Here are some future plays that should still offer value this close to the start of the regular season. All odds as of August 30.
Dallas Cowboys under 9 or 9½ wins
Less than 9½ wins +158 at Caesars; under 9 wins +220 at DraftKings
The Cowboys had a tremendous campaign in 2021, winning 12 games and the NFC East in coach Mike McCarthy’s second season. A lot of skill and strength go into a year like that, but also a little bit of luck. Specifically, the Cowboys enjoyed a lot of luck with defensive turnovers.
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Dallas generated 9.5 more points than expected from aces after taking into account the down, distance and field position of each ace. That’s the 21st-highest lead for any team since 2002, spanning 640 seasons. Generally speaking, turnovers have always been more random than people think, and success in forcing them doesn’t carry over from year to year, leaving the Cowboys in a bind. Teams that finished a season in the 90th percentile or higher for the EPA’s defensive rotation during that span won, on average, 10.1 games that season, but only 8.4 games the following year. His winning percentage has dropped from .630 to .528, which equates to a nine-win season in 17 weeks. The Cowboys were in the 98th percentile last season.
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Then there’s left tackle Tyron Smith, who needed surgery for a hamstring/knee injury and is out indefinitely. The eight-time Pro Bowl selection was the fourth-highest-rated offensive lineman last season, per the bylaws of the game on Pro Football Focus, allowing just two sacks in 460 pass-blocking snaps. In fact, quarterback Dak Prescott’s sack rate went from 3.9 percent with Smith on the field to 6.6 percent when he was on the bench. More sacks mean less offensive efficiency, giving Dallas one more concern.
Carolina Panthers to the playoffs
+350 at Draft Kings and +360 at Caesars
Carolina has a long shot at winning the NFC South with Tom Brady back at center for reigning division champions Tampa Bay, however, a playoff spot for the Panthers isn’t as far-fetched as you might think. Based on potential improvement at quarterback (the team acquired Baker Mayfield from the Cleveland Browns to replace Sam Darnold) and potential improvement on the offensive line, this team has upside. It also has playmakers: Christian McCaffrey, DJ Moore, Robby Anderson, Laviska Shenault Jr., Terrace Marshall Jr. and Rashard Higgins, among others.
Based on this, my projections (using each team’s preseason power ranking, adjusted for the new quarterback situation) give the Panthers a 33 percent chance of making the playoffs, which equates to a fair market price of +195. DraftKings is offering +350 for the Panthers to qualify for the postseason and Caesars is offering +360. That projects an expected value of around $0.50 for every $1 wagered.
Houston Texans over 5½ wins
+160 at Draft Kings and +175 at Caesars
Last season, quarterback Davis Mills led all rookies with four 300-yard passing games and finished second with 16 passing touchdowns despite starting just 13 games. He should have a healthier offensive line this year; Houston’s lineup ranked behind only the Philadelphia Eagles and Green Bay Packers for the tightest men’s games missed due to injuries in 2022. Tight men’s games take into account the quantity and quality of the player missing from the lineup , which gives us a better idea. of the true impact of the absence.
Houston also went 0-4 in one-touchdown games, indicating the Texans suffered a bit of bad luck in that regard, thanks in part to a poor kicking unit. Texans kickers combined to make 21 of 27 shots from the field last year (78 percent), the fifth-lowest success rate in the league and seven percentage points below that of an average team.
If the kicking game picks up even a little bit and the passing game takes a step forward, the reward for betting on 5½+ wins is worth the risk. My projections have Houston finishing 6-11 or better about half the time.
Daniel Jones under 3,500.5 passing yards
I’m not going to sugarcoat it: Daniel Jones has been underwhelming since he was drafted No. 6 overall in 2019. Last year, he was the 22nd-best passer out of 31 rated quarterbacks, based on Total QB Rating on ESPN, and ranked 19th out of 30 quarterbacks according to Pro Football Focus. In other words, he’s a solidly below-average NFL quarterback, regardless of his position in the draft. Jones’ per-game rates over the past three seasons would project him to have 3,757 passing yards, but health and performance issues have prevented him from playing a full season in any of his three years with the New York Giants. His best passing season was his rookie year, when he threw for 3,027 yards in 13 games (12 starts).
Also, the presence of Tyrod Taylor could cast a shadow over Jones’ fourth year as a pro. Assuming Taylor’s preseason back injury doesn’t persist, trainer Brian Daboll likely won’t hesitate to call the backup if Jones continues to struggle, bolstering the case for the bass, which can be found at Caesars for a price of -115.