NFC East Odds: Predictions for NFL's Worst Division
It is hard to believe that it is possible for a division in the NFL to be as bad as the NFC East is right now. These guys are supposed to be pros. At the way things are going right now, if these teams had any pride, they would all just forfeit the rest of the season and let real teams contest the postseason. With their win on Monday night, the Eagles moved to 6-7. Normally, that would mean that they were just playing out the string after a lost season. In this case, though, they are tied for the lead of the division with the Cowboys. Best case scenario, then, 9-7 will win the division. And the way these teams have been going, it's tough to imagine that happening. Really tough. This is just truly pathetic. But one of these teams has to win. And our job is to figure out which one is more likely. Let's break down the race for NFC East glory, shall we?:
The odds: Oddsmakers give the Cowboys a solid edge in this race. They are at -125 to win the division, with the Eagles at +105. But the conviction of the oddsmakers isn't strong. The Eagles are at +1400 to win the NFC Championship. That makes them far from a favorite, but they are more favored than the Cowboys, who are at +1600 in that race. The Eagles are also at +3300 to win the Super Bowl , compared to +4000 for the Cowboys.
Remaining schedules: The teams play each other in Week 16 in Philadelphia. That's obviously going to be a massive game. The Cowboys host a Rams team that has suddenly remembered what they are capable of on offense, and that is going to be a challenge for a Dallas team that is really floundering. But Dallas gets a break in the end, playing at home against Washington to close things out - a game that very likely will result in a win. Philadelphia has a schedule that feels solidly more favorable. They have to play on the road twice compared to once for the Cowboys, but those road games are against Washington this week and the Giants in Week 17. It's hard to get a softer schedule than that.
Tiebreakers: If Dallas beats Philadelphia, they will have swept the season series. The first tiebreaker is head-to-head record, so they would be very tough to beat as a result. But if Philadelphia wins, then the season series will be a wash, and we'll have to go higher up the tiebreaker ladder. Next up is divisional record. Dallas is currently 4-0, and Philadelphia is 2-1. If we assume that Dallas beats Washington and loses to Philadelphia, they would be 5-1. Philadelphia would then have to sweep their final three games to match that record - which would also give them a better overall record, which makes this tiebreaker irrelevant. If Dallas loses to Washington, though, or if Philadelphia loses at least once, then things get more wide open. The tiebreakers aren't relevant here.
Coaches: A strong, solid coach is a big asset here in a race like this. And one team has one. Jason Garrett is mostly incompetent, has seriously worn out his welcome in Dallas, and is all but certain to be fired after this season. With a stumble in the next two weeks, he likely won't make it that long. Anyone with half a brain can see what's going on, and his destiny can't help but have an impact on this team as they get ready for their final three games. On the other sideline we have a much, much, much more secure guy in Doug Pederson. He won a Super Bowl in his second season. Last year he followed it up with a 9-7 record and a playoff win. Guys who go 22-10 in two regular seasons, and 4-1 in the playoffs, have to do a whole lot worse than Pederson has done this year to get themselves in trouble. Stability is a huge asset for Philadelphia down this stretch.
Quarterback: If you were to put a gun to my head, I would tell you without much hesitation that Carson Wentz is the better of the two quarterbacks in this race - the guy I would choose to lead my team. But he sure isn't showing it this year. His yards per attempt are at a lousy 6.5 - seven is a minimum baseline for competence in this league. His best effort this year saw him average eight yards per pass - and that was back in his first game of the year. Prescott is averaging 8.3 yards per attempt on the season and has exceeded Wentz' best six times. It hasn't always looked like it, but Prescott is having a much better season. He is not in top form right now, though. His performance has been well below his average in these three straight losses, and now he's dealing with injuries to both hands that have him listed as questionable. Wentz is healthier and has played better the last two weeks. So, Prescott has given his team advantages over the course of the season, but that advantage doesn't feel significant right now.
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