The NFC East was pretty much the laughingstock of the league last year. The cumulative record among the four teams was 23 and 40, with a total of 17 wins coming against non-divisional opponents. That is awful. But with a new year comes new revived hope for the revamped rosters, and every team, including the Eagles, believes they have a legitimate shot at winning this season’s division title.
The Washington Football Team (I just love saying that) are the returning champs after claiming the division with a losing record – the third time that’s ever happened in NFL history. The question is, can they repeat as champions? The oddsmakers and general public don’t think so. With Washington’s payout a full +110 greater than the Cowboys, it’s Dallas that is the odds on early favorite, and I tend to agree.
But before we pick a winner, let’s review each team’s odds and explore their chances at realistically claiming the NFC East title.
Odds to win NFC East: -150
With the return of Dak Prescott, the buzz surrounding the Cowboys is exuberant. Even with Adam Schefter’s grim report of Dak not being fully healthy, you still have to love Dallas’ chances, and here’s why.
First off, what you need to know about Dak and his balky shoulder is while he may not be at full strength for part of the season, he seems to be rather close. Even at 75 or even 80 percent to begin the year, Dak, paired with the rest of the Cowboys’ outstanding cast, is still better than the rest of the division. I fully expect him to suit up week one, but if he does sit out the first week or two, it’s actually not a huge loss considering their schedule (they’ll probably start 0-2 regardless). Plus, you have to look at it this way, if Prescott was fully healthy and throwing lasers all over the field to start the preseason, the Cowboys’ odds would be somewhere around even money or worse. And who wants that?!
While the Dallas offense as a whole may live and die with Prescott, the rest of the starting squad is far from an afterthought. The offensive line should have its full complement of starters back to begin the season. O-line stars such as Zack Martin, Tyron Smith, and La’el Collins will likely be in the starting rotation come week one, a welcome sight considering the trio missed a combined 36 games last year. Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, and Michael Gallup form a nearly unstoppable group of wide receivers. And then, there’s the formidable duo of Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard in the backfield to help slow down the game when needed and pick up those tough third-and-shorts.
After ranking fifth in points allowed last year and tenth in total yards given up, the defense added more than a few standouts. The Cowboys drafted Micah Parsons (linebacker) out of Penn State, arguably the best defensive player taken in the draft. They added Brent Urban and Carlos Watkins to help shore up the run game and add some thump in the trenches. They signed Tarell Basham and Keanu Neal to combine with Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch to form an excellent linebacking core. And in the secondary, they added Damontae Kazee, a ballhawk when healthy, and Malik Hooker, who also has a nose for the ball.
Combining an athletic front with a steady balance of veterans and youth in the secondary, Dallas should have enough weapons to keep opposing teams from running up the score, even against the league’s toughest offenses. Will they be a powerhouse defense? No, probably not, but they do have enough to allow the Cowboys’ electric offense to outscore them.
Washington Football Team
Odds to win NFC East: +260
The Washington Football Team did add Ryan Fitzpatrick and the elusive Curtis Samuel to help boost their offense. Plus, their D-line is an up-and-coming group that will often wreak havoc in opposing teams’ backfields. The combination of Chase Young and Montez Sweat is the type of pass rush that keeps offensive coordinators up at night. But faced with a brutal first-half schedule and armed with a mediocre offensive line and slightly above average players at the skill positions, you have to favor Dallas when it comes to predicting the division winner.
If you are dead set on picking Washington and don’t feel comfortable wagering your hard-earned cash on a hindered quarterback, then it would behoove you to wait until later in the year. Washington ends the season with five divisional games and is faced with some very tough matchups early on. If Washington starts 4 and 7 or even worse, their odds will rise to a very favorable payout, and they’ll still have a decent chance. Washington hasn’t finished above .500 since they finished 8-7-1 in 2016, but we’ve all seen what Fitzmagic can do with the proper surrounding cast. So if you’re reluctant to take the Cowboys, go with the team formerly known as the Redskins. Just wait for the odds to increase and hold off on your wager until at least after week seven.
New York Giants
Odds to win NFC East: +450
If the Giants actually stay healthy this season, they could have a pretty decent offense. However, the team is still lacking on the defensive side of the ball, and Daniel Jones is probably still a year or two away from taking the necessary steps forward to win consistently. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of year Saquon Barkley has after back-to-back injury-plagued seasons. He’s already dealing with a knee injury, though, just as Kenny Golladay, the team’s most intriguing offseason signing, is dealing with a nagging hamstring.
Even at full strength, the Giants don’t pose much of a threat to the improved Cowboys or Washington Football team, but if they do somehow come out ahead, it wouldn’t be an enormous surprise. They’ll just need a bit of luck and for the majority of their young players to progress at a rapid pace.
Odds to win NFC East: +525
As exciting as Jalen Hurts may be to watch, the Eagles employ a roster that has glaring weaknesses at more than a handful of positions. The defense is already dealing with many injuries throughout their aging line, and their secondary, outside of 30-year-old Darius Slay, is mediocre at best. The offensive’s inexperienced receiving core will have its share of ups and downs. And the Eagles’ top back, Miles Sanders, while impressive at times, has yet to put together a 1,000-yard season or score more than six touchdowns.
The Eagles will need their banged-up offensive line from last year to improve and stay healthy to have any chance at competing. Asking players like right guard Brandon Brooks and right tackle Lane Johnson to start 17 games and perform like they used to may be a bit much to ask.
Philadelphia is surely the biggest underdog of the group but is in no way completely out of it before the season begins. They’ll just need a whole lot to go their way while the other three organizations underperform considerably.
Dallas Cowboys +150
The Cowboys’ offense with Dak Prescott back in the fold should be one of the higher scoring offenses in the league. The defense should also be improved with the team’s new roster additions and coordinator, Dan Quinn. Quinn should have no problem breathing life into, what was at times, a slow-moving unit last season. By simplifying the scheme and honing in on players’ strengths (something Quinn has done in the past), the defense should play faster and more aggressively.
With all the question marks surrounding Prescott and the tough schedules lined up for all four teams, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the division champ end up with a losing record once again. When choosing a winner, however, despite all their recent letdowns, I still like the boys from Dallas to come out ahead and claim the division with nine wins. Washington should be able to collect at least seven or eight victories, but faced with the most intimidating schedule of all, especially early on, it may prove too difficult to recover.
While Washington is struggling against the league’s finest, Dallas will be silencing the naysayers on both sides of the ball. Take the Cowboys now to win the division before Dak proves himself and the odds drop further.
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Austin Lowell is a featured writer at BettingPros. For more from Austin, check out his archive.