? For the answer, connect to NFL Best Bets for all the StatFox Experts picks throughout the 2013 season and playoffs. The experts are coming off a monster Week 4 in NFL Best Bets, combining for a 67% ATS record (10-5-2), highlighted by StatFox Gary's perfect 4-0-1 ATS mark. StatFox Scott was a perfect 5-0 in NFL Totals, increasing his season record to 69% (11-5). Gary went 3-1 in NFL Totals, which actually lowered his yearly percentage to 77% (10-3).
Denver has scored at least 37 points and gained at least 416 yards in all four games this season, going 3-0-1 ATS. It all starts with QB Peyton Manning, who is in the midst of a legendary season, completing 75% of his passes for 9.4 yards per attempt, both of which are career highs. He's been sacked only five times which is why the team has done so well on third downs, and why the Broncos also lead the NFL with 28.3 first downs per game. Manning has spread the ball evenly to each of his top three wideouts, Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker and Eric Decker, who have 37, 36 and 36 targets, respectively. Thomas has the most catches (29) and receiving yards (393) while Welker leads in touchdowns (six). Decker had a quiet season opener (two catches, 32 yards), but has hauled in 22 catches for 308 yards over the past three games. TE Julius Thomas is also enjoying a breakout season with 18 catches on his 23 targets, and his 7.2 yards after catch per reception is tied for second-best among all NFL tight ends. The Denver ground game has been average with 119 rushing YPG (15th in NFL) and 4.0 yards per carry (18th in NFL), but RB Knowshon Moreno (238 yards on 5.2 YPC, 3 TD) has been the standout ahead of RB Ronnie Hillman (120 yards on 4.8 YPC, 1 TD) and struggling rookie RB Montee Ball (123 yards on 3.2 YPC, 0 TD, 2 fumbles). Defensively, the Broncos have really stifled the run with a league-best 74 rushing YPG allowed. Part of that has to do with getting big leads that force their opponents to throw the football in catch-up mode, but their run-stop unit has allowed just 3.2 yards per carry, good for fourth-best in the NFL. The pass defense has been the team's one true weakness, allowing 316 passing YPG (3rd-worst in NFL) on 7.3 yards per attempt (9th-worst in league). This secondary will certainly get a boost once star CB Champ Bailey returns from a foot injury, but he's still listed as questionable for Week 5.
In the preseason, it was believed that Dallas wanted to run the football more and would do just that with new play caller Bill Callahan. Although the team has rushed for a hefty 4.6 yards per carry (7th in NFL), it ranks a subpar 19th in the league in rushing YPG (102). RB DeMarco Murray has been the featured back with 72 of his team's 89 rushing attempts (81%), gaining 356 yards on 4.9 YPC and 1 TD. While QB Tony Romo has done a superb job of not turning the ball over (1 INT in 152 pass attempts), the Cowboys are currently 21st in the NFL in passing yards (239 YPG) and 22nd in yards per attempt (6.3). This conservative passing game has produced career-low yards per reception rates for each of the top three receivers, WR Dez Bryant (12.3 average), TE Jason Witten (9.1 average) and WR Miles Austin (8.3 average). Austin missed last week's game with a hamstring injury and is doubtful to suit up for this game as well. Rookie WR Terrance Williams will likely start in his place despite losing a key fumble close to the goal-line in last week's loss to the Chargers. Defensively, the Cowboys have been a near mirror image of the Broncos, stuffing the run effectively (78 rushing YPG, 3rd in NFL), but getting burned through the air for 305 passing YPG (6th-worst in league) and 7.2 yards per attempt (23rd in NFL). The Dallas D has been helped by a smaller time of possession than most (27:53, 6th in NFL) and a great third-down conversion defense (33%, 4th in NFL).