Time To Bet Against The Cowboys?
By Jason McIntyre
After a wild offseason in which the best QB in NFL history changed teams, two of the best receivers in the sport were traded, one franchise moved, and a pandemic set the stage for a season unlike any other, what should your approach be to gambling on all 32 teams?
We're here to help — running through every team in every division with a few trends you need to know, picks on season win totals and chances to make the playoffs, and much more in "Fade or Follow." Today, it's the NFC East, with all odds via FOX Bet.
Against the spread record in 2019: 9-7
Why they can be profitable: The Cowboys were a staggeringly bad 1-6 in one-possession games under Jason Garrett, and 0-2 in games decided by 3 points or less. Maybe new coach Mike McCarthy will be better? The Cowboys were also the only team in the last 20 years with a point differential of 100 or more points that didn’t finish above .500. We know the talent is there.
Ominous trends/facts: There will be at least five new starters on defense, a unit that must replace its sack leader (Robert Quinn) and top corner (Byron Jones). The retirement of center Travis Frederick is noteworthy because when he missed 2018, they only ranked 18th in rushing efficiency. The Cowboys were tied for last in interceptions last year (7) and will be starting a rookie (Trevor Diggs) at cornerback.
2020 Over/Under: Under 9.5. A lean to the under because of the defensive concerns with new DC Mike Nolan – who hasn’t been a defensive coordinator since 2014. But there's also a question about how Dak Prescott responds to not getting a big money deal and playing on a franchise tag.
To make the playoffs: No (+180). The NFC is loaded. The early schedule is easy, but the landmines in November and December will remind everyone of last year’s late collapse, when they lost four of six.
Fade or Follow verdict: Fade. The Cowboys are the most public team in the NFL, and their lines will always be inflated, so my inclination is to bet against them often. But offensively, they were the only team among the Top 8 for DVOA to not make the playoffs.
Still, in the biggest games, the Dallas offense came up empty: 10 points vs. New Orleans, 9 points vs. New England, 15 points vs. Buffalo, 9 points vs. the Eagles.
Against the spread record in 2019: 7-9
Why they can be profitable: QB Daniel Jones gets his top five pass-catchers back from 2019, and with Jason Garrett calling plays, expect the Giants to go more vertical than dink-and-dunk. If he can remain healthy (along with budding star TE Evan Engram), Jones should put up big numbers.
Ominous trends/facts: The Giants are one of four teams that have a new head coach, offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator. The defense is likely to have five new starters, and 2019 1st round pick CB DeAndre Baker is in legal trouble. In fact, the entire defense has just 1 Pro Bowl appearance.
2020 Over/Under: Under 6.5. The 2nd toughest schedule in the NFL features two West Coast trips (Rams, October; Seahawks, December), and two short-week road games (Chicago, Washington). Let’s assume they sweep the Washington Football Team and win in Cincinnati. The Giants likely won’t be favored in any other game.
And the FOX Bet Live crew tends to agree with me:
To make the playoffs: No (-450). The Giants have had one winning record in the last seven seasons, and they seem unlikely to make the postseason. Still, this isn't a good use of your bankroll. What if there’s another injury to Carson Wentz or even Dak? Somebody’s got to win the division and sneak into the playoffs.
Fade or Follow verdict: Fade, for the most part. The Giants will be a team I look to bet overs on. Daniel Jones fumbled an NFL-high 18 times last year, and he’s got two new starters on the offensive line. A potentially explosive offense plus below-average defense equals some 35-28 shootouts. But between the challenging schedule and all the coaching moves, there will be plenty of chances to fade the Giants early.
Against the spread record in 2019: 7-10
Why they can be profitable: Carson Wentz was throwing to practice squad players and still managed to get the Eagles to the playoffs. Between cluster injuries to the defense and receivers all last season, there’s going to be value on the healthy Eagles in 2020.
Ominous trends/facts: The offseason Achilles injury to Brandon Brooks is massive, especially for the oft-injured Wentz, who has fumbled 34 times in the last three seasons (tied for most in the NFL). New LT Andre Dillard started one game at right tackle in 2019 and was benched at halftime. The Eagles gave up 18 plays of 40+ yards last season, tied for most in the NFL, and now they have three new defensive backs.
2020 Over/Under: Over 9.5. It feels like 10 wins, but let’s see how the patchwork offensive line holds up. The December schedule features three potential playoff teams – Packers, Saints, Cowboys – so if the Eagles don’t start 3-0, it’ll be a tense final month.
To make the playoffs: Yes (-175). Wentz became the 1st QB in NFL history to throw for 4,000 yards without having a receiver top 500 yards. The return of speedy DeSean Jackson, plus the drafting of Jalen Reagor and Swiss army knife Jalen Hurts, give the offense many more options.
Fade or Follow verdict: Follow. Since winning the Super Bowl and going 13-6 ATS in 2017, the Eagles have gone just 16-19 ATS. The public has largely hopped off the Eagles bandwagon, which is the time I want to climb back on.
Against the spread record in 2019: 6-10
Why they can be profitable: Washington was the most injured offense in the NFL in 2019, and the 4th most injured defense. Alex Smith had them in playoff contention in 2018 before his injury. Their defense – with four 1st round picks on the line – will keep Washington in many games.
Ominous trends/facts: Washington has a new head coach, offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator, and an uncertain QB situation despite Dwayne Haskins being named the Week 1 starter. Their leading rusher last year was 35-year old Adrian Peterson, and his backup, Derrius Guice, was recently released. Washington ranked last in 3rd down pass defense.
2020 Over/Under: Over 5. Two games against the Giants, plus hosting the Panthers and Bengals. Six of their first 10 games are at home. Last year, Washington was competitive against the 49ers, Bills, and Packers, and with that defense, they’re gonna steal a few wins.
To make the playoffs: Yes (+550). If you’re looking for a worst-to-first team to put some pizza on, why not Washington? They’d need help to pull it off, but Alex Smith – if healthy – is a game-changer.
Fade or Follow verdict: Follow. It’s not apples-to-apples, but the 49ers went 4-12 in 2018, were the 23rd rated defense, and then added Nick Bosa in the draft. They rose to 2nd in defense in 2019 and went to the Super Bowl. Washington isn’t going there, but Chase Young is that much of a game-changer, and he can take them from 24th rated defense into the Top 10.