Heading into the 2016 NFL season the Dallas Cowboys were, once again, putting the collective hopes and dreams of “America’s Team” on the back of one man: veteran quarterback Tony Romo.
In the wake of a disappointing 2015 campaign – which was derailed by Romo’s broken collarbone in Week 2 and subsequent Thanksgiving Day re-injury – the Cowboys entered the preseason as a cautiously optimistic contender. Behind the game’s best offensive line, a promising 1st-round draft pick in running back Ezekiel Elliott, and of course, a healthy Romo calling plays, Dallas was tabbed as the favorite to win the NFC East back in May.
But after Romo went down early in the third preseason game on August 25th, suffering yet another serious back injury (following a season-ending back surgery in 2013), the Cowboys will be without their leader for “six to 10 weeks.”
Accordingly, expectations for the team have deflated, at least among bookmakers and bettors. When the initial odds on winning the NFC East were posted by Bovada, the Cowboys led the way at 7/4 (+175), followed by the New York Giants at 9/4 (+225), with both the Washington Redskins and the Philadelphia Eagles at 15/4 (+375).
Today, however, New York has been moved up to favorite status, with Bovada offering 7/4 (+175) on Big Blue to take the divisional title. Dallas is now tied with Washington at 12/5 (+225), while Philadelphia still brings up the rear at 6/1 (+600).
Despite the seemingly catastrophic impact of Romo’s extended time on the injured list, Dallas only saw its divisional odds drop by a slight degree. This is due to that six- to 10-week recovery timeline, along with the stellar play of rookie quarterback and 4th-round pick Dak Prescott, who has excelled in each of the three preseason games he’s appeared in thus far. After compiling a preseason passer rating of 137.8 – completing 77.8 percent of his passes and leading the league in both touchdowns and yards through the air – Prescott may be quite capable of holding down the fort until Romo is ready to return.
The Giants’ dismal performance through three preseason games (1-2, outscored 68-31) has also served to buoy the Cowboys’ divisional chances.
As for the Cowboys’ odds to do what Dallas hasn’t done since 1995 – win the Super Bowl – Bovada initially had them at 22/1 (+2200) to hoist the Lombardi Trophy this season. But in light of Romo’s absence, those odds have been revised downward to 28/1 (+2800). Once again, the fact that Romo’s injury isn’t a season-ender, Prescott’s apparent competence in the backup role, and an offensive attack which was expected to tilt towards the ground game even with Romo under center are factors preventing a more precipitous plummet.
Finally, in the Week 1 contest against their hated rivals from New York, the Cowboys were favored over the Giants by as many as 5.5 points back in April. The line moved to Dallas (-3.5) before the third preseason game, but Romo’s injury caused a major shift towards New York.
In the first days after Romo’s injury, the line moved to even money, and then to Giants (-1.5). Today, Bovada has the Giants installed as 3-point favorites against Dallas in the season opener.