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NFL Future Odds, Picks: Fading Cowboys Without Dak Prescott & Buying the Packers

NFL Future Odds, Picks: Fading Cowboys Without Dak Prescott & Buying the Packers article feature image
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Nic Antaya/Getty Images. Pictured: A.J. Brown and Jalen Hurts

We’re only one week into the new NFL season, and already the futures markets are shifting and moving.

Patrick Mahomes has taken the MVP lead after 360 yards and five TDs in the opener. Washington WR Jahan Dotson leapt from off-the-radar to Rookie of the Year frontrunner. Defending DPOY T.J. Watt looks unable to defend his crown after tearing his pectoral. And then there’s the NFC.

Four of the five NFC favorites entering the season lost on opening weekend: the Rams, Packers, 49ers and Cowboys. Some of those losses were worse than others — looking at you, San Francisco — but no team had a more devastating opener than Dallas.

Too many bettors think of futures as one-time offerings, something to play before the season and check back after the playoffs for any winners. But the futures markets change every game, so there’s value to be had all season long. That’s why we’re returning to these markets all year long on Futures Fridays.

There was no more seismic shift in the marketplace this week than with the Dallas Cowboys after the injury to Dak Prescott, so let’s start there.

How Do We Play the Post-Prescott Injury Landscape?

Prescott is a very good quarterback. He ranked 11th in my QB preseason rankings and tied for 10th in Sean Koerner’s QB spread rankings. Koerner has Prescott worth +4.5 points to the spread, and since Cooper Rush is one of the league’s worst backups at -1.0, that’s a 5.5-point swing.

Some perspective: the Cardinals are 5.5-point underdogs this weekend and +200 on the moneyline, an implied 33%. A team with even odds would be at +100 (50%). In other words, a neutral team that lost Prescott would drop from one-in-two to one-in-three to win any given Sunday. Woof.

Prescott had surgery on his broken right thumb with initial reports missing six-to-eight weeks before Dallas owner Jerry Jones suggested a return within four. Color me skeptical. Jones was way off in his immediate “diagnosis” and I’ll trust the football docs who expect a broken throwing-hand thumb to be — you know — sort of a big deal. They have him out for a minimum of six weeks.

Check out the Cowboys’ upcoming schedule:

At minimum, Prescott is out through the Rams game. That probably leaves the Cowboys 1-4 at best, with a vaguely healthy Prescott returning for a road Philly game to save the season. Miss even one more, though, and Dallas is suddenly 1-5 or 0-6 with a lost season and so close to the bye week that it makes sense to hold their franchise QB back and make sure he’s fully healthy going forward.

I initially ranked the healthy Cowboys sixth in my offensive unit rankings. They dropped to 11th after the Tyron Smith injury and now plummet to 26th with Rush in place of Prescott. In other words, Dallas’s offense drops from the Bengals to the Ravens, all the way to the Jets. Ouch.

Unless Prescott makes an early return and somehow manages to play great with a broken throwing thumb and no star left tackle, it looks like the Cowboys season is over before it even got started. I projected Dallas at 9.3 wins coming into the season. I now have them at 7.4, with 9.7 wins their best-case scenario.

The books seem to agree, dropping Dallas’s win total from 10.5 a week ago to 7.5 now, juiced to the under. The Cowboys plummeted from +240 to miss the playoffs a few weeks ago when I recommended it to -250 now.

If you were on the other side of Dallas, expecting good things, I’m sorry to say there’s no direct way to redeem your Cowboys tickets. But there is a way to play this to our advantage in the futures market. A few, actually…

Eagles to win the NFC East -150

If the Cowboys are doomed, the NFC East appears to be wide open. Unless, of course, the Eagles just run away with this.

I was one of a few Action Network experts playing Philadelphia’s division odds all offseason. The Eagles are now my strongest division favorite, ahead of even the Bucs and Bills, both priced at -300 or longer at every book.

That’s exactly where I’d place the Eagles, around 75% to take the division crown. You can bet Philadelphia at -150 instead, an implied 60%. Few minus numbers are worth betting in the futures market, but Philly’s deep, talented roster is far and away the best in the division now and might be the best non-QB roster in football. The Eagles should comfortably win this division with a real runway to the NFC 1-seed if you want to go big on Philly futures.

You might be tempted to bet the Commanders (+500) or Giants (+600) as division long shots, but don’t overthink this. Philadelphia is a great value at -150, and it’s already risen from -130 on Monday so don’t wait.

Commanders to lose in the Wild Card Round +250

If you do like Washington, there’s another angle to play here.

Dallas isn’t just out of division contention. It’s likely out of the playoff hunt altogether, which means an extra spot just vacated in the already wide-open NFC. Even if you include the Bucs, Packers, Rams, Vikings, 49ers and an NFC East champ, that still leaves one spot open.

Could that other spot stay right there in the division? Carson Wentz threw four TDs to lead Washington to a Week 1 win, and the Commanders have a soft upcoming schedule: at Lions, Eagles, at Cowboys, Titans, Bears.

Washington benefits as much as any team from the Prescott injury with a road trip to Dallas no longer daunting. The Commanders will have a shot in every one of those games. They could start 5-1 or even 6-0 with a talented defense and an improved downfield passing attack. Add in later games against the Texans, Falcons and Giants (twice) and there’s a path to double-digit wins.

You can bet Washington to go over 7.5 wins at -134 or over 8.5 at +100. But if the Commanders do win nine games in the soft NFC, they probably make the playoffs too. You can bet that at +130, but I’ll take it one step even further.

Washington may have a path to the playoffs, but would you give it any real chance once it got there? Even if they win the division and host a game, the Commanders are likely underdogs. That’s why I’m getting aggressive and betting on Washington to lose on Wild Card Weekend at +250 — basically to make the playoffs but fail to win a game there. Let’s get wild.

Be careful blindly betting against the Cowboys the next few weeks. Dallas dropped from -2.5 to +7.5 against the Bengals, a 10-point swing. The Week 3 Lookahead has already swung eight points. Koerner’s numbers suggest that is overvaluing Prescott’s loss. The better move is to play these futures.

Let’s take a quick look at one more future to consider this week.

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R-E-L-A-X and Grab a Packers Super Bowl Ticket at +1500

The Packers lost in Week 1 for the second straight season, and it’s easy to compare this to last year’s start. Green Bay scored only once and finished the game with Aaron Rodgers watching helplessly on the sidelines of a blowout loss.

But those losses were not the same.

Green Bay lost by two TDs to a Vikings team that might be pretty good. We might look back in two months pretty impressed with a defense that held Minnesota to 23 points, including just a pair of field goals in the second half.

As for those two touchdowns? Rookie Christian Watson dropped a perfectly placed 75-yard TD on the Packers’ first play from scrimmage, and Green Bay was stopped on 4th-and-goal later in the half. There’s your two-TD deficit, and remember, both star tackles were late scratches. All that on the road against a tough division opponent, probably one of Green Bay’s three or four toughest games all year.

This is a clear buy-low spot for the Packers.

Green Bay is a double-digit home favorite against the Bears this Sunday, my favorite play of the week. Up next is a tricky trip to Tampa before games against the Patriots, Giants, Jets and Commanders. Blink, and the Packers will be 5-2 or 6-1 heading toward midseason, just as expected.

Green Bay entered the season ranked third in both my offensive and defensive rankings. The Packers will only get better as they get healthier and as Rodgers finds rapport with his new receivers, and Green Bay should be favored by at least a touchdown in nine games going forward.

The NFC is wide open. We already touched on the Cowboys. The Rams were awful in the opener. The 49ers lost to the Bears. Green Bay is 39-11 in three years with Rodgers and Matt LaFleur. The Packers should be there among the NFL’s elite in January with as good a shot as anyone, just like always.

Green Bay was my Super Bowl pick before the season, but I purposely waited for a buy-low spot, likely after an early road loss to Minnesota or Tampa Bay. It is a drastic overreaction dropping the Packers’ Super Bowl odds from +1000 to +1500 after one game. We may never get this price again.

No half measures. The Packers are +600 to win the NFC, which would imply they’d be significant underdogs in a Super Bowl if they made it. I’m not sure they’d be underdogs at all, so that NFC ticket is nowhere near as valuable.

It’s time to grab our first Super Bowl ticket of the year. Grab the Packers at +1500 before it’s gone for good.

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