How ’bout dem Cowboys? This often uttered question was never meant to have an actual answer, much like “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” or “How are you doing?”
But let’s actually ponder this for a moment. How… about… dem… Cowboys?
Well, dem Cowboys are currently in possession of the best record in football at 8-1, and are even with the Seahawks as favorites to come out of the NFC. They have the best offensive line in all of football, paving the way for a pair of rookies to accomplish historic things.
Dak Prescott has tied Kyle Orton for the second-longest winning streak by a rookie QB (eight games), while Ezekiel Elliott is on pace to give Eric Dickerson’s rookie rushing record a real go.
Dallas is not without its flaws on the defensive side of the ball, but this is still widely viewed as a group capable of bringing “America’s Team” back to the Super Bowl for the first time in over two decades.
And yet, they’re still ways away from even clinching their division.
The NFC East is suddenly one of the top divisions in football, with only three games separating the first -place Cowboys from the cellar-dwelling Eagles. And things aren’t getting any easier for Dallas; at the time of writing, seven of the Cowboys’ final eight opponents have winning records.
That’s why the futures offered for NFC East winner seem so peculiar. The Cowboys are dominant favorites to take the crown, in some places going off as short as -500. The next closest team is the Giants, getting a juicy +600 to earn a home playoff date. It certainly looks like there’s value hiding in that NFC East field.
For starters – even though saying this has become as tedious as an hourly weather report (and about as accurate) – Dak Prescott can’t keep this up. Every rookie quarterback has that truly awful game eventually.
Peyton Manning had more bad than good in his first year. Ben Roethlisberger was bailed out a few times during his record rookie run. Joe Flacco, Matt Ryan, Andrew Luck, and Russell Wilson all had their share, even as they led playoff teams. Those guys set the gold standards for rookie seasons, and they all had games where their passer rating was below 55.
Prescott has yet to have that let-down game; his worst outing so far was his first career start where he finished with a 69.4 rating. Even if it’s only one bad outing, every loss matters at this point; and I don’t think the Cowboys defense is on the level of the 2004 Steelers, a unit that was good enough to overcome a few costly turnovers.
Even with their rookies playing extremely well, Dallas has still been squeaking out some wins in the last three weeks. If Dak and Zeke keep playing at this level, it’s still possible Dallas could drop a few games.
Obviously, the division games loom largest for Dallas down the stretch. Two of three will be on the road, and while they get to host Washington on Thanksgiving, the Redskins have won three of the last four in Arlington.
I personally like the Giants as the team to potentially overtake the Cowboys. New York already won the first matchup between these teams, and the edge in the tiebreaker is just one of the many reasons that betting New York is good value right now. The Giants’ next two opponents (the Bears and Browns) are a combined 2-17, and while it would be so Giants to lose a game to Chicago or Cleveland, it’s very likely they’ll be 8-3 heading into December.
The Arizona Cardinals are in a similar situation to the Giants: two games back of a division leader everyone sees as a Super Bowl favorite. Yet the Cards odds of catching Seattle are +400. Not only is New York getting better value, they’re playing better football. Their defense is rounding into form, and Odell Beckham has gotten his swagger back.
The Giants are the team I’ll be putting money behind for the stretch run. Which team do you think offers the best value? Here are the odds to win the NFC East heading into Week 11.
Odds to win NFC East
- Dallas Cowboys: 1/5
- New York Giants: 6/1
- Washington Redskins: 10/1
- Philadelphia Eagles: 16/1
Photo Credit: Mike Morbeck (originally posted to Flickr as Eli Manning) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.