Just in: Dallas Cowboys announce Tony Romo has a broken bone in his back. That’s the definition of worst-case scenario. What does this mean for the Cowboys’ season? We weigh in in this column.
Coach Jason Garrett announced minutes ago that a broken bone in Tony Romo's back was revealed after undergoing an MRI on Friday, following Dallas' 27-17 loss to Seattle at CenturyLink Field. Although Garrett was somewhat upbeat by listing his prized quarterback as day-to-day, NFL Media Insider Ian Rappaport reported a direr outlook, suggesting Romo might be out for at least half of the season. Other reports are suggesting 10 weeks!
This sudden, awful development doesn't inspire much confidence in the Cowboys and their 2016-2017 campaign, for good reason. If you will, last season is a timely reminder of just how pivotal Romo is to the team and its season. Without Romo calling the shots, talented though the roster may have been, the Cowboys only managed to muster up one solitary win over the course of eleven games with – alarmingly so, mind – FOUR different quarterbacks thrown into the fray.
In Thursday's preseason clash with the Seattle Seahawks Romo took a hit from Cliff Avril three plays into his drive. Onlookers watched in horror as the quarterback writhed on the field. Flashbacks of last season springing to mind, surely, Garrett wasted no time and promptly took him off the field and out of the game despite Romo's very own protestations otherwise. In hindsight, that was a wise decision.
It goes without saying, Friday's MRI results are absolutely the worst-case scenario. No ifs or buts about it. It's what the franchise and its fans feared most all along actually come to a realisation, and its repercussions are being felt already across NFL betting markets.
In one fell swoop, rookie Dak Prescott moves from preseason revelation to starting quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys. He's slated to start in week 1 against the NY Giants, a game that came off the board following the hit to Romo but is now steadily popping back up at the sports betting exchanges. The impact immediately felt: the Cowboys move from -3 home favourites to +3 home underdogs.
It remains to be seen how he accounts in the season home opener at AT&T stadium, whether he defies the NFL odds or not. Let's say he does defy those odds in week 1 – given the way the Giants have played in the preseason, it wouldn't be so shocking if he were to do just that – that's just one game in a season that spans 17 weeks.
What might work in Prescott's favour is a relatively winnable schedule in the early goings – dates with Washington, Chicago and San Francisco follow the Giants' visit before things get slightly tougher with Cincinnati and Green Bay in weeks 5 and 6 before a bye in week 7. Easing into the NFL, if you will. That said, by that same token, opponents in those winnable games (the first four weeks) must, all of a sudden, fancy their chances too in a Romo-less clash with the Cowboys. It's not a given the Cowboys will win those winnable games.
Another thing that could work in the Cowboys' favour is the fact that the Cowboys have the third easiest NFL schedule according to 2015 winning percentages (0.465). Well, it's not so simple as mainstream stats go. Not to put a damper on it but they did have the seventh easiest NFL schedule last season with a winning percentage of 0.467 and we know what happened. In fact, the difference between last year and this year is that the schedule is only a smidgen easier in 2016. So no real assurance there either.
Best-case scenario, Romo returns somewhere between week 8 and 10 and the Cowboys are still in the frame. Question though most Cowboys fans are sure to ask themselves is what guarantee do they have that Romo won't reinjure himself. It's what happened last year. Two separate injuries that effectively ended his season. Fact is he's 36-years old and has a history of struggling with injuries.
To put it simply, without Tony Romo the Cowboys are not a good bet until proven otherwise. Is Dak Prescott the heir-apparent? Perhaps? Will he pull off a Tom Brady and steal the job? Maybe. Anything can happen. We've seen a lot of good moments from the rookie – enough to have impressed many NFL experts and insiders to make such speculation warranted. Still, those are only from the preseason and there's likely to be rookie moments and mistakes ahead.
No matter the case what we can safely assume for the time being is that the Cowboys are not a Super Bowl bet, which is trading at +3300 at bet365. Nor are they a viable bet to win the NFC Conference at +1600. It would be almost unheard of for a rookie quarterback to light up a side in such a manner.
As far as the NFC East division is concerned, bookies have backed out the Cowboys to +225 to win the title. Putting Dallas as second overall faves behind newly-minted favourite NY Giants (+200). Defending champions Washington Redskins are currently snubbed at +275 and the Eagles are priced at +375. (Quite likely, the best value is in the Redskins or Eagles, but that's another discussion entirely).
Clearly, the NFL betting outlook for the Cowboys is not quite so grim yet in the context of the division. That has a lot to do with the state of flux in the section and the perception about it rather than any inherent value in the Cowboys – it's one of the weakest divisions at the moment. Tread carefully.
Case-and-point, Cowboys' season win totals. What began as a promising season hanging on a 9.5 projected season win total with the OVER matched at EVEN odds and the UNDER matched at -130 is now trading with the OVER matched at an untenable +175 price tag and the UNDER matched at whopping -250. If that is not a sign their season is expected to be another write off, what is?