Following a fantastic 2016 season that saw the Dallas Cowboys go 13-3 straight up and win the tough NFC East, news of Ezekiel Elliott’s six-game suspension has really put a cloud over what was to be a season of even more progress in Big D.
Originally ruled a six-gamer, news broke August 15 that the NFLPA will appeal the ban so only time will tell what the final verdict is. Still, this means that the Cowboys (who also have Alfred Morris on the depth chart) will lean heavily on Darren McFadden to shoulder the load in Zeke’s absence. The former Arkansas standout is just a couple of seasons removed from breaking the 1,000-yard barrier in Dallas and by all accounts is prepping like an RB1 should. But, he was limited to just three games last season thanks to an arm injury.
Predictably, the suspension has had some impact on Cowboys’ futures odds. Their Super Bowl LII odds at online shop Sportsbook have moved from +1200 to now +1400 and their odds to win the NFC East have gone from +115 to +200. As for NFC odds, they’ve been adjusted slightly from +600 to +650. So if you think that suspension will be reduced or that Dallas can weather the storm (which will see them host the New York Giants, LA Rams and Green Bay Packers, and travel to Denver, Arizona and San Francisco without Zeke), then there is still decent value.
The Cowboys, who rattled off an impressive 11-game winning streak over weeks 2 to 12 (going 9-2 against the spread in the process) were a solid spread bet last season at 10-5-1 ATS. In fact, when it comes to betting the Cowboys ATS, they are tied for the best ATS road mark over the last five seasons at 24-16 (tied with the Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs).
Clearly, the Elliott news is a major blow, the defensive backfield took a hit with the Morris Claiborne and J.J. Wilcox losses and their schedule is no joke, but the Cowboys are still strong. Quarterback Dak Prescott was dynamite under center in his rookie campaign and the offensive line is still elite, but can the second-year QB get it done without his workhorse RB for six games?
Here’s a look at Dallas’ futures entering the 2017 season:
Super Bowl +1400
Seventh on the board at +1400, the Cowboys look like decent value considering they rolled to a 13-3 record last year. The rookie duo got their first taste of the NFL playoffs with a 34-31 loss to the Packers in the divisional round but still scraped their way back into the game in the fourth quarter down 28-13 entering the final 15 minutes, showing a little bit of steel.
Dallas has some monkeys to get off its back when it comes to the postseason. That defeat to Green Bay was its fifth straight loss in the divisional round and the franchise hasn’t been to an NFC championship game in 21 years. There is still plenty of work to be done in Dallas to get this team back to glory.
The talent is in place, that’s for damn sure, and this team is right there in terms of the elite in this league. The only real thing that’s lacking is playoff experience. The loss to Green Bay was a start, but until the Cowboys win something in the postseason, I don’t know if I can back them in Super Bowl futures.
NFC East +200
Yes, obviously, the NFC East is going to be very tough. The division featured two playoff teams and rolled to a 39-24-1 combined record last season, but if Dallas is going to repeat as division champ, it will have to buck some trends.
Nobody has repeated as NFC East champ since the Philadelphia Eagles won four straight titles from 2001 to 2004. The Cowboys haven’t done it since winning five straight from 1992 to 1996. That’s a lot of history stacked against you. Plus, as good as all four teams in this division actually are, and now that the Cowboys have a target on their back, it’s going to be a huge mountain to climb.
The Giants at +200 or the Redskins at +500 are the way to go if betting NFC East futures, in my opinion.
Win Total – 8.5
This is a really, really tough number for me. I’m leaning OVER (-115) here, but I’m not super confident about it.
As stated, Dallas surprised many by posting a 13-3 mark one year ago. But the schedule was bottom five in the league and this year, the Cowboys have the 11th-toughest (134-118-4).
Included in that tough, tough schedule is the AFC West, the NFC West, plus a visit from the Pack (Week 5) and a trip out to the Dirty South to face the defending NFC champion Atlanta Falcons (Week 10). There are some nasty, nasty defenses in there and this number could prove to be tough sledding for America’s Team.
Honestly, if the Cowboys won 10 games, I wouldn’t be shocked. But I wouldn’t be shocked if they lost 10 either.
Dez Bryant: Most Receiving Yards (+2000)
Honestly, not a ton of Cowboy-related props out there that I’m in love with but this one might be a worthy Hail Mary at that price.
Dak and the offense didn’t run the most high-octane passing game in 2016 (their 325 receptions for 3799 yards ranked 25th and 23rd in the NFL respectively) but with their stud running back out for six games at the time of this writing, maybe there’s a chance that Dak spreads the ball around with a little more frequency.
Also, maybe with that tough schedule, Dallas is playing from behind a lot more and forced to go to the passing game. Though maybe I’m just trying to talk myself into this prop bet…
In 13 games last season, Dez caught 50 balls (90 targets) for 796 yards and eight touchdowns and in the past two season combined (22 games) he’s got just 1197 yards. We’ve seen much better numbers from him in years gone by and we clearly know the ability and the hands are there.
Yes, the numbers were down, but I’m certain there will be an uptick in production. Will it be enough to leapfrog guys like Julio Jones, OBJ and 2016 leader T.Y. Hilton? We’ll take the +2000 and keep those fingers crossed.
*As of August 16 morning, NFC East and win totals were off the board.
Odds as of August 15 at Sportsbook