Previewing the NFC East from a Betting Perspective
The NFC East looks to be a clear two-way race between both division supremacy (Eagles and Cowboys) and the basement (Redskins and Giants). Dallas won the division crown last season with a 10-6 record, but the Eagles look to have the upper hand heading into the 2019 campaign after a mediocre 9-7 campaign last year. Let’s take a look at how the oddsmakers and betting markets see things currently.
NFC East Division Odds Regular Season Wins
Philadelphia -125 Philadelphia: 10 wins (Over +100/Under -120)
Dallas +150 Dallas: 9 wins (Over -110/Under -110)
Washington +1200 Washington: 6.5 wins (Over +120/Under -140)
NY Giants +1400 NY Giants: 6 wins (Over -120/Under +100)
Now we will take a closer look at every team from the NFC East.
The Philadelphia Eagles have been building an organization grounded in analytics and innovation in recent years, and it paid off with a Super Bowl trophy two years ago. They took a step back last season but most are expecting them to bounce back in 2019. Carson Wentz has yet to get through a full season healthy and I think that’s the biggest key to the Eagles’ success. Wentz put up MVP-caliber numbers two seasons ago but couldn’t capture the award due to a late-season injury. He was rusty early on last year and probably not quite ready, but that won’t be the case coming into this season.
Wentz has one of the league’s best offensive lines protecting him and there are weapons galore around him in Philadelphia’s offense. The O-line has four Pro Bowlers led by veteran left tackle Jason Peters. Their depth isn’t as strong as years’ past, so health will be important. Receiving threats Alshon Jeffrey, Nelson Agholor and Zach Ertz (116 catches) are all back. The Eagles also brought back DeSean Jackson to Philadelphia, who is a perfect fit for Wentz’s big arm. Jackson averaged 18.9 yards per catch last season in Tampa – tops in the NFL. The Eagles added Jordan Howard at running back from the Bears, and he should get the lion’s share of the carries.
Jim Schwartz is one of the better defensive coordinators in the NFL but he needs to fix the pass defense for Philadelphia. They were 30th versus the pass last season, mainly due to a litany of injuries in the secondary. The pass rush also needs to improve as Schwartz doesn’t like to blitz and they weren’t able to generate much pressure organically. Trading away Michael Bennet and the retirement of Chris Long definitely hurts the Eagles, but they believe in their younger talent. They allowed the 12th fewest points in the league last year and Fletcher Cox is one of the main reasons why. He’s one of the best tackles in the league and frees up lanes around him. The secondary was destroyed by injuries and is healthy heading into the 2019 campaign. I expect the defensive numbers to get better from a yardage standpoint, and maybe slightly from the points allowed perspective. They have the third easiest schedule in the NFL this season, which should help considerably.
The Eagles are once again a legit Super Bowl contender and it starts with their front office. They’ve continued to push most of the right buttons to position the team to succeed. Wentz needs to be a leader and put up the numbers that everyone knows he can. If so, the Eagles will be flying high once again.
The Cowboys aren’t going to look all that different from a personnel standpoint on the field in 2019. In fact, they lost the least number of contributors from last season in the entire NFL (only 73 player games lost), and bring back every starter from last year’s playoff game versus the Rams. What will be different is the person calling the plays on offense. Kellen Moore is the new offensive coordinator and brings very limited coaching experience with him – just one year as the quarterbacks coach. But Moore has been tabbed as a bright mind who likes to innovate and was hand-picked by Jerry Jones as the Cowboys play caller. The passing game will likely look different, spreading things out with more looks downfield. Quarterback Dak Prescott will also try to utilize his legs more often to create big plays.
All-Pro running back Ezekiel Elliott has not yet reported to camp and this could be a long holdout based on the dialogue so far from Jerry Jones. I don’t think it will be as big of a deal as the media will make it out to be, but Zeke is certainly a difference maker. Wideout Amari Cooper changed this offense when he was acquired mid-season last year, and bringing back Hall of Fame tight end Jason Witten should help. The true strength of this season is the offensive line and they should be better this season with center Travis Frederick back from his auto-immune illness (keep an eye on this throughout the season).
Rod Marinelli is back as defensive coordinator after leading the defense to a top 10 rating in 2018. The Cowboys are strong at all three levels, but they do have some injury concerns heading into the season. Defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence and cornerback Byron Jones are both questionable for Week 1 and are the two best defenders on the team. Defensive end Randy Gregory is also suspended for the first four games of the season. The Cowboys have one of the best young linebacker duos in Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch, while Sean Lee has his moments as well. When healthy, this defense has top 5 potential.
This is the last year of Jason Garrett’s contract and he might have to guide them to a Super Bowl if he wants to keep his job. The Cowboys are still one of the youngest teams in the NFL, but they’re certainly capable of hoisting the Lombardi Trophy if they can maintain their health and Moore figures things out offensively.
When your team president is Bruce Allen and your head coach is Jay Gruden, you are already up against it as a franchise. In today’s NFL, you have to have an extremely competent front office and coaching staff to win. The best the Redskins can hope for in 2019 is that their talent covers up for a poorly constructed roster and suboptimal play calling.
Washington enters 2019 with the most interesting quarterback battle, which features three quarterbacks with nearly equal shots of winning the starting job. Veteran Case Keenum was acquired in the offseason, career backup Colt McCoy returns, and youngster Dwayne Haskins was drafted in the first round of the 2019 Draft. Keenum might have the slightest of edges to win the job based on his prior experience, but Gruden knows you’re not getting much upside with him. Haskins is the future and the sooner the Redskins get him in the lineup, the quicker he can develop. Don’t be surprised if we see all three men get work throughout the season. The best news the team has received all offseason is that Derrius Guice is seemingly ready to go for the 2019 season. The versatile and dangerous back has the burst, the vision and the patience to put up big numbers for Washington. Gruden is an old school coach who wants to establish the run early and often, so Guice should get a ton of opportunities if he’s healthy. But if Guice gets off to a strong start, you’ll certainly see defenses stack the box against the Skins to force their quarterbacks to throw the ball more often.
The offensive line is one of the better ones in the league when healthy. But that hasn’t been the case the last couple of years, and Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams is currently in a dispute with management over a lingering injury issue. If he doesn’t begin the season as the starting left tackle, the line could look a lot different. Without any big-time receivers, Jordan Reed needs to stay on the field and have a big 2019 campaign to aid the quarterbacks. Losing Jamison Crowder could prove a bigger loss than it looks like on paper.
If Washington is going to have a winning season, it’s their defense that will need to carry them. There are playmakers all over the field, but several guys have taken steps back in production recently. Josh Norman needs to regain his form as a truly elite cornerback. Mason Foster needs to behave off the field and take a step forward on it. The additions of Landon Collins in the secondary was huge, and cornerback Fabian Moreau is ascending into a Pro Bowl caliber-player.
The defensive line is the unquestioned strength of the entire team. They’re young but extremely talented with Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne and Matt Ioannidis up front. Montez Sweat was drafted in the first round and should be a stud as an outside linebacker. The secondary was a weak point last season, but I think it could be strength in 2019. If that’s the case, we could see the Skins defense keeping the team in a lot of tight, lower scoring games. Let’s just hope the front office and Gruden don’t screw anything up.
There aren’t many positives to speak of for the New York Giants heading into the 2019 season. General manager Dave Gettleman has been questioned repeatedly for controversial personnel moves and he may have outdone himself with the trading away of Odell Beckham Jr. this offseason. The haul they received from the Browns for Beckham seemed awfully short. Even the drafting of a potential franchise quarterback (Daniel Jones) with the #6 pick in the draft caused controversy and second-guessing by fans and the media. They could have easily traded down several spots and received additional picks from another team. To make matters worse, Gettleman said it could be two years before Jones sees the field. That’s despite the fact that Jones has looked really good in camp so far.
Eli Manning is in his 16th season and has played in 232 games throughout his career. His performance has clearly deteriorated in recent years, but his offensive line certainly hasn’t done him any favors. The Giants did add Kevin Zeitler and Mike Remmers to an O-line that showed improvement in the second half of last season. Those are big moves and the O-line could end up being a strength. The offense will clearly center around Saquon Barkley. The second-year back can do everything, but defenses will surely be keyed on him at all times. The big problem right now is at wide receiver. As if trading away Beckham wasn’t enough for the offense to overcome, the Giants have now lost their top three returning receiver options to injury or suspension during camp (Sterling Shepard, Golden Tate and Corey Coleman). Shepard could be back for Week 1, but there doesn’t figure to be much chemistry between Manning and his receiver corps early on.
The Giants’ biggest weakness in 2018 on defense was their meager pass rush. So how did they address it during the offseason? They traded away their best pass rusher, Olivier Vernon, of course. They also lost talented safety Landon Collins in free agency. Young guys will be leaned on heavily on defense and that typically doesn’t bode well in the NFL. The Giants did land safety Jabril Peppers in the Cleveland trade, but three-quarters of the secondary is brand new and will need reps together to be effective. The defensive line has also been reconstructed with draft picks (7 of their 10 draft picks were on the defensive side) and signings. They’re going to need everything to go right just to be league-average defensively. The Special Teams did bail them out big time in 2018, as they ranked #3 overall and are positioned to be very solid there again.
It’s somewhat tough to figure out if the Giants are trying to win now or build for the future. Being in between is the worst approach for a franchise. While the plan seems fuzzy now, I have a feeling it will be clear by mid-season that the Giants are going to rebuild as Manning will pass the torch to Jones. Set the over/under at Week 8 for the switch.
NFC East Best Bet
The best bet in the NFC East this year is the Dallas Cowboys OVER 9 regular season wins. The continuity for a young team is huge and I think Kellen Moore will bring about positive change calling the offensive plays. This team is deep and that’s an important quality when making a bet for the entire season. They can sustain a few injuries and not miss much of a beat. Dallas is much more likely to see 10 wins than they are eight wins.
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