The Dallas Cowboys revel in moderate expectations.
They merely wanted to survive while Dak Prescott recovers from a thumb injury sustained in Week 1.
They have instead thrived, notching victories over the Cincinnati Bengals, New York Giants and Washington Commanders, with backup Cooper Rush at the helm.
What a ride.
Now 3-1, and relevant in all NFC East and post-season contention talk, the ‘Boys visit the defending Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams at +4.5. And then they invade the Philadelphia Eagles in a summit meeting of the two NFC East favorites.
The two road tilts have renewed significance.
For the first road game, America goes with Dallas.
The Cowboys obtain 76% of the early betting support at DraftKings.
Here’s an overview as they face the stiffest test in the last four games.
First, let’s look at the betting. Some early props are up at DraftKings.
Cowboys vs. Rams props
The Cowboys’ over-under point total of 19.5 is -110 either way.
The Rams over 23 points is -115 and the Under is -105.
Which team will have the longest touchdown? Dallas is +110 and Los Angeles is -125.
Will Dallas score first and win? That’s +310.
Will Dallas score first and lose? That’s +275.
If the Rams score first and win, that pays +130.
If the Rams score first and lose, it’s +550.
Brett Maher’s field goal total is over-under 1.5. The over is -105 and the under is -125.
Matt Gay of the Rams is -115 on both sides for his 1.5 total.
Will the game be tied again after 0-0? Yes is -110, No is -115.
Will the largest lead of the game be more than 13.5 points? The Over is -140, the Under is +105.
There are hundreds of bets gamblers can make on any NFL game. The key is honing in on your convictions. Many gamblers have discovered there’s nothing wrong with making a prop bet the big bet if that’s where the instinct and value lay.
How about that defense?
And here’s an overview of the team. The Cowboys have turned a weakness into a strength. Two years ago, their defense was the laughingstock of the NFC. It was Swiss Cheese or the Porous Chorus. The Cowboys gave up 473 points, third most in the entire conference.
But propelled by the drafting of Micah Parsons in 2021, there’s a new D in Big D. The Cowboys were the third-best defensive squad in the league last year, yielding 358 total points in one additional game. They improved by about a touchdown per game.
Parsons and a meaningful pass rush have been big reasons.
And this year they doubled down.
None of the Cowboys’ opponents have reached 20 points in a game this year. That’s astounding and the best performance since the Doomsday Defense in 1973. What a time for it.
The ‘Boys are the third best defense in all of football, yielding just 62 points. Only the San Francisco 49ers and Tampa Bay Bucs have surrendered less.
In Dak’s absence, the defense has stepped up, yielding just 43 points in the last three games.
The Cowboys thus prevailed on the moneyline as a home dog at +8.5, on the road for Monday Night football and at home last week.
Rush has his own great number. Zero.
He owns that number two ways.
First, he is 3-0 as Prescott’s backup. Rush and Jalen Hurts of the Philadelphia Eagles, 4-0, are the only undefeated starting quarterbacks in the NFL.
His second big zero is picks. Rush has thrown none in four games. He has stayed within the system, fired safe passes and developed a rapport with CeeDee Lamb and the recently-returned Michael Gallup.
Rush has 737 yards with four touchdowns, enhancing the absence of picks.
Contrast that with Matthew Stafford, who he’ll oppose on Sunday. Stafford has a few more yards, 1015, sure. But he has the same number of touchdowns as Rush, four. And he has something his team does not want. Stafford has six interceptions.
Can Rush play error-free one more time?
Johnny Avello, the director of race and sportsbook operations for DraftKings, told How Bout Them:
“The Cowboys have to be happy about where they stand right now.
“If you are the Cowboys after Prescott got hurt, you are thinking, ‘Ok, if we can win get two wins out of the next three or four games, that’s fabulous.’ If you get one out of the next three, that’s okay too. But they got ‘em all, which is terrific for them.
“I don’t know about this week for Dallas. This may be a little bit tougher. Cooper Rush is going against the Super Bowl champs who did not look good Monday night against the 49ers and this guy is going to get a lot of pressure.”
Dak may need one more week
He’s chomping at the bit to return, but Mike McCarthy wants a full week out of Prescott to test his ball-gripping and throwing ability. Dak wants to shake off the rust before he faces the Eagles. Two understandable viewpoints, but only one coach.
Rush has made the most of his opportunity.
When the time comes, Rush will yield the position back to Prescott. It will be more difficult the more he plays, but Rush knows the Cowboys have mega-millions of dollars invested in Prescott. That’s why Prescott will play when McCarthy clears him.
“I hear something about a quarterback controversy. Forget about that, there is not going to be a controversy. But what this kid has done for himself is important. He has been able to step up to win a few games.
“When players are able to do that, it makes them a commodity in the league and who knows, maybe there is a big payday waiting at the end of it.”
This has been an excellent coaching job by McCarthy
He has given Rush protection in the form of a two-pronged running game. Tony Pollard is faster and a little better than Zeke Elliott, but Zeke has a good nose for the end zone. Together, they make one strong running back.
At the same time, the defense has stepped up to keep Dallas in every game.
When the smoke clears, the ‘Boys are 3-1. Just where many people thought they’d be, in a manner few foresaw.