ll-32 Series: NFC East’s Over/Under Predictions
Written by: The Blitz Team
Weare just a couple weeks removed from the federal government fully legalizing sports betting. Of course, it will still be up to the state governments to decide if they will allow it within their borders. Either way, most people have the understanding that gambling on sports will eventually happen regardless. For this month’s All32 Series, we’ve decided to take a look at if fans should go with the over or the under on their team’s wins in 2018. Check out what our team members think what you should do!
**Odds per https://www.oddsshark.com/nfl/nfl-over-under-win-totals per BetOnline**
(Note: as of this reading the odds may have changed, so check the closest legal betting outlet)
Dallas Cowboys — 8.5 Wins
The Dallas Cowboys are entering 2018 with more question marks than certainties. For starters, this offseason saw the club lose one of the greatest players in franchise history in tight end Jason Witten and their top wideout over the past 5 years in Dez Bryant. Witten decided it was time to move on and retire and Bryant was released just weeks before the draft in April due to his regression in production and salary cap hit. Even with their diminishing skills, that is still a lot of offensive production, snaps, and team leadership to account for. It will be QB Dak Prescott’s job to lead and motivate a practically new receiving corps that will consist of new faces and rookies looking for a larger role. Can he do it? I believe so, considering he has another full offseason to improve on his mechanics and eliminate mistakes from this past year, not to mention a new playbook that won’t force the ball to a Bryant-like player in double or triple coverage. The team had an up-and-down season in 2017 that saw them finish 9–7 and just short of a playoff berth, down from a 13–3 season from the year prior. This sudden flip had mostly to do with injuries, suspensions, and inconsistent play from the offense that cost them late in games or never let them stay competitive too long. How will the Cowboys offense rebound from an inconsistent 2017? The answer lies within their own personnel. Getting a full season from running back Ezekiel Elliott will help, as he spent most of last year fighting the NFL’s 6 game suspension for violating their conduct policy. The team started 5–3 with Elliott and could have had a 7–1 record if not for late game collapses and shaky play calling by the offensive staff. With him out of the lineup the team lost their next three games and had to fight their way out of a hole that was just too deep in the end. Having him back for a whole season without legal issues is a start, as is getting back a healthy Tyron Smith. Some say that the moment the team’s season took a turn for the worst was when Smith went down and his replacements let Dak Prescott get sacked 8 times, including 6 by one player alone, DE Adrian Clayborn. Smith is the rock of the team’s elite offensive line, so having him back and healthy will give the team the consistency they lacked once he went down.
The defensive side of the Cowboys is actually less worrisome than it’s offensive counterpart. The team that is often known for having a struggling defense actually had one of the league’s better units towards the end of the season. In last year’s draft the team wanted to address a depleted secondary and spent four of their first six picks on defensive backs. These guys all experienced growing pains but at year’s end flashed lots of potential, the kind that the new secondary coach, Kris Richard, is excited to work with as he helped create the “Legion of Boom” with the Seahawks. The front seven of Dallas should be fine if their linebacking group stays healthy and Sean Lee, rookie Leighton Vander Esch, and Jaylon Smith can all see plenty of action (hopefully together). The defense will also remain solid if their d-line rotation continues to grow and get to the quarterback. DeMarcus Lawrence had a breakout year last year off the edge with 14.5 sacks and looks to build on that to earn a massive contract at some point. David Irving is full of potential as he totaled 7 sacks in 8 games despite missing almost the second half of the season with injury. Last year’s first round pick Taco Charlton started slow but earned more playing time and had a few sacks the later part of the year as he looks to build on that. The only real question is how the back-end of the defense will look as safety Byron Jones is moving back to cornerback, but this is something that should be figured out at training camp and summer practices.
This schedule for Dallas this upcoming season is very interesting to say the least. They will open on the road @ Carolina for the first time since 2012 and they have a very tough November stretch that includes the Titans, @ Eagles, @ Atlanta, Wathington then New Orleans. This stretch will most likely determine the outcome of the season as the early and latter parts for the schedule are a bit more manageable. I predict the Cowboys to start off strong with a 5–2 or 4–3 record before their bye. Then the tough November stretch comes up where the team should go 3–2 at least but they need to be healthy. To close out the season Dallas faces three teams that had top 10 draft picks this past year, so if they do their jobs the team should have a 3–1 record in December. All that being said, Dallas should win 10–11 games this year if they stay healthy overall, the young defense continues their solid development, and the coaching staff find multiple ways to make the offense “Dak-friendly”.
-William Heiges II
New York Giants — 7.5 Wins
After New York’s abysmal 3–13 record in 2017, many people may cite my Giants bias with this prediction. But think about the state the team was in last year. Odell Beckham was injured after 4 games, and fellow receivers Sterling Shepherd and Brandon Marshall missed significant portions of the season as well. Their linebacking corps was riddled with injuries as well, and each of their three starting cornerbacks were suspended by the team. Orleans Darkwa was their starting running back, Coach Ben McAdoo had completely lost the team’s respect, and Ereck Flowers was STILL their starting left tackle! This season, new GM Dave Gettleman has completely retooled the team and infused talent at all positions, especially offensive line and running back. New head coach Pat Shurmur is an offensive guru, and I have no doubt that he will help Eli Manning thrive again. To be fair, the first half of the Giants schedule is HARD, with games against the Jaguars, Saints, Panthers, Eagles, and Falcons. If they can reach their bye week with a 3–5 record or better, they will be in a good place to make a late season push to reach at least a .500 winning percentage by the end of the season.
Philadelphia Eagles — 10.5 Wins
The Eagles will have their hands full right out of the gate, as the Atlanta Falcons will be hungry for a rematch after 2017’s abysmal NFC divisional round showing. This game will depend on one question: will Carson Wentz be ready? If the Eagles quarterback’s helmet is strapped, mark down a win for Philadelphia in week 1 of the 2018 regular season. The goal still remains for Wentz to be ready to play in the opener next season. While Foles was the hero of the 2017 playoffs, it’s hard to imagine another glorified run if Wentz is forced to sit on the sidelines. With the roster locked and loaded, the Eagles will take care of business in Tampa and road grade a vulnerable Colts team with holes in every part of their roster. Although it will be week 3, and Andrew Luck will probably be on the field, it will take more than an established quarterback who hasn’t played in almost two years to beat the defending Super Bowl champions. Week 4 is where we may find the first hiccup in the Phillies schedule, as the Titans could deliver their first upset win of the season. Expect this to be an exciting match-up leaving Wentz scratching his head as Mariota leads his squad to a last second score.
A tough matchup follows the upset loss when Minnesota and Kirk Cousins come to town. But the Eagles are going to be ready for their daunting defense. The Eagles will capture their fourth win of the season led by Wentz in impressive fashion. Expect a rematch to come in mid February. The Giants won’t prove to be much resistance in week 6, and the Eagles won’t suffer their next loss of the season until the following week as Superman Cam beats the Eagles on their home turf. With Norv Turner now in Carolina, a big year for Cam Newton is on the horizon, and a loss to Carolina is plausible. The Eagles fly to London in week 8 to battle the stingy Jacksonville defense. It will be a difficult game for both sides, but Wentz will take care of business as he unloads a high scoring affair against Jacksonville.
After a well needed bye in week 9, the Eagles will take the first matchup against their division rivals in the Dallas Cowboys at home, but will fall the following week to Drew Brees and company. The Eagles and Saints matchup may prove to be the most exciting game of the 2018 season. That’s a contest I certainly have on my calendar. After sweeping the Giants and blowing out the Alex Smith-led Redskins, the Eagles will suffer their next loss at the hands of the Ezekiel Elliott’s Dallas Cowboys. With the Cowboys’ season hanging in the balance, Elliot will explode for 150 yards and two scores en route to a victory over the first place Eagles. Could a loss in back-to-back weeks be in the cards for the Eagles? YES! The high-flying Rams will take care of business in what could be the deciding game for first seed in the NFC. After a disappointing two-week stretch, the defending champions will finish strong with victories over the Texans and Redskins, completing a season sweep over Washington and securing first place atop the NFC East.
Washington Redskins — 5.5 Wins
Alex Smith alone equals a six-win season. He has the 3rd most wins as a quarterback in the past five seasons, trailing only Russell Wilson and Tom Brady. Smith also hasn’t finished below .500 since 2010. Now, the former Kansas City signal caller may not have the same surrounding talent that he once had, but the so-called “game manager” is coming off the best statistical season of his 12-year career. Chris Thompson, Samaje Perine, and Jordan Reed will all be returning from injury, to go along with newcomers Derrius Guice, Paul Richardson, and Trey Quinn. Washington’s offense has a chance to be a lot more productive than most would believe. On the defensive side of the ball, the team only got better. They signed outside linebacker Pernell McPhee and veteran cornerback Orlando Scandrick in free agency, as well as drafted another Alabama DT with their 1st pick in Da’Ron Payne. It’s worth noting that the team did have to trade Pro Football Focus’ 5th best cornerback of 2017 in Kendall Fuller to acquire Alex Smith and replace Kirk Cousins. And though it may not be an improvement in raw arm talent, the team’s new quarterback knows how to protect the ball better than anyone in the NFL. He led the league in touchdown to turnover ratio, which happens to be the stat that most correlates to the win column.
The Washington Redskins have a somewhat tough schedule and even tougher division. Outside of the world champ Philadelphia Eagles, the Dallas Cowboys, and New York Giants have certainly improved this offseason. Both teams added quality starters in the draft and free agency, and the Eagles roster is primed for another Super Bowl run. With Washington now having to face the likes of Zeke Elliot, Saquon Barkley, and Jay Ajayi 6 times a year, they will need to drastically improve from last year’s 32nd ranked defense that happens to allow a staggering 2,146 rushing yards. Solidifying the front seven should help cure their woes against the run, but it will take a healthy team to do so, which has been the Redskins’ biggest thorn in the side the past few seasons. If Washington can stay healthy, and Smith can create chemistry with his new weapons, they can undoubtedly make it to at least six wins.