Cowboy conundrum: Sports books view Romo’s replacement as a better bet

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott throws Sunday, Oct. 16, 2016, during the first half of an NFL game against the Green Bay Packers in Green Bay, Wis.
Photo: Mike Roemer / AP

The tradition of witnessing the demise of the Dallas Cowboys’ Super Bowl dreams appeared to come early this year. When veteran quarterback Tony Romo injured his back in a late-August preseason game, the Cowboys went from as low as a 14-to-1 contender in sports books’ future odds to as high as a 30-to-1 long shot. But they’ve since rallied for a resurrection no one saw coming.

Dallas goes into its bye week as a 10-to-1 choice to win the Super Bowl—trailing only the Patriots, Seahawks and Vikings—after a five-game winning streak behind rookie quarterback Dak Prescott. It now seems nothing could reduce its championship chances more than Romo’s return.

Romo could be healthy as soon as the Cowboys’ next game, an October 30 home date with the Philadelphia Eagles, but oddsmakers are for once in agreement with television pundits and radio hosts: The team should stick with Prescott. “I don’t think you can even talk about making a change right now,” says Sunset Station sports book director Chuck Esposito. “I don’t see how you go to Romo, even if he’s ready coming out of the bye.”

When Romo first went down, oddsmakers estimated his value to be worth 3.5 points, as the line for the Cowboys’ season-opening game against the Giants went from minus-3.5 to pick ’em. Six games remains too small of a sample to say Prescott has definitively surpassed Romo, but it’s safe to say he has at least equaled him.

Sports books would not change the Cowboys’ point spreads if they started either Romo or Prescott. Any line movement would be up to the reaction of the bettors, the majority of which at this point would likely be more inclined to back Prescott. Oddsmakers wouldn’t blame them. The Las Vegas viewpoint isn’t so much that Romo is inadequate; it’s that there’s no reason to disrupt the rhythm Dallas has developed.

“Prescott is doing fine, and adds a new dimension to the offense anyway,” Westgate Las Vegas Superbook manager Jeff Sherman says. “It could rock the boat with their performance on the field not to keep him in there, and I’d surely expect Romo to get hurt anyway, because it’s happened so often.”

Romo played only four games last year, with the Cowboys going 3-1 straight-up and 2-2 against the spread in his starts. In games without him, they went 0-11 straight-up and 1-9-1 against the spread.

Romo’s effectiveness seems to be an overlooked part of the equation. In his past two largely healthy seasons, Romo went a combined 19-13 against the spread. But arguably the two most memorable covers were also losses. Romo outdueled Peyton Manning during the Broncos’ record-breaking offensive year in 2013, but the Cowboys fell 51-48 as 7.5-point underdogs. In 2014, the Packers eliminated the Cowboys from the playoffs in a 26-21 victory as 6-point favorites when a late Romo pass to Dez Bryant at the goal line was controversially ruled incomplete upon review.

Bad breaks and devastating endings have followed Romo throughout his 13-year career. Being replaced by a rookie could be the latest—and potentially last—incident.

“I thought they were done when Romo went down,” Esposito says. “I know it’s only been six games, but they’ve been a better team since he got hurt. I’m super-impressed with Dak Prescott.”

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