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Defenses aren’t the only ones having to adjust to DeMarco Murry. Vegas oddsmakers are too

Erik Matuszewski (c) 2014, Bloomberg News. NEW YORK — DeMarco Murray’s breakout season isn’t just catching the attention of opposing defenses. Oddsmakers are also adjusting to the Dallas Cowboys’ record- setting running back.

Murray, 26, has rushed for at least 100 yards in each of the Cowboys’ first seven games, breaking the National Football League record of six straight 100-yard rushing games to start a season set by Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown in 1958.

Oddsmakers at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook set the over/under betting line for Murray’s rushing yardage total at 110 1/2 for Monday’s game against the Washington Redskins. While the SuperBook only offers proposition bets for the NFL’s nationally televised night games on Thursday, Sunday and Monday, assistant manager Jeff Sherman said it’s the first time he can recall a player with an over/under of 100 rushing yards since Adrian Peterson’s 2,000-yard season two years ago.

“There isn’t anyone else in the NFL who would warrant that from a running back perspective,” Sherman said by phone. “This is a small sample for him in itself, but you have to make the adjustments with what he’s doing.”

Murray, in his fourth season with the Cowboys out of the University of Oklahoma, leads the NFL with 913 rushing yards and seven touchdowns this season. Arian Foster of the Houston Texans is second in the league with 615 rushing yards.

Murray also has been a workhorse, with 187 carries in the Cowboys’ 6-1 start. That’s 39 percent more than Foster, who’s second in the league with 126 rushing attempts.

His performances have made Murray the 7-2 second favorite at online sportsbook Bovada.lv to be voted the league’s Most Valuable Player. The only other Cowboy to earn the accolade was another running back, Emmitt Smith, in 1993. Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, the reigning MVP, is the 5-2 favorite at Bovada to claim the award for a record-extending sixth time.

Murray has shared the credit for his success and this week left new computers in the lockers of the five starters on the Cowboys’ offensive line, according to the team’s website. Murray, who missed 11 games because of injuries over the past three seasons, is making $1.4 million in the final year of his rookie deal with Dallas.

“We did this as a group, so it’s hard for me to accept this individually,” said Murray, who was a third-round draft pick in 2011. “The offensive line is a huge part of this. I definitely give a lot of credit to those guys. But there’s a lot of hard work that needs to be done. It’s a long season.”

In six of the Cowboys’ seven games this season, Murray has had 115 or more rushing yards, including 128 in last week’s 31-21 win over the New York Giants. He was held to a season-low 100 yards in a 34-31 win over the St. Louis Rams in Week 3. This week, he faces a Redskins’ defense that’s allowed 103.3 rushing yards a game, ranking 12th out of 32 NFL teams.

Sherman said if the SuperBook put up an over/under line of anything less than 100 rushing yards for Murray, they’d get one- way action. With a betting line of 110 1/2, a bettor who takes the “under” would win if Murray finishes with 110 yards or fewer against the Redskins. A bettor wagering on the “over” would win if Murray hits 111 rushing yards or more.

“We’re expecting the sharp players to bet under this number we put up,” Sherman said, referring to the professional sports bettors in Las Vegas. “They usually like to bet under on everything, whether it’s a receiver’s receiving yards or a running back’s rushing yards. They usually just blindly bet ‘under’ on most stuff. And just with what Murray has done, we’d expect to get the general public to bet on the over because they see him get 100 every week.”

The Cowboys are 9 1/2-point favorites over the Redskins at the SuperBook, the NFL’s widest spread in Week 8.

Blowouts have been rare this season, however. A week ago, five games were decided by two points or fewer, the most such games in any NFL weekend since 1982. Big leads haven’t been safe either. The 10 comeback victories of 14 points or more is tied for the second-most through the first seven weeks of a season since 1970.

Exciting finishes coupled with the NFL’s popularity has led to more “positive insanity” at Las Vegas books, said Jimmy Vaccaro, sportsbook manager at the South Point Casino.

“A couple weeks ago, three late interceptions turned losers into winners and winners into torn-up tickets,” Vaccaro said. “Anytime there are random endings, the better for books as no one knows what to expect.”

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Robert Francis
Robert is a Fort Worth native and longtime editor of the Fort Worth Business Press. He is a former president of the local Society of Professional Journalists and was a freelancer for a variety of newspapers, weeklies and magazines, including American Way, BrandWeek and InformatonWeek. A graduate of TCU, Robert has held a variety of writing and editing positions at publications such as the Grand Prairie Daily News and InfoWorld. He is also a musician and playwright.

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