Two of the NFL’s largest and most loyal fan bases had hemorrhaged cash in recent years by betting with their hearts. This season has erased the hurt, as those who stuck by the Dallas Cowboys and Oakland Raiders are getting transfusions of money into their bankrolls.
The Cowboys and Raiders have become the unlikely first two teams to surpass the preseason over/under win totals set by sports books before the season began. Dallas was the first to clinch, eclipsing 8.5 wins two weeks ago with a 27-17 victory over Baltimore. It created further separation by beating Washington, 31-26, on Thanksgiving to improve to an NFL-best 10-1 for the season. Oakland joined the over-8.5 wins club a few days later, downing the Panthers, 35-32, to move to 9-2 on the year.
Four other teams are already sitting on their exact win total—the Atlanta Falcons at 7-4, the Detroit Lions at 7-4, the Miami Dolphins at 7-4 and the Tennessee Titans at 6-6—with only one more victory apiece needed to go over. But backers of the Cowboys and Raiders are the only ones who know for sure that they have a reward waiting for them at season’s end. Not bad for two franchises that had gone under their win total in four of the previous five seasons.
Dallas also has the best against-the-spread record in the league at 9-2. Oakland is tied for third at 7-4 versus the Las Vegas number. The two teams are also among the four favorites to win the Super Bowl in future odds. The Cowboys are a 9-to-2 second choice at the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook, behind only the New England Patriots. The Raiders sit in fourth at 12-to-1, with the Seattle Seahawks third at 6-to-1.
Odds for exact championship matchups aren’t available locally, but offshore sports books widely list Cowboys vs. Raiders as the fifth-most-likely Super Bowl 51 pairing with odds around 23-to-1. Only games involving the Patriots are posted at lower prices.
If Dallas and Oakland both reach the February 5 game in Houston, betting numbers would be uniquely positioned to illustrate just how far they’ve come. Before this season, the two teams had combined to go a dreadful 88-103-3 against the spread this decade.
Even a week before the season started, the Raiders were 20-to-1 to win the Super Bowl, with the Cowboys in the same mid-tier category at 25-to-1. That means either team would be the longest preseason shot to hoist the Lombardi Trophy since the New York Giants in 2007.
There’s a long way to go, of course, and it’s getting more difficult to profit off the Cowboys and Raiders as oddsmakers tighten the teams’ betting lines. Before failing to cover against Washington in a 31-26 Thanksgiving win, Dallas had to kick a late field goal to narrowly cover versus Baltimore. Oakland similarly scored a fourth-quarter touchdown to beat Houston 27-20 as 6-point favorites two weeks ago, before failing to cover by a half-point against Carolina.
Neither the Raiders nor the Cowboys have an easy schedule remaining; with three road games apiece looming against fellow playoff contenders. But even if they fall off, they’ve made this a memorable season for long-suffering fans who stubbornly continued to bet on them.