NFL against-the-spread picks: Can we really take the Cooper Rush-led Cowboys?

·7 min read

We found how how much Dak Prescott means to the point spread.

Last week, the lookahead line for Cincinnati Bengals at Dallas Cowboys in Week 2 was Cowboys -2.5. Prescott went down with a thumb injury, and the line shifted in a big way. The Cowboys are now 7.5-point underdogs at BetMGM.

There's more to that 10-point shift than just going from Prescott to Cooper Rush. The Cowboys took on other injuries. Dallas looked absolutely miserable in a loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and that was before Prescott's injury.

Still, 10 points is a lot. Especially against a Bengals team coming off a loss of its own in Week 1.

Rush doesn't have the pedigree that will excite anyone — he was undrafted out of Central Michigan in 2017 — but we've seen him start once and it was pretty good. He was a last-minute start in a Sunday night game against the Minnesota Vikings last season and threw for 325 yards, two touchdowns and one interception in a surprise 20-16 win. It's hard to take much out of a one-game sample, but at least it was a good one.

The formula for the Cowboys the next few weeks without Prescott is clear. They'll want to rely on their running backs and play good defense. Having multiple offensive line injuries makes the former a tougher challenge, but the latter should work. Dallas' defense should be good this season. They can hopefully keep games close and maybe the offense steals a few.

Either way, 10 points seems like an overreaction, and there's no bigger overreaction week in sports than the one after the NFL's openers. It's not fun to take the Cowboys with Rush at QB, after what we saw last week. But taking a team nobody else will touch can be profitable in the NFL. Let's pick the Cowboys and the points. Sometimes, winning tickets can come from the ugliest teams.

Cooper Rush will start for the Dallas Cowboys in place of injured Dak Prescott. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images)
Cooper Rush will start for the Dallas Cowboys in place of injured Dak Prescott. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images)

Here are the rest of the against-the-spread picks for Week 2 of the NFL season, with the spreads from BetMGM:

Chargers (+4) over Chiefs

As I said in today's Daily Sweat, if the Chargers are going to be a thing this season, this is a game they keep close. Or win.

Ravens (-3.5) over Dolphins

Is it possible we're too excited about the Dolphins after one game? Bill Belichick caught some flak for saying, "It was really a pretty even game. Two big plays, 14 points, really skewed the game," but he wasn't wrong. Miami out-gained New England 307-271, had 18 first downs to 17 for New England, averaged 5.2 yards per play to 5.0 for the Patriots ... Miami won, but it didn't blow out New England. A scoop-and-score on a fumble and an inexcusable breakdown by New England to allow Jaylen Waddle a 47-yard touchdown at the end of the half accounted for the difference. Baltimore was solid in Week 1, but it's hard to tell against the Jets. I liked the Ravens a lot in the preseason and I'll ride with them.

Browns (-6) over Jets

It's not like the Browns are all that exciting and I'm not sure I trust their offense all that much, but the Jets just looked miserable last week.

Lions (-1.5) over Commanders

The Lions are favored for the first time since November of 2020, snapping a 24-game streak as an underdog that ESPN said is the longest of the Super Bowl era. Congrats to Detroit. If the Lions can't win this one, all that preseason excitement will seem quite silly, won't it?

Jaguars (+4) over Colts

Not a comfortable pick. I want to believe in the Jaguars turning a corner, but Week 1 was a step back. I'm starting to be very concerned about Trevor Lawrence. But it's still a reasonable home underdog, so let's ride with that.

Saints (+2.5) over Buccaneers

All of the attention was on the Cowboys on Sunday night, but it wasn't a great night for the Bucs. They took on two big injuries when receiver Chris Godwin and left tackle Donovan Smith left the game. We'll see if they play this week or how effective they are. The Bucs defense was good against Dallas but the offense had its issues. And the Saints defense has done very well against Tampa Bay since Tom Brady came to Florida. I'd rather have +3 or better, but I'll still take the Saints.

Panthers (+2) over Giants

This is the one game on the board I'd skip, but since I pick every game each week, let's flip a coin here. The Giants had a nice win last week and Saquon Barkley looked reborn, but it's still a team I'm not sold on for the season. The Panthers are a team I did like a bit coming into the season, so let's go with them and the points.

Patriots (-2) over Steelers

Does it concern me that the Steelers were plus-five in turnover differential and needed a blocked extra point and missed 29-yard field goal, when the Bengals had an emergency long snapper, to win? Absolutely. And T.J. Watt's injury is one of the rare non-QB injuries that should change the line. Mac Jones should be good to go after some back spasms. Maybe I'm being stubborn on the Patriots but I think they can win an absolutely ugly game.

Falcons (+10.5) over Rams

The Falcons haven't looked that bad, dating back to the preseason (whatever the preseason means). They probably should have beaten the Saints. The Rams are obviously still good, though offensive line injuries worry me some. With every double-digit NFL spread I start by making a case for the underdog, and I'll stick with it.

Seahawks (+9.5) over 49ers

Not an overreaction to the weird Geno Smith mania we saw in the first half on Monday night. In the second half, Geno was Geno. But it wasn't a bad night for the Seahawks. All we have from the 49ers so far is a bad loss at Chicago. And while I was a big supporter of Trey Lance this offseason, there's a scenario in which San Francisco is in full freakout mode over their new quarterback by Sunday night. And it's a higher percentage than I want to admit.

Texans (+10) over Broncos

Houston might be a team that covers a lot of spreads. The Texans looked very good for three quarters last week. There's some concern about them fading in the fourth quarter, especially given Denver's well-known dominance in the thin air at home during September, but I'll still take the Texans to cover.

Raiders (-5.5) over Cardinals

Yes, I might be overreacting to the Cardinals loss. It's just one game against a good Chiefs team. But it was really bad. I didn't like one thing I saw from Arizona in Week 1. Meanwhile, the Raiders might be pretty good. They lost to the Chargers, but we'll find there's no shame in that.

Packers (-10) over Bears

I can't bring myself to take the Bears, unless they play in another monsoon. Green Bay will bounce back after a Week 1 loss. Their defense will show up and they'll run the ball just fine.

Titans (+10) over Bills

This is an overreaction line. The Bills looked great. The Titans lost at home to the Giants. I picked the Bills to win the Super Bowl and didn't pick the Titans to make the playoffs so I get why people would be betting the Bills. But let's not forget the Titans beat the Bills last season. I don't think they're a bottom feeder. If the Bills cover this easily, every spread for them the rest of the season will be inflated.

Eagles (-2) over Vikings

There's a lot of overreaction involved in this game, too. The Vikings looked good in beating the Packers, but that was a very good spot for them in Week 1. The Eagles looked good, too, for most of their win over the Lions, but they allowed a lot late and the final score made it seem like the game was closer than it was. If the Vikings win in the second Monday night game of Week 2, they're a serious contender in the NFC. I'm not going that far yet.

Last week: 7-9