Almost every time the Dallas Cowboys snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, the scapegoat is quarterback Tony Romo, whether he deserves to be or not.
So, how odd was this Sunday in the NFL? The Cowboys imploded in comical and preposterous fashion, but Romo was not the fall guy. Not one person was blaming him for anything. He was nowhere in the picture, completely free of culpability. And that almost never happens.
“It was a weird week with all of the big point spreads,” said Bob Scucci, Boyd Gaming sports book director at The Orleans.
NFL wagering is a weird science, and we’ll use the 11 games played in a 10½-hour window of Week 8 as an exhibit. Consider all of this:
■ Tom Brady passed for just 116 yards and the New England Patriots, who went to halftime trailing 17-3, covered as 6½-point favorites in a 27-17 victory over Miami.
“The Dolphins looked like they were in complete control in the first half,” Scucci said.
It looked that way because it was reality. It was so one-sided that veteran handicapper Dave Cokin, who knows never to write off a game too soon, posted on Twitter: “Think it’s pretty safe to write off the Pats at this point. Not just today. Ship has sailed.”
■ Double-digit favorites went 3-0 against the spread. The biggest favorites were the San Francisco 49ers, laying 16 points in London, and the wiseguys walked with the ’dog. Jacksonville dropped to 0-8 with a 42-10 loss, proving wiseguys are not always smart with their money.
■ The New York Giants never found the end zone but won comfortably on the road. The Giants, 5½-point underdogs, kicked five field goals to beat Philadelphia 15-7. Eli Manning leads the league in interceptions but did not throw one. The Eagles, supposedly reinventing the fast-break offense, scored their only points on a fumble return of a botched punt snap.
Philadelphia failed to cover its 12th straight home game, a weird fact.
■ After finishing 2-14 last season, the Kansas City Chiefs are 8-0. But the Chiefs, 7-point favorites, blew most of a 13-0 lead and held off Cleveland 23-17.
“The Chiefs not covering was really what saved the day for us,” Scucci said. “Really, the only game we got out of the morning was the Chiefs, and that was a big one.”
■ Wiseguys circled the wagons with the Buffalo Bills, 10½-point ’dogs at New Orleans. The Bills surged to a 10-7 second-quarter lead, only to lose 35-17 as Drew Brees passed for five touchdowns.
■ The surprising New York Jets cruised into Cincinnati with a 4-3 record and crash landed in a 49-9 blowout. Andy Dalton had five touchdown passes for the Bengals, 6-point favorites.
“The sharp guys were against the public in every game, with the exception of the Jets, and I don’t think the wiseguys were even involved in that game,” Scucci said.
■ Terrelle Pryor passed for 88 yards and was intercepted twice. One might guess that meant bad news for the Oakland Raiders. But Pryor took the game’s first snap and raced 93 yards, the longest touchdown run by a quarterback in NFL history, to set the tone in a 21-18 victory over Pittsburgh, a 3-point road favorite.
■ Backed by heavy wagering support, the Atlanta Falcons, 2½-point underdogs, were blasted 27-13 at Arizona. Matt Ryan attempted 61 passes, four were intercepted, and he led the Falcons in rushing with 13 yards.
■ In the final minute of the first half, Denver led Washington 7-0. There was no way the score was going over the total of 58½. The Redskins, 11-point ’dogs, scored twice in nine seconds early in the third quarter to go ahead 21-7, and there was no way the Broncos were going to cover.
Denver scored the last 38 points, and the 45-21 final went over the total.
■ Aaron Rodgers and the short-handed Green Bay Packers, 7½-point favorites, rolled into Minnesota and rocked the Vikings 44-31.
Favorites went 7-4 ATS and seven of 11 games went over the total, none stranger than the Dallas-Detroit game.
“The public is 7-1 and going for the throat (today) with residual parlays overflowing to Seattle,” LVH sports book director Jay Kornegay said.
Scucci said public bettors ganged up on the Patriots, Giants, Saints and Cowboys, who led 13-7 going to the fourth quarter and found a way to lose 31-30 to the Lions. The total closed at 52.
Matthew Stafford passed for 488 yards, 329 of those on 14 passes to Calvin Johnson, and Detroit failed to cover as a 3-point favorite despite outgaining Dallas by 355 yards.
“The sharp guys couldn’t get enough of the under 52, and the public couldn’t get enough over 52,” said Scucci, who called the Cowboys’ defensive collapse in the final minute “inexcusable.”
Romo was not the goat. Forty-one points were scored in the fourth quarter. It was the start to a weird Sunday.
Las Vegas Review-Journal sports betting columnist Matt Youmans can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2907. He co-hosts “The Las Vegas Sportsline” weekdays at 2 p.m. on ESPN Radio (1100 AM). Follow him on Twitter: @mattyoumans247.