Nationwide bettors, Dallas Cowboys fans and the NFL are licking their chops for the upcoming season, which starts Sept. 8.
The NFC East is cooking again because the Cowboys have company at the top.
A perfect storm of public interest surrounds their rivalry with the rejuvenated Philadelphia Eagles.
With Philadelphia over-achieving to reach the 2021 postseason and the ‘Boys underachieving in losing their first playoff game to the San Francisco 49ers, the question begins to swirl:
Do the Eagles have enough talent to win this division?
DraftKings Cowboys, Eagles 2022 odds
The DraftKings numbers suggest a season-long struggle, with Dallas at +140 and Philadelphia at +160 to capture the NFC East.
That’s razor close, the equivalent of 7-5 on the Cowboys and 8-5 on the Eagles.
Other signs of parity:
- The Cowboys are +900 to win the NFC conference. The Eagles are +1100.
- The Cowboys are +2000 to win the Super Bowl. The Eagles are +2200.
That’s neck-and-neck, reflecting the belief that this may not be the usual NFC East cakewalk for the Cowboys.
The Eagles are clearly the second most popular team in this division, adding spice to a 62-year rivalry.
DraftKings expects these teams to separate themselves from the New York Giants and Washington Commanders and battle down to the wire. There is a remarkable similarity about what the books, and bettors, expect from the Cowboys and Eagles.
At the moment, they reflect parity.
Here are five areas in which this plays out.
Lofty expectations for Cowboys, Eagles
Both teams have prohibitive, lopsided numbers to post a winning record and make the postseason.
Their win totals are close too.
The Cowboys are a flat 10, with -110 on either side.
The Eagles began at nine early in the summer and climbed to 9.5, with the over still requiring -150 juice. Bettors who jumped on that wager early gained a futures edge.
Johnny Avello, the director of race and sportsbook operations for DraftKings, told How Bout Them:
“The Cowboys and Eagles have often been called the best rivalry in the NFL and if it is not number one, it’s certainly in the top three,”
“These teams have been in the same division since the 1960’s, so there is always a lot of interest in them.
“This year, the teams are pretty equal in their odds. The one thing that did change was that jump on the Eagles win total. Otherwise, the bettors are expecting both of them to do pretty well.”
Mirror image extends to stage of elimination
This is the wager DraftKings implements full-time this season. It posts odds enabling bettors to predict at exactly which round a team will be knocked out of the playoffs.
Here’s how they shape up:
- To Miss the Playoffs: Dallas +195, Philadelphia +150
- To Lose in the Wild Card Game: Both teams are +225
- To Lose in the Division Round: Both teams are +300
Separation comes deeper into the post-season.
- To Lose in the Conference Championship Game: Dallas +550, Philadelphia +700
- To Lose in the Super Bowl: Dallas +1400, Philadelphia +1800
- To Win the Super Bowl: Dallas +2000, Philadelphia +2200
With both teams flaunting playoff expectations, head-to-head matchups could determine the division, wild-card positioning, or both.
Circle the key dates
“These teams usually get a prime-time game whenever they play. Usually a Thursday night, Sunday night or Monday Night game. And it always comes with a huge handle.”
That will happen again this season. Both matchups are isolated to ensure heightened attention and betting interest.
The Cowboys visit Philadelphia on Oct. 16, a Sunday Night game.
The Eagles come to Dallas on Dec. 24.
Although most of the league plays on that Saturday, to avoid conflicts with Christmas, the Cowboys and Eagles have a 4:25 p.m. slot, all to themselves.
How Avello sees Eagles, Cowboys
Both teams are projected to reach the postseason and bow quickly. What separates them?
“Everything looks like the Cowboys are not quite as good as they were last year,” Avello said of Dallas’ drop to 10 projected wins after a 12-5 campaign in 2021.
“Zeke Elliott is not living up to expectations. Dak Prescott is going to be around, they have paid him and invested in him. He’s going to be fine, but the Cowboys have not won a Super Bowl in over 25 years (the 1995 team). Last year, after a big start, they flattened out. They just couldn’t sustain that momentum.”
Avello credits Dan Quinn with upgrading the Cowboys’ defense but still thinks there are missing ingredients holding the team back.
Much of that occurred on offense last season. Some of that looked apparent in the postseason game, in which 49er defensive pressure put the Cowboys back on their heels. There were pre-snap penalties, holding calls and a general lack of cohesion from the Cowboys’ offense.
The Eagles over-achieved last season, dwarfing their over 6.5 win total by going 9-8. But it’s hard to see the team exceeding that level this year.
“You know my feelings about Jalen Hurts,” he said of the Eagles’ quarterback. “I thought he was a good college quarterback (at Alabama and Oklahoma) and is only an average pro quarterback.
“Can he take a team deep into the playoffs? I don’t see that in him yet. Their offensive line looks pretty good and they’ve got a couple of good receivers, but after that, it’s it.
“Their defense was awful last year.”
That it was. Philadelphia notched only 29 sacks, the second lowest in the league. Their bend-and-don’t-break philosophy resulted in few blitzes, giving quarterbacks abundant time to throw.
Cowboys own this rivalry
They lead it 72-54 and secured two blowout victories last year.
The battle is special because these teams are usually close in the standings and may decide their entire season in the final matchup against one another.
In 2019, the Eagles toppled the Cowboys in the next-to-last game of the season, taking over first place in the division. When they defeated the Giants the following week, the Cowboys missed the playoffs.
In 2020, the “Boys returned the favor, blowing the Eagles out of the playoffs with a lopsided victory in the next-to-last game of the season.
Last year, both teams were eliminated in their first postseason game. The Eagles lost as expected to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Dallas lost as a home favorite against the Niners.
The Cowboys are 3-1 against the Eagles in playoff games.
But Philadelphia’s one win, in 1980, led them into the Super Bowl, which they lost to the Oakland (now Las Vegas) Raiders.
The orbits are lining up for these teams.
They should both be good this year. And so should the season-long battle.