Value is on the Cowboys as an underdog when expectations are low
The Dallas Cowboys are the strangest team in the NFL. They are 3-4, they haven't beaten a team with stature since their opening night win over the New York Giants, and yet they're only a 3.5-point underdog Sunday night against the undefeated Atlanta Falcons. The line essentially suggests the public regards these two teams as even, since the home team gets approximately three points in its favor.
Dallas certainly doesn't lack confidence. Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan said, "We got to win this week. We know it, and we're going to."
Betting the "desperate" team in the NFL is a system that some handicappers like to use, and there's no doubt that Dallas needs this game more than Atlanta. The Falcons are likely to win the NFC South regardless of the outcome of this game, while Dallas figures to need seven wins in its final nine games to ensure a playoff berth.
The Falcons are 5-2 against the spread this season, covering by an impressive margin of 7.6 points a game. The Cowboys, meanwhile, are 3-4 ATS on the year and have an average margin of cover of minus-4.7 points. According to ESPN Insider's PickCenter, fans are backing Atlanta at a 53.9 percent rate. If they're right, it certainly won't be the first time a team coached by one of the Ryan brothers doesn't fulfill a promise.
Dallas Cowboys at Atlanta Falcons
Spread: Opened at Falcons -4.5; now Falcons -3.5
Total: Opened at 47.5; still 47.5
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