Six weeks into the season, the Dallas Cowboys rank among the NFL’s top five teams with rookie Dak Prescott as their starting quarterback.
That’s a line I never expected to write. Here’s another one: A humble, soft-spoken Donald Trump arrives in Las Vegas this week for a presidential debate. Trump will be here, of course, but he’ll be arrogant and loud.
As for Dallas, the debate is settled. The Cowboys are for real, at least for now, and we know that because Prescott just humbled and outdueled Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers in a 30-16 landslide at Lambeau Field.
“I’m a believer in the Cowboys now,” Sunset Station sports book director Chuck Esposito said. “I’m really, really impressed. The biggest surprise in the league, I think, is Dallas.”
In late August, when Tony Romo went down with a back injury, so did stock prices on the Cowboys. Dallas’ odds to win the Super Bowl were adjusted from 16-1 to 25-1. Those odds are in single digits now. If the league’s Rookie of the Year is not Prescott, it could be his teammate, running back Ezekiel Elliott.
Prescott passed for three touchdowns, and Elliott rushed for 157 yards to expose the Packers’ No. 1-ranked run defense Sunday. Meanwhile, Rodgers was again out of rhythm while throwing an interception, losing a fumble and hearing the boos.
“The Packers have some problems,” Westgate sports book director Jay Kornegay said. “Rodgers is struggling so much. This was going to be a test, and they certainly failed it.”
Prescott has passed major tests against Green Bay and Cincinnati with such ease that Romo should not get his job back after the Cowboys’ bye in two weeks.
“The coach is going to have a decision to make, or Jerry Jones has a decision to make, I should say,” Wynn Las Vegas book director John Avello said.
Jones loves Romo like a son. But Jones also is a gambler, and he should know to stick with the hot hand when you’re winning.
Kornegay said the Cowboys’ win as 5-point road underdogs was the second-best result for his book Sunday, when five ’dogs were outright winners and two more (Atlanta and Cleveland) covered in close calls.
“The Steelers getting beat outright was one of our best games of the year so far,” Esposito said.
Ben Roethlisberger limping off the field was a familiar sight. Pittsburgh, a 7½-point favorite, getting pounded 30-15 at Miami was a totally unexpected sight for the betting public. But everyone should know by now the Dolphins are horrible home favorites and dangerous home ’dogs.
The same could be said of the Saints. Esposito called Carolina the league’s “biggest disappointment,” and that is not up for debate. The Panthers slipped to 1-5 with a 41-38 loss at New Orleans, which blew a 21-0 lead but cashed as a 3-point ’dog. Drew Brees passed for 465 yards and four touchdowns. Cam Newton ran out of his postgame news conference with a scowl, just as he did after losing the Super Bowl.
The Redskins cashed in as home ’dogs, as well. Philadelphia pulled off something improbable by scoring on an interception return and a kickoff return yet still losing, 27-20 at Washington. That was another positive result for bookmakers.
“I was stunned the Eagles were bet to 3-point favorites,” Esposito said.
The Jaguars, 2½-point underdogs, rallied in the fourth quarter to beat the Bears, but it’s never a stunner anymore when the Bears lose in Chicago.
The real stunner happened in Houston. The Colts, 3-point ’dogs, led 23-9 with three minutes to go and somehow found a way to lose 26-23 in overtime. That was an incredibly deflating push for Indianapolis bettors.
New England covered another so-called inflated point spread (7½ to 8½) with relative ease in a 35-17 victory over the Bengals. The public, Esposito said, “rode the Patriots pretty good.”
The public also bet the New York Giants as 3½-point favorites over Baltimore, but that was a bumpy ride. The Giants won and covered 27-23 on an Eli Manning-to-Odell Beckham Jr. 66-yard touchdown pass with 1:24 to go.
“Everybody in the world knew how well Andy Reid prepares his team coming out of a bye,” Esposito said, and everyone who bet the Chiefs from 1-point ’dogs to 2-point favorites got rewarded in Kansas City’s 26-10 win at Oakland.
Reid is 16-2 in his coaching career after the bye, and on the subject of byes, the Cowboys get Week 7 off to ponder the quarterback position.
“I see no reason when they come out of their bye, if Romo is ready or not, that the Cowboys make a change at quarterback,” Esposito said.
Six weeks ago, Green Bay was my Super Bowl pick. One or two months from now, things could look a lot different. It’s late in the presidential race, but this still is early voting in the NFL polls.
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 on Twitter: @mattyoumans247