The Dallas Cowboys had high hopes going into the 2020 season, but over the past seven weeks, those hopes have quickly come crashing back down to earth. Heading into Week 9, the Cowboys are 2-6 and the season has actually been uglier than their record indicates.
Although they don't have the worst record in the NFL, they are the worst at something and that's covering the spread. If you've bet any money on the Cowboys to cover this season, that's basically been the same thing as setting your money on fire and that's because the Cowboys have yet to cover a single time in 2020.
Heading into Week 9, the Cowboys are 0-8 ATS, which is mostly notable because it's almost impossible to do that. Since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, only two teams -- the 1991 Bengals and 2003 Raiders -- have ever started 0-8 ATS, and the Cowboys matched those two on Sunday when they couldn't cover as a 10-point underdog in a 23-9 loss to Philadelphia.
If the Cowboys don't cover in Week 9, they'll drop to 0-9 against the spread and set the NFL record for futility. The Cowboys' opponent next week? The undefeated Steelers.
Good luck, Dallas.
At 0-8 ATS, the Cowboys have one other thing in common with the 1991 Bengals and the 2003 Raiders and that's that they're all underachievers. All three teams had high expectations going into their respective seasons and all three teams fell flat on their face.
In 1991, the Bengals were coming off a playoff appearance in 1990, which most people remember as the last year where Cincinnati actually won a playoff game. After making it all the way to the Divisional Round in the 1990 postseason, the Bengals were favored in two of their first three games in 1991 before oddsmakers started to catch on that they might be bad.
Let's take a look at their 0-8 ATS start.
Week 1: At Denver (Bengals, +2 points). The Bengals got blown out of their opener and never came close to covering.
Final: Broncos 45-14 over Bengals.
Week 2: Houston (Bengals, -2.5 points). After beating the Oilers in the 1990 wild-card round the Bengals were favored here, but once again, it was never close and they got blown out.
Final: Oilers 30-7over Bengals.
Week 3: At Cleveland (Bengals, -3.5 points). Browns kicker Matt Stover nailed a 45-yard field goal with just seconds left to give Cleveland the win. Of course, even if Stover had missed, the Bengals still wouldn't have covered. This was Bill Belichick's third career game as a head coach.
Final: Browns 14-13 over Bengals.
Week 4: Washington (Bengals, +3.5 points). Although Washington would go on to win the Super Bowl in 1991, they had some serious trouble with the Bengals. This game was tied 27-27 before Washington scored a game-winning TD in the fourth quarter. Final: Washington 34-27 over Bengals.
Week 5: Seattle (Bengals, -3.5 points). Even though the Bengals were 0-4, oddsmakers still showed them some love as they were favored over the 2-3 Seahawks. The Seahawks scored the only points of the second half with two field goals in the win.
Final: Seahawks 13-7 over Bengals.
Week 6: At Dallas (Bengals, +6.5 points). The Bengals jumped out to a 10-0 lead before getting outscored 35-13 over the final three quarters of the game to a Cowboys team that would go 11-5.
Final: Cowboys 35-23 over Bengals.
Week 7: At Buffalo (Bengals, +13.5 points). In a Monday night road game against the defending AFC champions, oddsmakers gave the Bengals no chance to win and they were right to do that.
Final: Bills 35-16 over Bengals.
Week 8: At Houston (Bengals, +15.5 points). With the 6-1 Oilers facing the 0-7 Bengals, oddsmakers expected a mismatch and that's what they got. The Oilers easily covered.
Final: Oilers 35-3 over Bengals.
After starting off 0-8 straight up and ATS, the Bengals finally ended their drought in Week 9 with a win over the Browns, who were favored 2.5 points. All it took for the Bengals to get the win was a miracle as the normally reliable Matt Stover missed two field goals in the final two minutes of a game the Bengals would win 23-21. The Bengals were expected to compete for a playoff spot in 1991 but went 3-13 straight up and 4-12 ATS.
Now, let's take a look at the Raiders 0-8 ATS start.
Week 1: At Tennessee (Raiders +3.5 points). Even though they were the defending AFC champions, the Raiders opened as an underdog to the Titans. They actually had this game covered, but then Tennessee kicked a field goal with just over 30 seconds left beat the spread.
Final: Titans 25-20 over Raiders.
Week 2: Cincinnati (Raiders, -12 points). This was Marvin Lewis' first year in Cincinnati and the Bengals were expected to be terrible, which is why the Raiders were favored by so much. Surprisingly, this Bengals team almost beat the Raiders and they easily kept the Raiders from covering.
Final: Raiders 23-20 over Bengals.
Week 3: At Denver (Raiders, +5.5 points). This Monday night game in Denver was never close as the Broncos shot out to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter.
Final: Broncos 31-10 over Raiders.
Week 4: San Diego (Raiders, -7 points). Going up against a winless Chargers team, the Raiders were expected to roll in this game, but they got taken to overtime before they were finally able to clinch the victory.
Final: Raiders 34-31 over Chargers (OT).
Week 5: At Chicago (Raiders, -3.5 points). The Raiders actually led this game 18-3 at halftime, but then ended up getting dominated in the second half. This was the type of bad beat that makes you want to stop betting on a team.
Final: Bears 24-21 over Raiders (OT).
Week 6: Cleveland (Raiders, +3.5 points). The Raiders once high-powered offense didn't look so high-powered in this game as they were held to just a single touchdown.
Final: Browns 13-7 over Raiders.
Week 7: Kansas City (Raiders, +4.5 points). In this Monday night road game, the final score says it was close, but the Chiefs led 17-3 with 2:30 left to play before the Raiders scored a garbage-time touchdown.
Final: Chiefs 17-10 over Raiders.
Week 8: At Detroit (Raiders, -3.5 points). In a game against the 1-6 Lions, the Raiders were favored, but once again their offense disappeared early. The Lions jumped out to a 10-0 lead in the first quarter and never looked back.
Final: Lions 23-13 over Raiders.
In 2003, the Raiders were coming off a Super Bowl appearance, and like both the Cowboys and Bengals, they had high expectations going into the season. The Raiders were even picked by many to win the division, but instead, they finished 4-12 straight up and 3-12-1 ATS.
The Raiders actually didn't get their first cover until Week 10 and that's because they pushed in Week 9 to start 0-8-1 ATS, which is currently the worst start of any team since the merger. The Raiders' first cover came in a 28-18 win over the Vikings where the Raiders were a 4.5-point underdog.
You can't be an underachiever unless you have high expectations and that was the case with all three of these teams. For the Cowboys, they thought Mike McCarthy would lead them to the promised land, but instead, he's taken them to a trash heap. With Dak Prescott out for the season and a defense that bleeds points, things aren't going to get any easier, the only upside for Dallas is that they're in a historically bad division.
In 1991, an 11-5 record by the Oilers won the AFC Central. In 2003, a 13-3 record by the Chiefs won the AFC West. The winner of the NFC East won't be getting anywhere near those numbers in 2020. The good news for the Cowboys is that the NFC East just might be the one division in NFL history where you can be an underachiever and still win it.