If I'm being honest, I liked the Dallas Cowboys back in the 1970s when they were truly America's (and God's, they liked to say) Team. The Cowboys were the good guys with the cool stars on their helmets. And they were always a contender.
Now? I love it when they stink -- and you can usually get great betting value against them because the casual public still backs mega-popular Dallas heavily most weeks.
The Cowboys' 2015 season started well with wins over the Giants and Eagles. But the season went off the rails because of that Week 2 win in Philly as quarterback Tony Romo suffered a broken collarbone. That led the Cowboys to starting the likes of Matt Cassel and Brandon Weeden for the next several weeks -- Weeden couldn't even make the Browns! So of course the Cowboys didn't win again until Nov. 22 against Miami when Romo returned.
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And I'll admit I thought the Cowboys with a healthy Romo had a pretty good shot of upsetting unbeaten Carolina on Thanksgiving Day in Big D. But Romo was awful in that game with three picks, two returned for touchdowns, and re-broke the same collarbone. The Cowboys finished at 4-12, their worst record since going 1-15 in 1989 under a first-year coach named Jimmy Johnson. A lot of people are high on the Cowboys entering 2016, but it's 100 percent all on Romo's health again because the team stupidly didn't get him a competent backup yet.
Dallas was 3-5 on the road last season (after going an amazing 8-0 in 2014), 3-5 against the spread and 1-7 "over/under." The Cowboys face four 2015 playoff teams on the road this year. Their away schedule outside the division is tougher than at home. I project a 4-4 road record, obviously assuming Romo plays in all of them. Dallas has a 2016 wins total of 9.5, with the under a -130 favorite. Odds listed below for the home team.
Sept. 18 at Redskins (pick'em): I think Dallas will be 1-0 after beating the visiting Giants in Week 1. Washington is on a short week after hosting Pittsburgh in the Monday night opener. The Cowboys pulled out a 19-16 surprise at the Redskins in a wild Week 13 Monday night game last year, their final win of the season. Cassel was OK, and Dan Bailey hit a 54-yard field goal with nine seconds left. Key trend: Cowboys have won three straight and covered two in a row at Washington.
Oct. 2 at 49ers (+3): Dallas is off a home game vs. Chicago in Week 3. San Francisco is off a trip to Seattle. The Cowboys lost the last meeting 28-17 at home in Week 1 of the 2014 season. That's back when Colin Kaepernick was good as the 49ers' starter. Key trend: Cowboys 1-4-1 ATS in past six regular-season games in San Francisco.
Oct. 16: at Packers (-6): Maybe the toughest two-game stretch of the season for the Cowboys here as they are home to Cincinnati the previous Sunday. This is ahead of Dallas' bye week. Green Bay is home to the Giants in Week 5 on Sunday night. The Cowboys have lost five straight in the series, including playoffs. Green Bay won 28-7 at Lambeau in Week 14 last year. The Cowboys had 270 total yards. Cassel looked lost, going 13-for-29 for 114 yards and a pick. Key trend: Cowboys 4-6 ATS in past 10 before a bye in any location.
Nov. 6 at Browns (+3.5): Dallas off a Sunday night home game vs. Philadelphia. Cleveland is home to the Jets in Week 8. Obviously the Cowboys know presumed Browns starting QB Robert Griffin III well from his Redskins days. Dallas has won three straight in the series, last in 2012. Key trend: Cowboys 4-6 ATS in their past 10 as a road favorite anywhere of at least 3.5 points.
Nov. 13 at Steelers (-6): Whenever I see Cowboys-Steelers on the schedule, I certainly think Super Bowl matchups. I suppose it's possible this year. Pittsburgh comes off a trip to Baltimore in Week 9. Dallas won the last meeting 27-24 at home in December 2012. Key trend: Cowboys 3-3 ATS all-time at AFC North teams.
Dec. 1 at Vikings (-4.5): It's the Cowboys' second straight Thursday game as they host Washington on Thanksgiving. Ditto for Minnesota as it's in Detroit on Turkey Day. You can forget those Adrian Peterson-to-Dallas rumors (Peterson had wanted to finish his career there) now that the Cowboys have Ezekiel Elliott. Dallas won the last meeting 27-23 at home in November 2013. Key trend: Cowboys 4-6 ATS in their past 10 at NFC North foes.
Dec. 11 at Giants (-1): Sunday night matchup. New York is off a Week 13 trip to Pittsburgh. Dallas had a five-game winning streak in the series end with a 27-20 loss at the Giants in Week 7 last year. The Cowboys allowed a 100-yard kickoff return for a score for the winning points with seven minutes left. Cassel threw three picks. Key trend: Cowboys 2-8 ATS in past 10 as road dog in series.
Jan. 1 at Eagles (TBA): Once again, no Week 17 lines with too much up in the air on the final Sunday. Short week for Dallas as it hosts Detroit on Monday in Week 16. Philly gets extra time to rest up as it's home to the Giants the previous Thursday. The Cowboys have won four of their last five games at Lincoln Financial Field. They did 20-10 in that Week 2 Romo injury game last year. Weeden looked good that day in relief, going 7-for-7 for a TD. The Cowboys also returned a blocked punt for a TD to overcome a franchise-record 18 penalties. Key trend: Cowboys have covered four straight in Philly.
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Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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