Cowboys vs. Washington Odds
I’ve wondered how much of a downgrade Andy Dalton would be after he replaced the injured Dak Prescott.
Prior to the start of the season when sportsbooks released lines for every game, Dallas was installed as a 7.5-point home favorite for its Week 6 matchup with Arizona. After Prescott’s injury, the Cowboys reopened as 3-point favorites with Dalton as the starting quarterback, but they closed as just a 1-point favorite by kickoff. (We all know how that ended.)
The lookahead line for this Week 7 matchup had Dallas as an 8.5-point road favorite over Washington, but oddsmakers reopened with Dallas as a 3-point favorite again. The Cowboys were immediately bet down and some books are even offering them as 1-point underdogs.
Based on the line adjustments, the market is downgrading the Cowboys by at least a touchdown with Dalton as the starter. I’d expect that number to come down over the season as Dalton continues to get more first-team reps. But this is a classic opportunity to buy low on Dallas as the market correction on Dalton seems excessive and is creating some value on the visiting Cowboys.
Washington Football Team
Washington comes into Week 7 with a 1-5 record on the season.
The Football Team had a chance to pick up their second win after scoring a touchdown with 36 seconds left in last week’s game that brought them within one point of tying the Giants. But instead of kicking the point after, the Football Team opted for a 2-point conversion attempt, which was unsuccessful. They ended up losing the game but managed to cover the 2-point spread.
Despite winning only once, Washington is actually 3-3 against the spread, but they’ve yet to cover in consecutive games. This is a football team that seems caught in-between at the moment.
They’ve essentially moved on from Dwayne Haskins, who they drafted only a year ago with the 15th overall pick. He’s been replaced by Kyle Allen, and Washington has completely left Haskins off their gameday roster the last two weeks, opting to instead elevate Alex Smith as Allen’s backup.
Allen is in his second NFL season and is 6-9 overall in 15 starts. He actually won his first five professional starts but is just 1-9 since then. The decision by the Panthers to trade him to Washington shows that Carolina did not see him as their franchise quarterback despite his early success. That leads me to question how good this undrafted quarterback out of Houston really is.
I’m not too sure what to make of Allen’s 71.3 mark in ESPN’s Total QBR and 94.1 passer rating this season. While he has a 72.7% completion rate, he’s needed to throw the ball 55 times to pick up 354 passing yards. In fact, he has the lowest intended air yards (5.3) per NFL Next Gen Stats.
That means Allen has basically been a checkdown quarterback when he’s been in games this season. I suspect that some of that is due to his ability but, in fairness, Washington is lacking in skill position players. Per TeamRankings, Washington is dead last in the league with 3.5 yards per carry. There are only three teams averaging fewer than 300 yards per game and Washington is at the bottom of that list (275.3). Washington has -1.2 net yards per play and an even worse -2.0 net yards per play over its last three games.
I don’t see any winnable matchups for Washington on offense, even against a struggling Cowboys unit. If you look up and down the roster, you won’t even find a skill position player drafted in the first round.
Washington’s Week 1 victory over the Eagles seems like ages ago. With Allen being essentially just a placeholder at the quarterback position, you could make the argument that Washington is already tanking for the season given their dubious 2-point attempt that may have just been window-dressing more than anything else.
As far as injuries are concerned, defensive starters Chase Young, Kevin Pierre-Louis and Ronald Darby were full participants in practice this week and should be ready to go on Sunday. Offensively, Washington will be without wide receivers Isaiah Wright and Antonio Gandy-Golden.
The market has strongly downgraded the Cowboys based on Dalton taking over starting duties, but any further correction after last week’s performance against the Cardinals seems like an overreaction.
I know Dallas looked horrid in that game, but a -5 turnover margin will make even the best NFL team look mediocre. With both teams failing to score after each having three possessions, a first-quarter fumble around midfield by Ezekiel Elliott led to a Cardinals touchdown. On Dallas’ very next possession, Elliott fumbled again, and Arizona scored another touchdown.
The Cowboys were essentially down 14 points as a result of two unforced errors of their own. I’ve got to think Dallas will be able to put in a better performance this time around in a key divisional game against Washington. There is still plenty to play for, as Dallas is still undefeated within the division, which remains up for grabs.
The Cowboys have offensive skill players who are as good as any team in the NFL. Three of their skill players were first-round draft picks, as opposed to Washington, who don’t have any on offense.
Dallas has averaged 6.1 yards per play, which is seventh overall in the league. While Prescott is lost for the season due to his ankle injury, those skill players still remain and any offensive coordinator worth their weight in salt should be able to scheme up plays to get them the ball.
Outside of the turnovers last week, Dallas had some struggles with their offensive line due to injuries. Their once-formidable offensive line is down to just one starter, Connor Williams, and four backups. As disastrous as this can be, Dallas can deal with this problem by getting the ball out of Dalton’s hands quickly and into their playmakers’ hands. Some bubble screens and even shifting the pocket by getting Dalton on the move could help to improve their chances.
Unfortunately for the Cowboys, their struggles on defense overshadow any other challenges they’re dealing with right now. The defense is allowing a league-worst 36 points per game, but part of Dallas’ troubles on defense can be attributed to their offense turning the ball over 15 times this season. In total, Dallas is -12 in turnover differential, and that’s not a recipe for success at any level. Turnovers mean extra possessions for the opposing teams and you could make the argument that fatigue has played a role in Dallas’ poor play on defense.
On the injury front, edge-rusher Aldon Smith is no longer listed on the injury report. Dallas also looks to have defensive end Randy Gregory available after he was taken off the commissioner’s exempt list for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy.
If you were handicapping this game primarily on motivation, you would have to give the edge to the Cowboys after their embarrassing primetime performance at home on Monday night.
I actually think it’s good for the Cowboys to get out of town and go on the road to face Washington. This gives them a great chance to hit the reset button against a team that’s ranked 30th in Football Outsiders’ offensive DVOA.
Dallas is 5-1 against the spread (ATS) in the last six matchups against Washington and also 5-1 ATS as the visiting team in this matchup. I love the buy-low opportunity in this spot, as this is almost a 10-point move from the lookahead number back in August.
Additionally, teams that are road favorites after losing by at least 28 points the previous week are 21-14 ATS and 25-10 straight up.
Dallas is active in this spot, and even though the Cowboys are 1-point favorites at other books, I’ll look to play them as a 1-point underdog at BetMGM.
If you only have access to them as a 1-point favorite, I would still think it’s well worth a look.