Gamblers thought the Dallas Cowboys might have a different record and betting odds than the rest of the NFC East after Week 1.
They just didn’t picture it like this.
The Cowboys woke up before Week 2 in an unfamiliar position of last, not first, in a division they were favored to win.
At this time last week, they contemplated the possibility of being the only NFC East team to win their NFL season opener.
Now they are the only team with a loss, and with no big-name quarterback.
The fourth-quarter injury Dak Prescott sustained in Dallas’ 19-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday has manifested into numbers they won’t like.
First Big Number: It’s +8.5
The Cowboys are +8.5 at home against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 2. That had to go up from +7 because a whopping 92% of the handle was with the Bengals at those odds. That was the highest amount of support in the entire league.
These are the numbers Cowboys’ opponents carried into Dallas last year.
How the world has gone upside down.
The Cowboys, one of the league’s most feared home teams, are now the biggest home dog.
Johnny Avello, the director of race and sportsbook operations for DraftKings, told How Bout Them.
“We opened that game at a pick-em. It kept going up and by Tuesday, it was up to 8.5 points. With this injury to Dak, I don’t know what to think of their season right now.
“Some of this move had to do with the way they lost to Tampa Bay, the other part is Dak’s injury. I don’t know where they go from here.”
Avello noted the adrenaline spike that comes from teams rallying around substitute players in their first game. They will be trying to support Cooper Rush this week.
“Take a team in the first game without a point guard, without their quarterback or star hitter, etc, and they might play well for a little while. The defense rises, all the guys step up. They just can’t sustain that.”
Second Big Number: 6-8 weeks
That’s how long Prescott could be out with a fractured right thumb. He had surgery Monday and now must go through the healing process.
What was lost in the concern for Prescott was how badly the Cowboys had already played against the Bucs. Before being hurt, Prescott was 14-29 for 134 yards, an interception and two sacks suffered.
The Cowboys were the only NFL team not to score a Week 1 touchdown, and this list includes the New York Jets. Yeah, even they got one, in a 24-9 setback to the Baltimore Ravens.
The last time the Cowboys scored fewer than six points in a season opener was Sept. 10, 1989, in a 28-0 loss to the New Orleans Saints. Ironically, that was the first game of Jerry Jones’ regime as an owner and general manager. It was also the debut of Troy Aikman and Jimmy Johnson.
This incident now enables the debut of Cooper Rush.
How the Cowboys Move Forward
Rush will start this week with Will Grier backing up. We may even see another Ben DiNucci sighting at some point. He saw some time in 2020 because of injuries to Prescott and backup Andy Dalton.
Rush, actually, is not a bad quarterback. If his best game could be projected over the length of Prescott’s absence, he could keep the Cowboys in a few tilts.
Rush won his first career start last year against the Minnesota Vikings when Prescott was out with a right calf strain. He threw for 325 yards and two touchdown passes in the 20-16 triumph. Rush also directed a late, game-winning drive.
What happens when he gets daily reps with the first team, builds rhythm and confidence?
If that happens, gamblers will salivate over the betting odds, considering them an overreaction by the marketplace.
The Cowboys still have a playmaker in CeeDee Lamb, an underrated star tight end in Dalton Schultz and a defense that over-achieved in Week 1.
“What you have to hope for as a Cowboys fan is that during the time Dak Prescott is out, you manage to play .500 ball,” Avello said. “If they can do that, I think they will be okay, but I just don’t know with this team.”
Third Big Number: +550 is Not Chalk
The books have taken flight. DraftKings now has the Cowboys at +550 to claim the NFC East. That’s down from +140 a week ago, when they were the chalk.
The ‘Boys are also +2200 to win the Super Bowl.
What a difference a week makes. For the Cowboys, it’s gone from the high to the low.
How do they prevent it from being the end of the show?
There is one silver lining heading into Week 2. The defense was stout against Tampa Bay, holding Tom Brady and Co. to 19 points. That wins most games, just not this one.
Micah Parson was especially stellar, notching sacks on key third-down situations to keep the Bucs out of the end zone.
Bettors who believe the Cowboys D can keep them in games will jump at the points.
This week provides a classic opportunity.
Eight and a half points, at home. To a Bengals team that lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers last week.
The way the Cowboys play could be a referendum on their season.
Going 0-2, both at home, is an ominous sign.
The books say that will happen. What will the Cowboys say?