NFL Futures Picks: Bet Cowboys, Eagles to Win Super Bowl; Falcons to Win NFC South
Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images. Pictured: Dak Prescott (left), Jalen Hurts (right).
Welcome back to another edition of Futures Friday!
Every Friday, we zoom out from the game-to-game trees and consider the whole NFL forest, taking a look around the league and talking big-picture awards, season leaders, playoff odds and more.
Too many bettors think of futures as dart throws prior to the season before crossing their fingers, waiting six months and hoping for the best. We’re playing the market every week, buying low and selling high, building a deep and varied portfolio that should give us big long-term upside. And as we near the playoffs, the future is closer than ever.
Today, we’ve got one combo Super Bowl future and one long shot division bet, and both are against one team as much as they are for the teams we’re betting on.
This one is a bit complicated, so we’ll take it in parts. It’s a two-team bet that’s really a three-team bet, so let’s start with the invisible third team.
This is an implicit bet against the 49ers, and the Jimmy Garoppolo season-ending injury is the explicit reason for doing so.
Jimmy G certainly has his limitations, but the truth is that he has almost always been a terrific quarterback under Kyle Shanahan. He’s obviously not Patrick Mahomes or Aaron Rodgers, but he consistently posts efficient metrics in Shanahan’s offense with all the motions, weapons and yards after catch.
Garoppolo is 42-19 lifetime with Shanahan, an 11.7-win pace for a full season. Really good! The duo is 4-2 in the postseason, including two road wins, one Super Bowl berth and nearly a second. Shanahan is 9-29 with any other quarterback, a 4.0-win pace with no postseason appearances.
That’s not an entirely fair comparison because the rosters around the QB matter, but “Shanahan + Garoppolo” is consistently something like the NFL’s eighth-best signal-caller. Garoppolo may not raise his team’s level like Mahomes, but he’s good enough to keep all the parts of the Shanahan machine whirring. Think of it as having someone like Matthew Stafford or Matt Ryan — not a guy who can win four games on his own, but someone who can win four with the right team around him.
Brock Purdy is not Jimmy Garoppolo.
Purdy was the last QB taken in the worst quarterback draft in ages. But he probably won’t be terrible! We know this from Shanahan’s history, and Purdy already did just enough to beat a good Dolphins team in his emergency debut. San Francisco has so many weapons and such a great defense that it should still make the postseason with Purdy.
But is Mr. Irrelevant really winning three playoff games to get the 49ers to a Super Bowl? Is he really going on the road multiple times, one of them in the NFC Championship, and leading this team to wins? You didn’t even really trust Garoppolo to do that, and Purdy is unquestionably worse, probably by more than you think.
Garoppolo’s injury was a death knell for San Francisco’s chances at coming out of the NFC, a conference that was already a three-team race. I’m hoping I don’t have to convince you Minnesota, Seattle, Tampa Bay, New York and Washington are not major threats.
That means this three-team race is now a two-horse race. It means there’s major value on those two teams — Philadelphia and Dallas. That’s why we’re splitting our bet in two, putting half on the Eagles and Cowboys to win the Super Bowl.
The Eagles have been one of the best teams all year. The offense is great. The defense is great. They’re relatively healthy. They rank second in weighted DVOA. The only team ahead of them? The Cowboys, of course!
Dallas has been the league’s hottest team since Dak Prescott returned from injury. The defense leads the league in DVOA, and the offense is not far behind. The run game has returned, and the passing game is picking up steam.
Per Football Outsiders, Philadelphia and Dallas are the most and third-most likely champions, a combined 38.9%. They give the duo a combined 97% chance at the 1-seed and a 68% to win the NFC. But that 68% still leaves 18% for San Francisco and assumes Garoppolo returns. I think the 49ers number is probably half as high, which means we might be looking at something near a 75% chance that either Dallas or Philadelphia comes out of the NFC.
One of these teams will be the 1-seed and get a bye. They might then host the Seahawks, Giants or Commanders, then host the NFC Championship. The other one is the likely 5-seed, which means an opening game against a decrepit NFC South champion, likely followed by a road game against Purdy’s 49ers or the overrated Vikings to get to the NFC title game.
It’s possible Philly and Dallas end up on the same side of the bracket and play in the NFC semis, which guarantees us one in the NFC Championship Game, probably as a sizable favorite. If they’re on opposite sides, we likely have favorites in both semifinals, setting up an NFC Championship between our teams and guaranteeing us a Super Bowl berth.
We’re betting on Philadelphia +500 and Dallas +800, effectively creating a “Philly or Dallas to Win the Super Bowl” ticket at +260 combined. If one wins the NFC, we now have a Super Bowl moneyline ticket far better than what would ever be available.
If you prefer a more certain payout, you can bet Philadelphia +200 and Dallas +320 to win the NFC and you’re effectively getting a -133 ticket on either one to win it. That’s an implied 57%, and remember, we think that’s closer to 75%, which should cost -300. That’s a great bet on its own, but the Super Bowl version offers more upside and options.
The bet is simple in the end. If your unit size is $100, split your bet and put $50 on Philadelphia and $50 on Dallas. If you like one team a bit more than the other, you can adjust your amount accordingly, say $60 and $40. It shifts the math slightly, but as long as you’ve got the right two teams, you’re getting a great position.
I think the value is a bit better on Philadelphia as the presumptive 1-seed, but I like Dallas a bit more as a postseason threat. I’m honestly not sure which one wins the NFC — I’m just pretty sure one of them does.
Why pick one team when I can just bet on both? Give me both Philadelphia and Dallas to win the Super Bowl and let’s ride.
What is QuickSlip?
QuickSlip is an Action Network feature that allows users to automatically pre-load their bet slip at FanDuel Sportsbook.
Speaking of that decrepit NFC South, let’s take one more shot at a division long shot. And again, this bet is just as much about the Bucs.
If you still think this is the same old Bucs who are a Super Bowl threat, you simply haven’t been watching. The offense only seems to show up in the final few minutes when everything is on the line, and the defense has been up and down all year. Both sides of the ball continue to fight off major injuries.
The Bucs aren’t bad — they just aren’t good either. Tampa Bay ranks outside the top 10 in DVOA overall. They’re right at league average offensively but moving in the wrong direction as the season progresses. The defense is top 10, but also sliding. The special teams have been terrible, and the coaching has fallen off without Bruce Arians.
The Bucs have won only four of their last 10 games. They trailed the Saints 16-3 with three minutes left, but won. They trailed the Rams 13-9 in the final minute — again, they won. In both games, the team looked absolutely lifeless and the offense failed to find the end zone over the first 57 minutes.
The other two wins came against the Falcons and Seahawks — the Bucs held on to win by under a TD in both of those games. But during that same stretch, this team lost to P.J. Walker, Jacoby Brissett, and Kenny Pickett. They’re more than a field goal underdog this week to a seventh-round rookie QB making his first start ever.
The Bucs are not good. They’re 6-6, but they could easily be 4-8 or 3-9. At no point this season, not for even one game, have the Bucs looked like the team most expected them to be.
Tampa Bay plays San Francisco and Cincinnati next. It will likely fall to 6-7, then 6-8. If it wins the last three in Arizona, against Carolina and in Atlanta, it won’t matter. The Bucs would be division champions at 9-8. But the way this team is playing, are they much better than coin flips in any of those games?
I’ve been looking for an NFC South alternative all year. The problem is there doesn’t appear to be one. The Bucs might end up division champions by the two sweetest words in the English language: De-fault.
The Saints could have possibly given the Bucs a run if they held on. The Panthers are a popular pick post-Matt Rhule, but the metrics haven’t improved enough to move the needle.
Could the Falcons be our hero?
Atlanta isn’t good, either. The Falcons are 5-8 and have lost four of five. The defense is a disaster, ranking 30th in DVOA. The offense has been surprisingly good, the special teams and coaching great, but it hasn’t been enough.
Still, the Falcons continue to hang around. They have six one-score losses, plus four wins of the same ilk. The team has run the ball consistently and efficiently — but the passing game has been average at best, and the team is so run heavy the overall efficiency is down simply because they do not pass enough.
Enter rookie quarterback Desmond Ridder, maybe the best in the 2022 class.
The Falcons announced they’ll start the rookie after their bye, so he’s got four games to make a splash. And let’s be clear — this is a move Atlanta has waited on all season (as I’ve been decidedly less patient) and one with an eye on the future more than the present.
But it might help the present, too. The Falcons utilized Marcus Mariota well, maximizing him as a runner and using his mobility in the play-action passing game.
That’s precisely the sort of player Ridder is. He was good in preseason action and looked similar to Mariota. Ridder can run the ball, and he is best on the move, where Arthur Smith will put him in position to succeed.
Atlanta’s floor will be lower with a rookie, but the ceiling is substantially higher. Ridder has the arm talent to open up this passing game to Drake London and make the Falcons offense truly dangerous rather than just consistently solid.
Could an offensive burst do just enough to offset a bad defense and push Atlanta to a shock division win?
Desmond Ridder time.
It’s been time.
— Brandon Anderson (@wheatonbrando) November 11, 2022
The Falcons play in New Orleans after the bye. They basically have to win that game or this bet is mostly dead. Atlanta’s next two come against the Cardinals and Ravens (possibly still without Lamar Jackson), while Tampa plays the Cardinals and Panthers. The Falcons likely lose a tiebreaker to the Bucs, so they need to match Tampa in that stretch.
Then it all comes down to a Week 18 finale in Atlanta. The Falcons need to enter that one tied with the Bucs in the standings. If they do, the division title would be on the line, putting us in position to win or hedge.
Could the Falcons win that game? Can they win two or three games before that, to make it meaningful? Maybe. Their struggling defense won’t have to face a great offense, and Atlanta could have the best offense on the field in all four games if Ridder hits the ground running.
Football Outsiders gives Atlanta an 8% chance at the division, an implied +1150. If the Bucs lose this weekend while the Falcons rest, that probably rises to around 12% (+733) to 15% (+566). We’re getting +1400, an implied 6.7%. It’s not a huge edge and still likely to lose, but we have a path to victory and a team worth betting against.
Tom Brady is a perfect 11-0 lifetime against the Falcons, including that memorable 28-3 Super Bowl comeback win. Brady has tormented that poor Atlanta fan base. Could a rookie QB really take down the GOAT to end Brady’s Tampa Bay run and steal the division in the final week of the season?
You have to admit, it’s a pretty juice narrative. Only one way to find out.