It’s not often a team like the Eagles, 2-4-1 and up to its shoulder pads in injuries and uncertainty, finds itself as near double-digit favorites, but that’s what’s at hand here. Cowboys Week 2020. Embrace the mediocrity.
The big spread, of course, has less to do with the Birds and everything to do with Dallas likely starting rookie quarterback Ben DiNucci.
The Westgate on Oct. 20 had the Eagles at -3 when veteran Andy Dalton was the Cowboys' quarterback. After Dalton was nearly decapitated on Oct. 25 against Washington, that line has steadily gone up. Colleague Vegas Vic said he saw a 10 in Nevada. As of midday Thursday, the line was 8.5 or 9 for the Eagles. Dalton, who already was filling in for injured starter Dak Prescott, had not cleared concussion protocol and did not practice Wednesday or Thursday.
DiNucci nearly played college ball at Penn before going to Pitt and eventually James Madison. He threw three passes in relief of Dalton last week (completing two) in a dismal loss at Washington. He also was sacked three times as Dallas' banged-up offensive line was no match for Washington. Now he gets an Eagles defense that is among the league leaders in bringing heat.
“The line is based on what you saw from Ben DiNucci last week,” said Johnny Avello, director of operations for DraftKings. “On the Eagles side, they’re one of the best in the league at rushing the quarterback with 3.5 sacks per game.”
“He definitely has a little [swagger] to him, confidence. He takes command of the huddle and that’s great especially coming from a young guy since you honestly don’t know. He hadn’t played any snaps in this league up until last week.”
DiNucci played at Pine-Richland High School in western Pennsylvania and lost a state championship game to D’Andre Swift, Olamide Zaccheaus and St. Joseph’s Prep in 2014. A seventh-round pick, he will be the first quarterback to make his first career start in this rivalry since Stephen McGee in 2011.
“Obviously not knowing anything about DiNucci, and if he is a huge downgrade from Dalton is the million dollar question,” said Nick Bogdanovich, director of trading for William Hill’s U.S. sportsbooks. “Not much has been bet on the game so far because [our] line has been down for most of the week. But come Sunday night there will be massive betting on this huge rivalry game. Two marquee brands, isolated [night] game. Handle will be strong.”
The Eagles haven’t been this high of a favorite against Dallas since 2004, a night most will remember as the game Terrell Owens had his ankle and fibula shredded by a Roy Williams tackle. The Eagles were laying 11.5 and escaped with a 12-7 victory.
We always root for the bettors here, so we hope they’ve been fading the Cowboys, which is the only NFL team yet to cover.
“Dallas has burned a lot of money this year,” Avello said. “They’re 0-7 against the number and bettors are probably fed up betting them. But they’ve been favored a lot, and here they’re probably going to 3-1 [underdogs on the money line]. I think [bettors will] take a shot at the Cowboys' money line,” which was +310.
“It’s an isolated game and it’s going to get a lot of action.”
Bogdanovich is bullish on the local baseball club for the 2021 season, which makes him possibly the only one unless they figure out a way to bring back catcher J.T. Realmuto. William Hill released next season’s World Series odds shortly after the Dodgers finished off the Rays to win this year’s title.
“The Phillies have got a ton of talent,” Bogdanovich said. “They’ve also got money, so they can flip it pretty fast with some spending. Their lineup’s pretty solid, but as a team they underperformed this year. But they can still make a leap."
The Dodgers (9-2), Yankees (5-1) and Atlanta (10-1) are at the top of the board. The Phils are 30-1.
“The Mets (35-1) with their pitching [also] can make a leap,” he said. "The Nationals (40-1) are just one year from winning a World Series, so they can make a quick turn. Those teams I think are pretty live.”
This and that
Avello said the pro bettors jumped on Penn State, which opened as 13.5-point underdogs to Ohio State (Saturday, 7:30 p.m., ABC). The line was down to 12 on Thursday. “Penn State at home getting this amount of points [is unusual]," he said. "The sharps are on it early. When these two teams meet, it’s usually tight.”
» READ MORE: Penn State has a knack for giving the Buckeyes fits
The Associated Press reported that FanDuel will run a new sportsbook at Bally’s hotel and casino in Atlantic City. It’ll be FanDuel’s first retail location in South Jersey. The massive sportsbook already at Bally’s will remain property of next door neighbor Caesars. Can’t wait to see how that all plays out; Bally’s current sportsbook is the largest in A.C. Twin River Worldwide Holdings this year bought Bally’s from Caesars' parent company for $25 million.
The Chiefs-Jets, which opened at Kansas City -21, was at 19.5 on Thursday. Since 1978, teams that lay at least 19 points are 4-13 against the spread.