Dallas at Detroit (-3)

Dallas visits Detroit in a glitzy game that features two talented teams which have specialized in underachievement in recent years, but which seem to have found a playoff-caliber groove here in 2013.

The Cowboys’ offense has been rolling all season long. Dallas is No. 3 in the NFL in scoring offense behind the play of QB Tony Romo (101.6 passer rating), who is having one of his best years as a pro.

The Dallas defense has lagged far behind the offense so far, but last week the Cowboys’ D finally contributed to a win, holding the Eagles to three points on the road—a pretty impressive feat.

Detroit has lost two of three and remains one of the more inconsistent teams in the league.  The Lions’ offense, however, has also been getting the job done: Detroit ranks No. 6 in scoring, but No. 22 in scoring defense.

The Quality Stats breakdown for this matchup is quite close. Most of the key passing game comparisons, on both sides of the ball, are practically even, though Dallas does have a fairly sizable edge in Defensive Real Passing YPA and Detroit is five spots ahead of the Cowboys in Defensive Passer Rating.

Dallas, with top 10 rankings in Bendability and Scoreability, is the more efficient team, and it also has a seven spot edge on the Relativity Index (No. 6 versus No. 13 for Detroit). The running game belongs to Dallas, on both sides of the ball.

This is a hard call because we just never know which Detroit team and which Dallas team will show up from week to week. The Quality Stats lean slightly in the Cowboys’ favor.

But the secret to their success (and their NFL-best 6-1 record ATS this year) lies in overall efficiency and proficiency in situational football: Dallas, as we noted this week, is No. 4 on the Intelligence Index.  Cowboys-Lions is not a “Mental Mismatch.” The Lions are a surprising No. 10 on the Intelligence Index. But it’s enough to tip the tide in favor of the high-powered Cowboys.

Pick: Dallas 27, Detroit 26