NFC East Betting Preview: The Cowboys and Eagles Will Benefit From Friendly Schedules
If there is ever a downtime for the NFL, this is it. Between the draft and the start of training camps, this is one of the rare stretches on the calendar when there isn't something big happening.
That doesn't mean we have to check out from the action.
Let's take a look at the NFC East and see where there's betting value to be had.
Cowboys Over 10.5 Wins (+105)
The Dallas Cowboys have a lot of things going for them this season, and I like their chances to win at least 11 games.
In 2021, the Cowboys had the second-best point differential in the NFL, posting a mark of +172. Only four teams had a point differential greater than +150, and Dallas was one of them.
Yes, you absolutely can argue Dallas' point differential was inflated from six games against a blah NFC East. Dallas prevailed in all six divisional clashes and had lopsided wins of 56-14 and 51-26 over the Washington Commanders and Philadelphia Eagles, respectively. Whew.
But Dallas should benefit from a meek division once more, and on top of that, the rest of their schedule is very nice, too.
The AFC division they'll face is the pedestrian AFC South, and the NFC division they match up with is the NFC North. Looking at only those eight games plus their six NFC East clashes -- so 14 of their 17 games -- Dallas has only one game against a team (Green Bay Packers) we rank in the top 12 in nERD. (Their other three foes are the Cincinnati Bengals, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Los Angeles Rams.)
In short, one of the league's better teams -- Dallas is eighth by nERD (2.82, which represents their expected margin of victory against an average opponent on a neutral field) -- has a favorable schedule, and that should really help the Cowboys rack up victories.
We project Dallas for a 10.3-6.7 record, so we're right in line with oddsmakers. But with Dallas to go under 10.5 wins priced at -105, I prefer the plus-money side and will take a shot on the over.
Eagles to Make the Playoffs (-178)
The Philadelphia Eagles have been a fun team to follow this offseason, particularly during Round 1 of the NFL Draft.
On the night of the first round, the Eagles traded up to select defensive tackle Jordan Davis and then dealt the No. 18 pick to the Tennessee Titans for A.J. Brown in a headline-grabbing deal. Adding linebacker Nakobe Dean in Round 3, Philly left Vegas as one of the winners of the draft, improving on both sides of the ball.
But no matter how you want to slice it, much of the Eagles' fate this coming year is tied to Jalen Hurts.
Among signal-callers with at least 100 drop backs in 2021, Hurts was just 17th in Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back. He also checked in only 27th in Passing Success Rate (percentage of drop backs that resulted in positive NEP). That led to the Eagles relying heavily on the run a year ago, recording the league's lowest pass rate (50.1%).
Despite their limitations on offense last year, the Eagles still found a way to make the playoffs. I think they do it again, and their schedule is a huge reason why.
As we just laid out with Dallas, the Eagles will be matched up with the AFC South and NFC North in addition to their six NFC East contests. Philly's three other games come against the Pittsburgh Steelers (22nd by nERD), New Orleans Saints (21st) and Arizona Cardinals (14th). In total, only three of the Eagles' games -- Dallas (twice) and Green Bay -- are versus teams we have in the top 12 in nERD.
There's also the matter of the NFC being pretty top-heavy overall. We have five NFC teams -- the Cowboys, Packers, Rams, Bucs and 49ers -- ranked in the top eight in nERD, but after that, things are wiiiiide open. The next-highest teams are the Cards and Eagles, ranked 14th and 15th, respectively. Then it's the Minnesota Vikings (18th) and Saints (21st).
The Eagles' schedule is soft, and they shouldn't face super stiff competition for one of the final Wild Card spots in the NFC if they can't win the division.
The -178 number is no fun, but it's easy to love Philly's chances to get back to the postseason.