Imagine handicapping a four-horse race and all four horses are running backward. That’s the NFC East.
Normally, when a team loses it’s star quarterback, its odds to win the division plummet. Eddie Mush would have ripped up his Dallas ticket as soon as Eastern High alum and Giants D-back Logan Ryan landed on Dak Prescott’s right leg, which resulted in a gruesome compound fracture of Prescott’s ankle and the end to his season.
But that didn’t happen here. This is the division that can’t shoot straight. One team doesn’t have a nickname, another doesn’t have a win, and yet another punts the ball at home in overtime to clinch a tie. All are chasing the team, Dallas, that lost its most important player. Combined, the NFC Least is 2-13-1 outside the division.
So that’s why the Cowboys are still favored to win the crown of horns with a commanding 2-3 record. One of their wins was courtesy of Atlanta’s epic collapse in Week 2. The other was over the winless Giants on Sunday. How 'bout them Cowboys!
“It’s not normal, that’s for sure,” said Nick Bogdanovich, director of trading for William Hill-US. “That division is a hot mess, a dumpster fire. Dalton being a capable QB is the key to it all."
» MARCUS HAYES: Forget the bookies, the Eagles are the division favorites
Bogdanovich is referring to backup Andy Dalton, who came in on Sunday and rallied Dallas to a win over New York.
Pointsbet went even further. It had the Cowboys at -120 entering last weekend, and -125 on Monday morning — meaning their odds to win the division improved. Their Super Bowl odds did sink from 30-1 to 40-1.
The Eagles' NFC East odds went from +110 to +120. Washington is +1,200. The Giants are +4,000.
“We feel confident in Dalton,” said Pointsbet communications director Pat Eichner. “The man still has enough football in him, especially to win this division.”
This and that
BetMGM opened the Eagles as the second favorites (5-1) to land free-agent running back Le’Veon Bell after he was released by the Jets earlier this week. Doug Pederson said he had faith in the running backs on the roster, so the Eagles aren’t interested (which is what you’d expect him to say). Chicago opened as 4-1 favorites, but a report by ESPN on Thursday said Bell was deciding between the Bills (11-1), Chiefs (14-1), and Dolphins (20-1). He eventually signed with the Chiefs.
In a calendar year full of unexpected twists, a point spread dropped because a coach is in quarantine. Enough money went on Georgia for its top-five showdown Saturday with Alabama that the Crimson Tide moved from 6-point favorites to 4. “A 2-point move just for Nick Saban,” said Pat Eichner of Pointsbet. Scott Cooley of Colorado’s SportsBetting.com said the only other coaches whose absences could affect the line were Clemson’s Dabo Swinney and NFL head men Andy Reid, Sean Payton, and Bill Belichick. Sean Payton, huh?
William Hill has taken over at Harrah’s in Chester as Caesars continues its transition out of the sportsbook business. Was down at Bally’s in Atlantic City last weekend, and they were still accepting Caesars rewards cards. Kiosks were about a month away, according to a manager there.
After the Dodgers went up 11-0 in the top half of the first inning on Wednesday, an adjusted over/under of 19.5 was hung at some books. The final score was 15-3.
And finally ...
The Eagles have been underdogs eight previous times at home under Doug Pederson and won outright five of those times — not counting a meaningless Week 17 game in 2017 when Pederson played mostly backups against Dallas. Sunday’s line against the Ravens, plus-7.5 as of Thursday afternoon, figures to be the most points they’ve gotten at home in their five seasons under Pederson. The previous high was when New England was favored by 4.5 last season. The Patriots won, 17-10.
On their way to winning the Super Bowl following the 2017 season, however, the Eagles were the first No. 1 seed ever to be home 'dogs for both conference playoff games.
Dust off those dog masks.