NFL Picks: History Suggests Fading Cowboys ATS at Home

Jay Pryce

Saturday, July 18, 2015 8:54 PM UTC

Saturday, Jul. 18, 2015 8:54 PM UTC

The Dallas Cowboys struggle to cover the ATS odds as home favs. We discuss this phenomenon briefly, and present a historical trend, along with analysis to predict when to fade Tony Romo & company.  

Since midway through the 2010 season, after team owner Jerry Jones installed Jason Garrett as head coach to replace the franchise's first ever in-season firing of Wade Phillips, the Dallas Cowboys are 8-21 against the spread (ATS) as home favorites despite a 19-10 record overall. Interestingly, the average ATS margin in this scenario is only -1.1 points, not a number to instill much confidence in the team's failure to cover the NFL odds. In fact, “America's Team” is one of the most publicly backed in the league game after game, season after season, and it is not a far-fetched idea to believe that this one point difference is largely a result of the Cowboys closing as an underlay by way of overconfident action. One way sports investors may narrow down a more convincing situation in which to fade the Cowboys as home favorites is to zero-in on the play of Tony Romo and his opponent's passing defense.

The four-time Pro Bowler is one of the best quarterbacks in the league, although is often derided by fans for a series of high-profile mistakes and inability to perform in the clutch. In October 2013, ESPN's Jeremy Mills peered deeper into Romo's failures in high-leverage situations late in games. He found that since 2010, the Dallas captain's 80+ quarterback rating (QBR) in the first 12 minutes of fourth quarter play was one of the highest in the league, though it sank to a very poor score of 44 in the game's final three minutes. The payoff here is that the performance drop is not necessarily equated to some late rally situations where a quarterback may take unnecessary risks, rather the majority of Romo's blunders occur with the Cowboys in very close games where they are tied or are protecting a one-score lead—like those the team often finds themselves in as home favorites. In fact, at the time of the article, Romo led his peers in the most 4th quarter or overtime INT's when leading by a touchdown or less, despite throwing less overall interceptions in the final minutes of the game in comparison to other elite quarterbacks like Drew Brees and Ben Roethlisberger.

Interceptions are obviously Romo's primary undoing to an amazing career, and a key statistic we will use to ferret out a wager. In 2014, he was the NFL's top-rated passer, completing 69.9 percent of his passes (304 of 435) for 3,705 yards with 34 touchdowns and nine interceptions. His 2.1 interception per pass rate ranked him 14th among his peers with 100 or more attempts, equaling his career rank considering the league's active quarterbacks. Using this information, in conjunction with the Cowboys recent inability to cover as home favorites, consider this: when Romo starts a game the public expects him to win at Cowboys Stadium, Dallas is 9-22 ATS in his career if he did not throw an interception in his last match-up start against his current opponent. Tossing nearly .89 interceptions per game in his career, one would expect the law of averages to kick in here next time out. If one tosses out the few contests where the Cowboys were favored to win by 12 or more points, signifying conditions where the team is expected to win handily, than the team's record sinks to 4-21 ATS with a -4.8 margin against the odds. Romo averages 1.2 interceptions in this scenario. If a turnover equates to roughly a three-and-a half-point advantage, coupled with a one point underlay bonus given the Cowboys as home favorites, than the nearly five point swing against the spread looks much more appealing than the lowly -1.1 given to us in the original query. As of now, this trend is dormant, but monitor Romo's performance against divisional opponents for their follow-up game later in the year.

As always, use this information to support your leans and best of luck.

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