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2017 NFL Divisional Bets – NFC East

By Peter Brooks in Sports
| June 23, 2017 12:00 am PDT
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*This is part 2 of a series. See AFC East here.

Well the excitement of NFL free agency and the pageantry of the NFL Draft is now in the rearview mirror. Teams are now beginning to take the shape that they will ultimately bring into preseason play, and while work still needs to be done in order to fill out 90-man rosters, there aren’t likely to be very many surprises going forward in terms of team composition.

At this point in the NFL offseason, what you see is pretty much what you get.

What this means is that across all levels of NFL football  – from owners to GMs to coaches to players to fans and gamblers  – the time to speculate about what next season will hold is over. Now it’s time to prepare. For the players and coaches, this means OTAs (Offseason Team Activities), in which the team begins the work of installing the plays and personnel packages that they will carry into training camp and eventually the preseason.

For NFL gamblers, this means it’s time to start placing futures bets.

For those who are uninitiated to sports gambling, a futures bet is a bit of a misnomer: Technically, every bet made on the outcome of a sporting event is a bet on a future outcome. So, when gambling websites and bookies list “futures bets” as a category, what they are referring to are long-term wagers whose outcomes will not be determined until weeks or month in the future, as opposed to a bet on a sporting event happening the same day or during the same week.

With NFL futures, online books such as the Bovada Sportsbook generally wait until the dust has settled in terms of roster movement to set the odds. For example, it wouldn’t make sense for a bookie to set the odds for the Pittsburgh Steelers to make it to the AFC Championship game until they know whether or not Ben Roethlisberger is going to retire. The odds of the Steelers making the AFC Championship game should be much better if Roethlisberger is returning than if Pittsburgh had to find another starter at quarterback.

At the same time, however, the payout for a future bet will always be higher if the bet was made a long time in advance. This makes sense, because the earlier you place your wager, the more time could pass during which something unexpected happens.

Take for instance the odds for the New England Patriots to win Super Bowl 51. During preseason, in August of 2016, the Patriots were given only an 7% chance to win the Super Bowl, and their odds reflected this. Five teams (including the Arizona Cardinals) were considered to have an equal or greater chance of winning the Super Bowl.

By Week 5 of the regular season, in October of 2016, the Patriots’ odds had actually gone down slightly. It wasn’t until Week 13 that the Patriots would pull ahead of the pack and never relinquish their status as the prohibitive Super Bowl favorite.

All told, the Pats went from a 7% chance to win it all in August to a 61% chance in February. At some books, a $100 bet on the Patriots to win the Super Bowl placed August 1st, 2016 would have netted a $700 return. That same $100 placed on February 1st, 2017 would have netted only $169.

As with all gambling, better odds always mean a higher chance of failure. But in the case of NFL futures, this stage of the offseason offers one of the best opportunities of the entire year to outsmart the field and to find good value.

Specifically, below we will look at win total bets for each team in a given division, division winners for that division, and playoff odds for those division winners (and putative Wild Card playoff berths). In this edition, we’ll take a look at the NFC East, which was one of the best divisions in football last season.

One of the two divisions in the league last year that could have easily sent three teams to the playoffs (the other being the AFC West), in 2016/17 the NFC East featured the following:

  • The Dallas Cowboys ascended to the top of the NFC as the #1 overall seed off of impossibly strong play from two transcendent rookies, Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott.
  • The New York Giants rose up during the second half of the season in their classic Jekyll-and-Hyde pattern and made a run late in the season with a much-improved defense.
  • The Washington Redskins very nearly made the playoffs as well, but ended up losing out on the opportunity to play in the postseason by losing their Week 17 game.
  • Finally, the Philadelphia Eagles took a massive step in the right direction, starting to fill the holes left in the wake of the Chip Kelly era under the strong play of rookie QB Carson Wentz, who proved to the fan base that he is undoubtedly franchise quarterback material.

As we can clearly see, the NFC East is a division chock full of movers and shakers, and the conscientious gambler would do well to sit up and take notice of where this division is headed in 2017/18. In order to invest our 2017/18 futures bets wisely, it’s of paramount importance that we take a good look at each team in the NFC East, and consider whether or not there is good value to be had.

Let’s begin with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Philadelphia Eagles Futures Bets

The recent history of the Philadelphia Eagles unfortunately includes a three-year flirtation with one-man-franchise-wrecking-machine Chip Kelly, an era in the team’s history that fans are all too anxious to forget. Before heading off to bollocks up the San Francisco 49ers, Kelly’s bizarre personnel decisions and poor cap management put the Eagles in a serious hole.

After showing Kelly the door, general manager Howie Roseman took concerted steps to remedy some of the worst contractual situations that Kelly had left them in, and somehow at the same time managed to trade up for and draft the team’s future franchise quarterback in Carson Wentz. After all this was accomplished and the team enjoyed a record-breaking first month of the regular season, it seemed possible that the franchise could completely turn things around.

However, not all of the damage done by Chip Kelly could be reversed in a single offseason, and the Eagles ended up sputtering later in the season due primarily to deficiencies at the wide receiver position and the cornerback position. The team had made some serious steps forward and fans were justifiably excited about the era of Wentzylvania, but it was pretty clear that more work needed to be done.

In this context, let’s take a look at what the Eagles have done this offseason to continue building on the progress they’d made in 2016/17, and what this means for the Eagles’ future bets in 2017/18.

Philadelphia Offseason Personnel Moves

The Eagles started out the offseason in a pretty difficult situation. In the first place, there was the strangeness of having a general manager (Howie Roseman) who had never left the team during the entire Chip Kelly era, but was nonetheless taking back duties and responsibilities that he had willfully ceded to Kelly during his reign of terror.

Secondly, practically speaking, the Eagles started the 2017 offseason with a paltry amount of available cap space  – roughly $6 million, the second-smallest kitty in the entire league. Part of this was due to the dead money remaining from Kelly contracts that had since been voided, and part of this was simply due to the way that the team’s contractual obligations were spaced out over the years.

In any event, Roseman and the Eagles’ front office had a difficult task ahead of them, trying to carve out funds that could be used to improve the team despite having very little available cap space.

First, the team released cornerback Leodis McKelvin, who had been one of the primary culprits for the abysmal play of the secondary. The team also cut defensive end Connor Barwin on the opening day of free agency, opening up some cap resources. The team used this available space to immediately turn around and sign big name wide receivers Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith, as well as offensive guard Chance Warmack.

Finally, the Eagles made the following moves throughout the remainder of free agency: the team re-signed linebacker Najee Goode, brought back their old third-round draft pick Nick Foles for a second stint with the team, this time as the backup quarterback, and let old backup Chase Daniel walk. The team also shored up the defense by bringing in veteran cornerback Patrick Robinson from the Colts and stud defensive end Chris Long from the Patriots.

All told, it was impressive to see Howie Roseman work some cap magic to address the team’s needs at wide receiver as well as to bring in a few key defensive pieces. However, at the end of the major thrust of free agency, most Eagles fans had to wonder how their cornerback situation would resolve itself. The team had brought in the decidedly average Patrick Robinson, but given that they had also lost Nolan Carrol and Leodis McKelvin, the worst unit on the team had essentially gone through another net loss.

Philadelphia Draft Review

Given how successful Howie Roseman had been in the previous year’s draft, netting future franchise quarterback Carson Wentz and also finding significant contributors in cornerback Jalen Mills, offensive linemen Isaac Seumalo and Halapoulivaati Vaitai, defensive tackle Destiny Vaeao, and running back Wendell Smallwood, the fans had to feel confident that their cornerback situation could easily be taken care of with another strong draft.

By all accounts, the fans’ trust in Roseman continued to be well-founded, as the GM seems to have pulled off another solid draft. The Eagles brought in the following players:

  • Round 1, #14 Overall (trade with Vikings): Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee
  • Round 2, #43 Overall: Sidney Jones, CB, Washington
  • Round 3, #99 Overall (trade with Ravens): Rasul Douglas, CB, West Virginia
  • Round 4, #118 Overall: Mack Hollins, WR, North Carolina
  • Round 4, #132 Overall (trade with Vikings): Donnel Pumphrey, RB, San Diego State
  • Round 5, #166 Overall (trade with Dolphins): Shelton Gibson, WR, West Virginia
  • Round 5, #184 Overall (trade with Dolphins): Nathan Gerry, S, Nebraska
  • Round 6, #214 Overall (trade with Titans): Elijah Qualls, DT, Washington

As everyone knows, one of the best ways to help out a struggling secondary is to make their job easier by having a ferocious pass rush: If opposing quarterbacks aren’t able to hold onto the ball for more than a few seconds, then the coverage unit doesn’t have to hold fast for very long. The Eagles had one of the best pass rushes in the business in 2016/17, and by drafting Derek Barnett in the first round they only ensured that the pattern would continue.

The pick is made all the sweeter considering that the Eagles would not have had a first-round pick at all (given that they lost theirs in moving up for Carson Wentz in the 2016 NFL Draft) had it not been for the cool-headed trade with the Vikings that sent Sam Bradford to Minnesota. With Wentz’s sweeping success, the quarterback move had essentially no downside for Philly, so Teddy Bridgewater’s injury, while deeply unfortunate for the Vikings, ended up netting the Eagles Derek Barnett.

By using the following two picks on cornerbacks, the Eagles clearly addressed their need on the back end. With two more receivers and a running back coming next, they also continued to fill skill position needs identified during the last season. And finally, by using their last two picks on additional defensive personnel, the Eagles never diverged from their plan and stayed on target throughout the draft.

In sum, by all accounts the Eagles did an excellent job in using the 2017 NFL Draft to continue rebuilding their roster post-Chip Kelly, and took a significant step forward in addressing the team’s needs.

2017/18 Philadelphia Eagles Prediction

As we’ve seen through this brief recap of the Eagles’ offseason, the team has truly done an excellent job of addressing their primary needs. With two big-name wide receivers acquired in free agency and two more in the draft, three new cornerbacks to replace two duds, and a #1 draft pick and Chris Long to replace fan favorite Connor Barwin on the defensive line, the team looks much better on paper now than they did at the end of last season.

But it’s not just roster movement that has us excited for the Eagles’ 2017/18 campaign. While this is not well-known around the league, statistically speaking the Eagles played much better than their 7 -9 record last season.

According to Pythagorean Expectation, an advanced sabermetric statistic that takes into account exclusively points scored and points allowed, the Eagles pointed like a 9-win team last season, and yet they only won 7 games in reality. Based purely on statistics, last season Philly played better than the Raiders, the Lions, the Dolphins, the Texans, and even their division rival New York Giants, despite the fact that all five of these teams made the playoffs while the Eagles finished last in their division.

And as if this wasn’t enough, the Eagles also played the second-most difficult schedule in the entire league last year, making it all the more impressive that they pointed better than the five playoff teams listed above.

What we’re saying is that because they played in one of the best divisions in football last year, featured a rookie quarterback, and faced an incredibly tough slate of opponents, the Eagles were one of the best-kept secrets in the entire NFL in 2016/17. They may have looked bad, but upon further inspection they were one of the 10 best teams in the league.

Next season, while the NFC East does match up against both the NFC West and the AFC West (which means a total of four tough trips to the west coast for the Eagles), their schedule ranks around the 12th-most difficult in the league, a considerable improvement from last season. It’s extremely unlikely that the team would underperform two years in a row, especially with an easier schedule.

For these reasons, we heartily recommend the Eagles as one of our best sleeper bets of the entire 2017/18 season. With NFC Championship odds among the bottom 5 teams in the conference (+2500) and Super Bowl odds among the bottom third of the league (+5000) there’s certainly value to be had in either bet.

Look for Philly to leapfrog the dysfunctional Washington Redskins in 2017/18, who recently fired yet another general manager, and perhaps even to dethrone the New York Giants or the Dallas Cowboys, whose quarterbacks may finally prove themselves to be either too old or too young, respectively, to play at the improbable level that they demonstrated last season.

Philadelphia Eagles Season Win Total: Over 8 Wins (-125); Under 8 Wins (-105)  – OVER

Washington Redskins Futures Bets

The Washington Redskins always seem to find themselves in the news for the wrong things. Instead of winning championships, the last few years have seen the Washington Professional Football Team in the news for the controversy surrounding the team’s name and mascot. But much more frustrating for lifelong fans are the questionable decisions made by owner Dan Snyder, who after nearly two decades has cemented his reputation as one of the worst owners in the history of professional sports.

After a rotating carousel of four general managers, eight head coaches, and almost a dozen starting quarterbacks, fans undoubtedly felt optimistic when the promising combination of GM Scott McCloughan, head coach Jay Gruden, and quarterback Kirk Cousins was returned wholesale in 2016/17 after a strong campaign the preceding year.

Unfortunately, however, this brief period of stability  – barely enough for the tired fan base to catch its breath  – was followed up by yet another fantastically juvenile personnel decision from Dan Snyder, who fired Scott McCloughan on the opening day of free agency. As if this wasn’t enough, both coordinators and a host of other minor coaches got the axe after the 2016/17 season ended, despite the fact that the team had taken a huge step forward during the regular season and were one game away from a  playoff berth.

But even though Redskins fans undoubtedly feel about Dan Snyder much the same way that Captain Kirk feels about Khan, the re-signing of the ‘skins version of Captain Kirk (QB Kirk Cousins) and the emergence last season of “Fat Rob” Kelly need to have given fans some hope that they will be able to compete at a high level in 2017/18 despite having made yet another front office shakeup.

Let’s take a look at the offseason that the Redskins have had in order to determine whether or not fans have a right to be optimistic, and what this all means for our futures bets.

Washington Offseason Personnel Moves

To provide a little bit of context on the Redskins’ offseason personnel moves, it’s important to remember that the pattern established over the course of Dan Synder’s tenure as owner has been for the team to trade away draft picks for high profile free agent deals, despite the fact that these deals rarely pan out.

What this means is that for almost a generation of football fans, the team has been mortgaging away its future in order to make a series of haphazard attempts to win now, believing that immediate, flashy moves are more likely to fill the seats during the regular season than spending the time necessary to build a consistently competitive franchise from the ground up.

In this context, it’s little surprise that Scott McCloughan was shown the door, because instead of following this win-now strategy, he instead did something intelligent: he started the process of slowly and steadily building up the core of the team; revamping the offensive line, drafting solid contributors, and even finding stud undrafted players like Fat Rob.

But two consecutive winning seasons and one playoff berth wasn’t sufficiently immediate success for Dan Snyder, and so Scott McCloughan was fired on the first day of free agency, leaving the team with a serious leadership gap at one of the most critical points of the offseason. In this context, the Redskins made the following moves in free agency.

First, the team saw long-time center Kory Lichtensteiger retire from the game, which was no great loss given the phenomenal play of rookie Spencer Long, who had stepped in while Lichtensteiger was out with injury and immediately secured himself the starting spot for years to come. The team then franchise tagged Kirk Cousins, and re-signed Vernon Davis, Ty Nsekhe, and Vinston Painter.

In the opening hours of free agency, the Redskins brought on free agents Terrell McClain (Cowboys D-lineman), Stacy McGee (Raiders D-lineman), D. J. Swearinger (Cardinals safety), and Terrelle Pryor (Browns wide receiver). Later, they also brought on Chris Carter (Colts linebacker), Brian Quick (Rams wide receiver), and Tharold Simon (Cardinals cornerback).

Several of these moves were meant to address losses suffered by the team in free agency, including the departures of wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon, defensive linemen Chris Baker and Ricky Jean-Francois, and linebacker Terrence Garvin.

In general, purely based on free agent movement, the Redskins seemed to be improved in the secondary unit with the acquisitions of D. J. Swearinger and Tharold Simon and no significant losses. However, there didn’t appear to be an immediate net gain or net loss in both the defensive front seven or the receiving corps, as both units saw several players leave and several new players arrive.

In sum, even watching their GM walk out the door on the opening day of free agency, the Redskins seemed to fare adequately well in free agency. However, the month of April was a nerve-wracking time for Redskins fans, as they wondered whether or not their draft-day fortunes would be impacted by the departure of their GM barely a month before.

Washington Draft Review

All told, the legitimate concerns of the fans about whether or not the team would be able to perform well on draft day after the surprise departure of their general manager turned out to be unfounded, as by all accounts the ‘skins had a very strong draft. The team selected the following players:

  • Round 1, #17 Overall: Jonathan Allen, DT, Alabama
  • Round 2, #49 Overall: Ryan Anderson, OLB, Alabama
  • Round 3, #81 Overall: Fabian Moreau, CB, UCLA
  • Round 4, #114 Overall (trade with Jets): Samaje Perine, RB, Oklahoma
  • Round 4, #123 Overall: Montae Nicholson, S, Michigan State
  • Round 5, #154 Overall (trade with Saints): Jeremy Sprinkle, TE, Arkansas
  • Round 6, #199 Overall (trade with Vikings): Chase Roullier, C, Wyoming
  • Round 6, #209 Overall (trade with Texans): Robert Davis, WR, Georgia State
  • Round 7, #230 Overall (trade with Vikings): Josh Harvey-Clemons, S, Louisville
  • Round 7, #235 Overall: Joshua Holsey, CB, Auburn

Given the fact that one of the Redskins’ primary needs was to shore up the defensive front seven, particularly in run defense, selecting two Alabama front seven players with the first two picks was one of the best moves they could have made. Jonathan Allen, in particular, was a steal at #17, being ranked by many as a top five prospect in the entire draft.

By using their next three picks on a running back and two secondary players, the Redskins were able to utilize all of their five highest picks (which, it should be noted, all fell inside the top 125 picks in the draft) to address their three primary areas of need: defensive front seven, running back, and defensive secondary. With two more secondary players in the final round of the draft, the Redskins should have plenty of young prospects to plug into an improved defense.

In general, even in the absence of a general manager (as of the time of this writing, the Redskins’ GM position is still vacant), the team was still able to pull off a strong draft, and appears to have addressed their major areas of need. Of course, time will tell whether these picks pan out the way the team hopes they will, but it is certainly a good sign for the fans that 2017/18 has the potential to be a good year.

2017/18 Washington Redskins Prediction

When we look at the season that we expect to see out of the Washington Redskins based on roster movement, we find that the team has essentially done enough to remain at the same level of competitiveness that it was at last season. The departures at the wide receiver position were addressed with free agent acquisitions, as were the departures on the defensive front seven.

In addition, the defensive front seven received attention in the draft, as did the defensive secondary. The team also drafted a wide receiver, a tight end, and a running back, and brought on two additional secondary players in free agency without seeing much of a net loss in that unit.

And so in terms of roster movement, it would be hard to say that the team got significantly better during the offseason due to how many players were lost, but it’s also true that most of the primary areas of need were addressed. In this way, we say that the Redskins were successful in maintaining the status quo that they’ve established over the last two seasons.

But roster movement isn’t the only factor we consider to determine whether the team is slated to improve next season. Based on the advanced sabermetric statistic Pythagorean Expectation, we see that the Redskins won exactly as many games as they should have last season, and so we wouldn’t expect them to see a bump purely based on statistical abnormalities.

In terms of schedule, the Redskins played the 3rd-most difficult schedule in the league last season, being one of only two teams to play seven games against eventual playoff teams. Washington ended up going 2 -5 in those seven games, one of the big reasons why they ended up with only 8 wins and missed the playoffs.

However, the news doesn’t get any better for Redskins fans this coming season: Based on accumulated win totals from last season, the Redskins are set to play the 7th-most difficult schedule in the league in 2017/18. So based on advanced statistics and scheduling factors, there’s no reason to believe that the Redskins should improve significantly next season compared to last.

This is likely the reason why the Redskins’ NFC Championship odds are among the bottom five in the conference (+2200) and their Super Bowl odds are among the bottom third of the league (+5000); we would need that much incentive to consider taking the ‘skins for either of these future bets, and we don’t recommend putting money on Washington for either.

Overall, we believe that the Redskins will end up finishing 2017/18 in much the same place that they finished 2016/17; with the fan base continuing to be frustrated that the team is stuck in limbo on the cusp of relevancy, and with Dan Snyder throwing another temper tantrum that the team was unable to break through into the upper echelon. We believe that a line of 7.5 wins is perfectly well-set, and we’d predict a push if it were possible.

Washington Redskins Season Win Total: Over 7.5 Wins (-125); Under 7.5 Wins (-105)  – OVER

New York Giants Futures Bets

Since the solidification of the Eli Manning era in New York, the Giants have been perennially on the hunt for another improbable Super Bowl trip, a la the 2007 and 2011 victories that featured an underdog team hitting its stride right at the right moment of the season and going on to make a run in the postseason as a Wild Card, both literally and figuratively.

Unfortunately, while the hopes of the team and the fan base may remain this high each and every season, the age of their star quarterback continues to climb: Eli will be 37 years old by the time the playoffs roll around, a mere two years younger than his older brother Peyton was when he retired.

Now, it’s also important to remember that Eli Manning is the current “Iron Man:” the quarterback who holds the standing record for most consecutive starts. His style of play combines with clearly atypical physical stamina to make Eli one of the most durable quarterbacks in the game. Even still, fans are justifiably starting to get desperate to win championships now and worry about their QB’s durability later.

It was for this reason that last offseason the Giants went on a huge spending spree on the defense, re-signing fan favorite Jason Pierre-Paul and throwing serious cash at three additional marquee defensive free agents. The goal, of course, was to reverse the long-standing reputation the Giants had for giving away games late in the 4th quarter because of an inability for the defense to close out the game.

To make a long story short, the front office’s gamble paid off, and the Giants ended the 2016/17 regular season with the second-ranked statistical defense in the league and a new reputation for playing tough as nails down the stretch. This time around, it was the offense that struggled to keep up, with the team struggling to score points and Eli getting essentially zero support from his offensive line.

In addition, the Giants’ running game struggled mightily throughout much of the first half of the season, until finally the emergence of rookie Paul Perkins started to rev up what had been a sputtering rushing attack. It was in this position that the Giants headed into the 2017 offseason, with offensive needs to address and an expensive defense to keep together.

Let’s take a look at the moves that the Giants made in the offseason to try and get back to the top of the mountain in 2017/18, and what this means for our NFC East futures bets.

New York Offseason Personnel Moves

As one of the few teams to have made eight playoff and three Super Bowl appearances in the 21st century, the Giants have earned a certain level of trust among the fans that makes their offseason decision-making process much more relaxed than other teams. Whereas franchises like the Buffalo Bills or the Cleveland Browns see every single move go immediately under the microscope, Giants fans rest a little easier knowing that their front office knows what it’s doing.

The first moves that the Giants made before free agency even started was to waive the aged Rashad Jennings, terminate Victor Cruz’s contract (ostensibly to free up much-needed cap space), and then to franchise tag Jason Pierre-Paul (who was eventually re-signed to a new contract the following month).

Subsequently, the Giants brought on cross-town wide receiver Brandon Marshall, from the New York Jets, and either signed or re-signed tight end Rhett Ellison, offensive lineman D. J. Fluker, running back Orleans Darkwa, offensive lineman John Jerry, quarterback Josh Johnson, linebacker Mark Herzlich, cornerback Valentino Blake, quarterback Geno Smith, and linebacker Keenan Robinson.

Given the fact that Victor Cruz has caught only two touchdowns over the last three seasons (due to injuries and surgeries that caused him to miss much of the 2014/15 season and all of the 2015/16 season), cutting him to make room for veteran stud receiver Brandon Marshall was clearly an excellent move by the Giants, and significantly improves a receiving corps that relied much too heavily on third-year phenome Odell Beckham Jr.

Once again, as is usually the case with elite teams who are perennial playoff contenders, the Giants didn’t need to do too much in free agency to feel confident that they would return the following season to be contenders once again. However, the need at offensive line still needed to be addressed (though the addition of D. J. Fluker certainly helped), and the need at running back was especially piquant (though the emergence of Paul Perkins as the putative featured back certainly helped).

New York Draft Review

In this context, with needs at offensive skill positions and holes to fill on the offensive line, the Giants acquitted themselves reasonably well in the 2017 NFL Draft, bringing on the following players:

  • Round 1, #23 Overall: Evan Engram, TE, Ole Miss
  • Round 2, #55 Overall: Dalvin Tomlinson, DT, Alabama
  • Round 3, #87 Overall: Davis Webb, QB, California
  • Round 4, #140 Overall: Wayne Gallman, RB, Clemson
  • Round 5, #167 Overall: Avery Moss, DE, Youngstown State
  • Round 6, #200 Overall (trade with Titans): Adam Bisnowaty, OT, Pittsburgh

Engram, tight end out of Ole Miss that the Giants selected with the #23 pick overall, is currently getting buzz as a potential rookie of the year candidate, with odds currently sitting at +2500 at the Bovada Sportsbook. In addition to another mid-round draft pick at running back to complement mid-round 2016 draft pick Paul Perkins, the Giants certainly took a step in the right direction with skill players.

Of course, with a 36-year old quarterback, it’s also very prudent to go back to the well for the possible future face of the franchise, and by spending a third-rounder on the cause the Giants demonstrated just how serious they are in this area.

Finally, while it’s true that the team waited until the 7th round to address their need for additional depth on the offensive line, the fact remains that they did bring in a player to compete, which is important. In addition, an argument can be made that star offensive lineman are found in the later rounds (or undrafted) much more often than for other position groups.

In summary, the Giants did an adequate job of addressing their needs in the draft, although fans likely would have liked to see more draft capital spent on the offensive line.

2017/18 New York Giants Prediction

To recap the offseason roster moves made by the Giants, flipping Victor Cruz into Brandon Marshall was a big step up, and the drafting of tight end Evan Engram with their first-round pick should add some more balance to the Giants’ passing offense.

However, if the G-Men hope to be a complete team come playoff time, then the minimal investments made in the run game and offensive line so far this offseason will have to start paying serious dividends, and quick. Otherwise, we’re not sure that the team will have what it takes.

Also contributing to our misgivings about the Giants is the fact that according to the advanced sabermetric statistic Pythagorean Expectation, the Giants should have won only 9 games last season, based purely on points scored and points allowed. In reality, they won 11 games, but they played more like a 9-win team.

The fact of the matter is that if the Giants’ record had reflected their play, and if one of those two “illegitimate” wins had instead gone to the Redskins (especially the Week 17 matchup), the Giants would have been the ones missing the playoffs.

Of course, one could fall back on the fact that the Giants played the 5th-most difficult schedule in the league last season, but this upcoming season (based on the aggregated win totals of their opponents) they’re playing the 9th-most difficult schedule, so there shouldn’t be any major change in the team’s fortunes due to strength of schedule.

In sum, while the Giants may have the rest of the league fooled based on how they stormed onto the scene late in the season last year, we consider the G-Men a 9-win team that accidentally won 11 games, and more of a fringe playoff contender than the powerhouse Wild Card lock they resembled last season.

The Giants have NFC Championship odds currently sitting in the top five of the league (+900), and only nine teams have more favorable Super Bowl odds (+2000). However, we don’t have any confidence in the Giants, and believe that their success last year was based more on statistical luck than anything.

Yes, it’s true that Brandon Marshall and Evan Engram add two more passing threats so that Eli won’t have to throw the ball to Odell Beckham Jr. 10+ times a game, but neither of these players are much of a presence as blockers, and with insufficient attention to the offensive line there’s reason to believe that the Giants will be one-dimensional on offense again next season  – a cardinal sin in today’s NFL.

With 10 of their 16 games coming against the AFC West and their increasingly strong division, we’re not confident that the Giants will be up to the challenge in 2017/18, and we’d advise staying away.

New York Giants Season Win Total: Over 9 Wins (-105); Under 9 Wins (-125)  – UNDER

Dallas Cowboys Futures Bets

The Dallas Cowboys came on strong in 2016/17, ending up as one of the most exciting storylines of the entire season.

Going into last season, Cowboys fans had high hopes that the health of their beloved franchise quarterback Tony Romo would finally hold up throughout the length of an entire season, and the team would finally be able to put it all together and make a run for a championship before the clock ran out on the Romo era in Dallas.

Unfortunately, however, this dream did not even last through the preseason, with Romo going down with yet another back injury and ultimately playing only one series in the entire 2016/17 season.

However, in the long run, this ended up being a blessing in disguise for the Cowboys, as the stellar 2016 NFL Draft for Jerry Jones (including two phenomenal skill players: quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott) ended up being the best thing that could have happened for the Cowboys, as the team has undoubtedly found its franchise quarterback of the future and will now be able to execute a seamless transition from one solid starter to the next  – a rare feat in today’s NFL.

Of course, it would be unfair and untrue to accredit all the Cowboys stupendous success in 2016/17 to their two star rookies. Both Prescott and Elliott were aided tremendously by the play of the top offensive line in football, which consistently dominated the game in the trenches and enabled the team to utilize a ground-and-pound offensive strategy to great effectiveness.

However, the winds of change may be blowing in Dallas, as the contractual situation designed last season by long-time owner/de facto GM Jerry Jones was not exactly built to last. Let’s take a look at the offseason that the Cowboys have endured, and try and ascertain where the smart money is for future bets.

Dallas Offseason Personnel Moves

Likely due in part to their difficult cap situation, the Cowboys had a relatively quiet offseason in terms of player acquisition. Notwithstanding the fact that Dallas received an inordinate amount of media attention regarding their quarterback situation and the question of whether Tony Romo would retire, in reality the Cowboys brought on a very small number of free agent compared to other teams.

In the first week of free agency, the Cowboys signed cornerback Nolan Carroll and defensive linemen Stephen Paea and Demontra Moore. The team also re-signed offensive guard Jonathan Cooper and running back Darren McFadden. Subsequently, the Cowboys signed offensive tackle Byron Bell, and re-signed fan favorite Jason Witten to a four-year extension.

Ultimately, it wasn’t until the first week of April that the Cowboys released quarterback Tony Romo, who announced his retirement from the game of football and his decision to pursue a broadcasting career. Weeks later, the Cowboys signed safety Robert Blanton, concluding the bulk of their major free agent acquisitions.

Given how dominant the Cowboys were last season, it would be easy to think that these few acquisitions would be more than adequate to keep the Cowboys at the same level of play that they enjoyed last season. However, this would assume that the team did not have any significant losses in free agency. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

The Cowboys lost the following players in free agency: QB Tony Romo (retired), QB Mark Sanchez (Chicago Bears), RB Lance Dunbar (L.A. Rams), TE Gavin Escobar (Kansas City Chiefs), OG Ronald Leary (Denver Broncos), OT Doug Free (retired), DE Ryan Davis (Buffalo Bills), DT Jack Crawford (Atlanta Falcons), DT Terrell McClain (Washington Redskins), CB Brandon Carr (Baltimore Ravens), CB Morris Claiborne (New York Jets), SS Barry Church (Jacksonville Jaguars), and FS J. J. Wilcox (Tampa Bay Buccaneers).

And it’s not as though these players were only minor contributors, or were easily dispensable. Even including backup quarterbacks Tony Romo and Mark Sanchez, who combined for only 46 snaps all season, the 13 players listed above average 461 snaps per player, or 28 snaps per game. Doug Free and Brandon Carr both individually played over 1,000 snaps.

In short, it’s clear to see that the Cowboys have taken a clear and obvious step backward this offseason in terms of net player movement, losing two starters on the offensive line and three starters in the secondary. While their few acquisitions took a step towards addressing these needs, there is nonetheless a considerable drop off.

Dallas Draft Review

Given how many key players the Cowboys lost in free agency, fans were understandably interested greatly in the 2017 NFL Draft, hoping that Jerry Jones would be able to pull off the same magic that he worked in 2016 and immediately improve the team’s fortunes. The Cowboys drafted the following players:

  • Round 1, #28 Overall: Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan
  • Round 2, #60 Overall: Chidobe Awuzie, CB, Colorado
  • Round 3, #92 Overall: Jourdan Lewis, CB, Michigan
  • Round 4, #133 Overall: Ryan Switzer, WR, North Carolina
  • Round 6, #191 Overall (trade with Jets): Xavier Woods, S, Louisiana Tech
  • Round 6, #216 Overall (trade with Patriots): Marquez White, CB, Florida State
  • Round 7, #228 Overall (trade with Bills): Joey Ivie, DT, SEC
  • Round 7, #239 Overall (trade with Patriots): Noah Brown, WR, Ohio State

The decision to draft Taco Charlton with the first pick was questioned by both fans and experts, given that the Cowboys had lost three starters in the defensive secondary through free agency and there were still phenomenal cornerbacks like Kevin King on the board. Some feel that the decision to draft Charlton instead of taking King was motivated by the regression of DeMarcus Lawrence last season and the full-year suspension of Randy Gregory, making the Cowboys feel that they had an additional need at D-Line.

The Cowboys then immediately began addressing their needs in the secondary by drafting two corners in the next two rounds  – both of whom, by all accounts, were good value picks. By drafting two additional secondary players and another defensive lineman in subsequent rounds, it’s evident that the team took a step towards addressing its needs on defense.

Notable, however, is the fact that the Cowboys did not draft any offensive linemen, leaving that unit thin and vulnerable to being decimated by injury. Overall, it seems that the Cowboys’ draft strategy was motivated primarily by need, rather than the best player available mentality that builds lasting franchises. This is a red flag for any Dallas fan.

2017/18 Dallas Cowboys Prediction

In looking at the net player movement for the Dallas Cowboys this offseason, it’s evident that the team has dug itself into a hole that should give both fans and interested gamblers pause.

While Jerry Jones undoubtedly struck gold with his inspired drafting in 2016, the major reason why the team was so dominant over the course of the season was the fact that their contract situation was built in a short-sighted fashion, evidenced by the fact that 13 players (including 5 starters) left in free agency. The team was not prepared for this, and their cap situation did not enable them to recoup these losses in free agency.

This meant that the Cowboys needed to play catch-up in the draft, focusing on their needs at cornerback and defensive line rather than feeling comfortable making Best Player Available decisions (such as drafting a running back in the first round as they did in 2016). The fact of the matter is that the Cowboys got significantly worse in free agency, and they couldn’t catch up in the draft.

But it’s not just roster movement that has us leery of the Cowboys. According to the advanced sabermetric statistic Pythagorean Expectation, last season the Cowboys pointed like an 11-win team, despite the fact that they won 13 games. In short, the team didn’t play as good as they looked. In addition, last season they played the 8th-most difficult schedule in the league, but according to the statistics, this season their schedule is just as difficult.

For one final note, it’s important to consider the fact that Dak Prescott  – despite the fact that he truly did have an outstanding season last year  – will be heading into his sophomore season with two of his five starting linemen gone, and without seasoned veteran Tony Romo lending his considerable experience and leadership ability in the film room, in the meeting rooms, in the locker room, and on the sideline.

Much in the same way that Brock Osweiler looked like an All-Pro when he was backing up Peyton Manning and then looked terrible when he had a team of his own, there’s certainly the potential for Dak Prescott to take a step backward in 2017/18  – even if he is ultimately destined to be a great QB.

When you add all this together, you get a much, much different picture of what to expect out of the Cowboys than what their odds reflect. Odds-makers are generally over-generous to teams like the Cowboys and the Packers during the offseason because of how popular these teams are and how wide their fan bases are. It’s advantageous for the books to drive serious action for the Cowboys.

But in this case, we strongly advise that interested gamblers stay away from the Cowboys’ futures. Dallas’s NFC Championship odds are currently the best in the NFC (+450) and their Super Bowl odds are tied with the Seattle Seahawks and the Oakland Raiders for the third-best odds in the league (+1200). We wouldn’t touch any of these odds with a 39-and-a-half foot pole.

Ultimately, we predict that the Cowboys will enter into a serious skid next season. Despite all of the buzz that they enjoyed in 2016/17, and despite the fact that many fans have very high expectations for what the team will be able to accomplish in 2017/18, we believe that the line of 9.5 wins is very well-set. We believe that the one-sided action on the over demonstrates just how wrong the gambling public is on Dallas, and we find exceptionally good value on the under, set at +120 at the Bovada Sportsbook.

Dallas Cowboys Season Win Total: Over 9.5 Wins (-150); Under 9.5 Wins (+120)  – UNDER

2017/18 NFC East Division Winner

In summary, unlike certain divisions that are essentially a foregone conclusion (such as the AFC East), when we looked back at the NFC East we found a major shake-up about to take place, and a playoff race that will be incredibly entertaining.

Specifically, we predict a broad-scale inversion in the NFC East. We believe that the Dallas Cowboys are due to regress by a sum of four games in 2017/18, and the Philadelphia Eagles are going to surge. We predict that the Washington Redskins are going to remain exactly on par with last season, and the New York Giants are going to regress slightly and remain one-dimensional on offense.

Currently, the odds for the NFC East race are as follows:

  • Philadelphia Eagles +400
  • Washington Redskins +400
  • New York Giants +250
  • Dallas Cowboys +115

Based purely on value, we undoubtedly believe that the Philadelphia Eagles are the best value bet to win the division. At +400, both odds-makers and gamblers are putting no stock in the Eagles to take the NFC East, when we truly believe that each of these four teams will be between 8 and 10 wins, making it anybody’s race to win. For this reason, the Eagles are certainly the best value bet of the division.

However, as always in sports gambling, the only way to make money is to pick the winner. And we believe that while the competition will be intense, ultimately the NFC East will come down to the Philadelphia Eagles and the New York Giants, and we have to take the veteran quarterback and the veteran secondary.

2017/18 NFC East Division Winner: New York Giants

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