Sports betting winners and losers: Cowboys' winless record against the spread is something we never see

Frank Schwab
·7 min read

The theme of Week 8 in the NFL was that underdogs won and bettors lost.

Even with underdogs covering everywhere, the NFL’s worst underdog still couldn’t cover.

Anyone who had the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night will argue they were robbed. Those who took the Cowboys as 10-point underdogs knew they were taking a bad team. But the Philadelphia Eagles were terrible too. Those 10 points looked good most of the night, until the fourth quarter when Cowboys fill-in quarterback Ben DiNucci fumbled and the officials refused to whistle the play dead even when Vinny Curry seemed to recover. The ball was stripped loose, there was no whistle and the Eagles scooped it and ran it back for a touchdown.

Final score: Eagles 23, Cowboys 9.

It continued a startling trend. The Cowboys are 0-8 against the spread. You might not think that’s a big deal, but it’s practically unheard of.

When we talk about straight-up records, we’ll occasionally see a team bottom out and go 3-13 or worse. That almost never happens when the spread is involved. According to Covers.com’s records, no team in the past three seasons has finished worse than 4-12 against the spread. Last season the Chicago Bears were 4-12 against the spread, and they were the only team worse than 6-10. The San Francisco 49ers and Atlanta Falcons tied for the worst ATS record in 2018 at 5-11. The Cleveland Browns finished 0-16 straight up in 2017 but were 4-12 against the spread, one of only two teams with double-digit losses against the number that season.

The Cowboys would have to go .500 against the spread the rest of the way just to finish tied for the worst record against the spread since at least 2017. Not good.

There is no spread on the Cowboys’ game yet this week due to Andy Dalton’s health questions. But it’s going to be another uphill climb, no matter the spread. The Cowboys get the 7-0 Pittsburgh Steelers. Yikes.

It’s rare to see a team finish with 10 or more losses against the spread. If a team is bad the books adjust and they’ll eventually cover some numbers. Most teams regress to about .500 against the spread over time. Even the woeful New York Jets covered against the Buffalo Bills a couple weeks ago and are 1-7 against the spread.

The Cowboys’ 0-8 record against the spread is remarkable. History says the Cowboys will start to cover some spreads. But if you want to start backing the Cowboys now, good luck.

Dallas Cowboys' Ben DiNucci (7) fumbles as he is hit by Philadelphia Eagles' Brandon Graham (55). (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)
Dallas Cowboys' Ben DiNucci (7) fumbles as he is hit by Philadelphia Eagles' Brandon Graham (55). (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

Here are the winners and losers in the sports betting world the past week:

WINNERS

Los Angeles Dodgers and all those future bets: It always feels a little weird to take a heavy favorite in the futures market and tie up your money for all or part of a season.

Until it cashes. Then it feels pretty smart.

The Dodgers were the favorite all through the regular season, their odds rose a bit when they were down at various points of the NLCS to the Atlanta Braves, but no matter the odds bettors kept grabbing the Dodgers. When the Dodgers won the World Series in six games, BetMGM paid out seven figures in Dodgers futures. Considering the Dodgers had less than 4-to-1 odds for almost the entire year, that’s a lot of volume on the Dodgers.

Now we get to see if bettors take the Dodgers to win again. In the 2021 World Series odds at BetMGM, the Dodgers are unsurprisingly the favorites. Mike Oz had the odds for each team, but here are the top five:

Dodgers (+400)
Yankees (+600)
Braves (+800)
White Sox (+1000)
Padres (+1000)

Not just NFL underdogs: You need some courage to bet on a 21.5-point underdog on the moneyline.

Congrats to anyone who had Michigan State on Saturday. They cashed as a +1000 underdog on the moneyline.

The Spartans looked strong through the game, finishing with a 27-24 victory. It has led to another round of wondering why the Wolverines have been so underwhelming under Jim Harbaugh.

Pittsburgh Steelers: On the opposite end of the spectrum from the Dallas Cowboys is the Steelers.

The Steelers are the only team in the NFL to have just one loss against the spread. They are 6-1 after covering against the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday. That was a big win for BetMGM, as it was the most-bet game on Sunday. It’s unusual for an undefeated team that’s as popular as the Steelers to not get most of the action, but that’s what happened against the Ravens.

Going back to the history that most NFL teams regress back to .500 against the spread, the Steelers should start losing against the spread and the Cowboys should start covering some numbers. They play each other this week. It just won’t be easy to put money on Dallas, no matter the inevitable regression for both teams.

LOSERS

NFL bettors: The sportsbooks haven’t had a great season when it comes to the NFL, but Week 8 was a big swing in their favor.

Underdogs went 10-4 against the spread in Week 8 with seven dogs winning outright. That led to “probably the worst day of the season for the bettors and the best day of the year for the books,” according to Jeff Stoneback, Director of Trading for MGM Resorts.

The Monday night game capped a big week. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers got 77% of the money bet on the game against the New York Giants but never came close to covering the 13-point spread. The Giants scored late to pull to within 2 points, which ruined practically every teaser that included the Buccaneers. But New York didn’t get the 2-point conversion, which cost all Giants moneyline bettors including one who bet $40,000 to win $200,000 on the Giants +500 at BetMGM.

It was that kind of week for the house. Everything went its way.

Taking Trevor Lawrence to win the Heisman: When you bet on an individual player to win an award or to go over on a player prop, you risk something bad happening. Usually it’s injury. This season there’s a pandemic to worry about.

Trevor Lawrence was an enormous favorite to win the Heisman Trophy until Clemson announced he had tested positive for COVID-19. He missed last week’s game against Boston College and will miss this week’s Notre Dame game too. If anything, his value to Clemson was never more apparent than last week when the Tigers struggled against Boston College and needed a second-half rally to win.

Lawrence isn’t the Heisman favorite anymore, even though he seemed like a lock before contracting the virus. Alabama’s Mac Jones is the favorite at +150 and Ohio State’s Justin Fields is next at +175 at BetMGM. Lawrence is +300, and it will be interesting to see how voters evaluate him after missing at least two games in a truly unique season.

Some college football bad beats: There were a couple brutal losses for bettors on Saturday.

Imagine having over 63 on Ohio State-Penn State or Penn State between +12 and +10 (that was the closing number at BetMGM) and seeing this ...

That probably doesn’t compare to the crazy finish of the Louisville-Virginia Tech first half. The over/under for the first half was 34. Louisville was backed up at its own 10-yard line with seconds left before halftime. Then Louisville’s Javian Hawkins broke your run-of-the-mill 90-yard touchdown to end the half and the extra point brought the total to 35. Wow.