My first crack at writing this team betting preview came in mid-August and it focused on how any success the Cowboys have in 2016 was directly tied to Tony Romo’s health. Not long after, Romo broke a bone in his back and at press time it looks like Romo will be on the shelf for up to 10 weeks, which means the Dak Prescott era is upon us.
You’d think another significant Romo injury would have Cowboys’ fans preparing for another season in the NFC East’s basement, but optimism around Prescott is high after he performed well in the preseason… against second and third stringers… and against guys who aren’t even on a roster today. Wisecracks aside, Prescott did have one of the better QB ratings in the preseason, ranking among the likes of Connor Shaw of the Bears and Case Keenum of the Rams. Yeah…
It would appear as if those optimistic Cowboys fans are more delirious than serious these days, but I’m seriously pessimistic about this team in 2016. Here’s a look at their updated odds with Romo once again set to patrol the sidelines for a big chunk of the season.
Super Bowl +2500
Don’t do it. This is a total ripoff.
I should probably expand on this. First off, the Cowboys have better odds to win the Super Bowl than two playoff teams from last season, and that +2500 price tag is better than 15 teams who had more wins than them last season. Seems a bit unfair and nonsensical, right?
Now let’s look at some historic numbers that should cross the Cowboys off your list of Super Bowl contenders.
As I point out in my Super Bowl futures betting tips, your Super Bowl futures dollars should be used on a team that made the playoffs last year. Over the last 33 Super Bowls, 85% of the Sportsbooks made the playoffs the year before.
Specific to their 4-12 record and last-place division finish, only three teams have won a Super Bowl the year after having a losing record — the 2001 Patriots, 1999 Rams and 1981 49ers. That Rams team finished 4-12 in 1998, giving them the worst record of any team the year before winning a Super Bowl. Those Patriots and Rams teams along with the 2009 Saints are the only teams to win a Super Bowl the year after finishing in last place in their division.
So, at +2500, they're probably the biggest ripoff on the board, and some big-time historic trends tell us a Super Bowl 51 win is unlikely. If you need more convincing not to bet them to win the Super Bowl, I can’t help you.
NFC East +240
On the positive side, the division hasn’t seen a back-to-back Sportsbook since 2004. On the negative side, going from last to first in a division is hard. Over the last 10 years, it’s happened 11 out of a possible 80 times that a team went from last place to first within a division.
Including last season, the Cowboys have finished in last place in their division five times over the last 35 years, but have never gone from last to first. The four times prior to last year that they finished dead last in the division were in back-to-back years (1988, 1989, 2001, 2002), so unless Dak follows in the footsteps of other big-time rookie QB's like Russell Wilson, expect that trend to continue in 2016.
OVER/UNDER Win Total – 8
This number dropped to 8 from 9.5 after Romo went down. Although that's a fairly modest win total — especially in the NFC East — I question how many games better Prescott is than Dallas' backup QB options when they won just four games last season. Being better than Brandon Weeden and Matt Cassel shouldn't be much of a challenge, but I very much doubt he'll be good enough for the Cowboys to hit the OVER.
One other thing to consider — in Jason Garrett’s five full seasons as head coach, they’ve finished with more than eight wins just once.
Ezekiel Elliott to lead NFL in Rushing yards +650
If where he’s being drafted in fantasy leagues is any indication, Ezekiel Elliott is expected to have a big year and put up some huge numbers as the lead back in the Cowboys’ backfield. He finds himself trailing just Adrian Peterson (+450) and Todd Gurley (+500) on this list and will look to become the first rookie since Edgerrin James in 1999 to lead the league in rushing. Since 2000, only two players in their thirties have led the league in rushing — Peterson last year and Curtis Martin in 2004 — so you might want to cross this year’s favorite off your list. With a little bit of extra emphasis on the running game with Romo out, Elliott could be poised for a monster season, making him worth your money in this spot.
Odds as of September 5 at Sportsbook