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October 1, 2014

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NFL betting primer: Vegas odds, picks and preview of the NFC East

Bettors love the Eagles, hate the Cowboys

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Associated Press

Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy celebrates his touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game against the Washington Redskins in Philadelphia on Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013.

Note: This is the second part of Talking Points' team-by-team preview of the NFC running all week. Check out part one here and the four AFC installments here.

If you ever have trouble locating NFC East teams on betting boards at sports books around town, just look for the games with the biggest number off to the side.

The strategy would work in week 1. Two of the three largest over/under point totals on the opening weekend of NFL action involve teams that reside in the division.

The Westgate Las Vegas Superbook lists the Philadelphia Eagles’ home game against the Jacksonville Jaguars with an over/under of 52.5 points, just edging the Dallas Cowboys’ hosting of the San Francisco 49ers at 52.

Throw in the Eagles’ and Cowboys’ two NFC East rivals, the Washington Redskins and New York Giants, and Superbook Executive Director Jay Kornegay predicts a theme that will last throughout the season.

“The first thing that comes to mind when I look at that division is, it’s going to be a lot of shootouts,” Kornegay said.

Oddsmakers prepare by inflating the totals in games they know will prompt “over” money from public bettors. In 12 NFC East divisional games last season, the average over/under was 50.5 points — nearly a touchdown more than the average of 45.

It wasn’t wise to wager on shootouts, as overs went 3-9 in the 12 games. But offense still sells.

Aside from the Denver Broncosrecord-breaking romp through the season, the Philadelphia Eagles’ offense was the talk of the NFL last season. The Eagles finished second in yards and fourth in points under first-year, offensive-whiz coach Chip Kelly.

The excitement generated as many pro-Eagles bets going into this season as the other three NFC East teams got combined. The Giants were the most ignored, not surprisingly considering they were the lone member of the division not to rank in the bottom 11 of Football Outsiders’ defensive DVOA metric last season.

“All these teams have halfway decent offenses, but all the defenses stink,” Kornegay said.

Read below to find betting previews and odds of all four teams in the NFC East.

    • Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett watches the game from the sidelines in the first half of a NFL preseason football game against the Denver Broncos, Thursday, Aug. 28. 2014, in Arlington, Texas.

      Dallas Cowboys

      2013 Against The Spread Record: 9-7 (8-8 straight up)

      CG Technologies weeks 1-16 lines: Favorites in eight games, underdog in five games with two pick ’ems

      Average spread: Cowboys minus-.5 (biggest favorite: Week 10 minus-10 at Jaguars; biggest underdog: Week 6 plus-7.5 at Seahawks)

      Westgate Superbook odds to win the Super Bowl: 75-to-1

      Westgate Superbook odds to win NFC: 38-to-1

      William Hill odds to win the NFC East: 5-to-1

      South Point over/under win total: 7.5 (over plus-110, under minus-130)

      Kornegay’s report: “I think it’s an overall consensus the Cowboys will have problems. Unfortunately for the Cowboys’ fans, it just looks like a disaster in Dallas. They have some serious issues, and I don’t expect Garrett to last the year.”

      Keefer’s take: Garrett is a 3-to-1 favorite offshore to become the first coach fired this season. I’ve already picked someone different, and it’s partly because of the schedule. If Dallas collapses like everyone anticipates, it might not come until the second half of the season as it’s favored in five of the first eight games. That course would fit with the recent theme as the Cowboys have played well enough early to put themselves in position to win the NFC East in week 17 in each of the past three years. They’ve lost all three games — though Dallas covered against Philadelphia in last year’s de facto playoff game — but it feels presumptuous to rule them out from having another similar 8-8 season.

      A bet: 49ers vs. Cowboys over 52 Week 1. The total will likely boost a point or two before kickoff with both of these teams’ offenses ahead of their defense.

    • New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) hands the ball off to running back Rashad Jennings (23) against the New York Jets in the first quarter of a preseason NFL football game, Friday, Aug. 22, 2014, in East Rutherford, N.J.

      New York Giants

      2013 Against The Spread Record: 7-9 (7-9 straight up)

      CG Technologies weeks 1-16 lines: Favorites in eight games, underdogs in seven games

      Average spread: Giants plus-.5 (biggest favorite: Week 13 minus-5.5 at Jaguars; biggest underdog: Week 10 plus-10 at Seahawks)

      Westgate Superbook odds to win the Super Bowl: 40-to-1

      Westgate Superbook odds to win NFC: 20-to-1

      William Hill odds to win the NFC East: plus-340 (risking $1 to win $3.40)

      South Point over/under win total: 8 (over minus-120, under Even)

      Kornegay’s report: “I think the Giants bounce back a little bit. I think the Giants and Redskins are neck and neck, very similar teams. (Bettors) are more optimistic with the Redskins. I’m the opposite. I’m more optimistic on the Giants.”

      Keefer’s take: It’s nice to welcome Kornegay aboard the Giants comeback train. It’s still far from capacity despite New York being far and away the NFC East’s most consistent team over a large sample of time. A decade has passed since the Giants lost double-digit games, and last year’s 7-9 record was the first time in nine years they finished with a losing mark. They’ve been profitable to bet on over the span with just three losing seasons against the spread. The Giants finished far ahead of their three division rivals defensively last season despite getting ravaged by injuries. The offense was pitiful, but new running backs Rashad Jennings and Andre Williams are underrated additions. There’s also more evidence supporting quarterback Eli Manning’s struggles last year being an aberration and not a sign of overall decline.

      A bet: Giants to win the NFC East at plus-340. Instead of forcing a bet on something new, I’d rather double down with a wager I’m already on record supporting.

    • Philadelphia Eagles' Matt Barkley is seen during an NFL pre season football game against the New York Jets on Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014, in Philadelphia.

      Philadelphia Eagles

      2013 Against The Spread Record: 8-8 (10-6 straight up)

      CG Technologies weeks 1-16 lines: Favorites in 11 games, underdogs in three games with one pick'em

      Average spread: Eagles minus-1.5 (biggest favorite: Week 1 minus-11 vs. Jaguars; biggest underdog: Week 4 plus-6 at 49ers)

      Westgate Superbook odds to win the Super Bowl: 25-to-1

      Westgate Superbook odds to win NFC: 13-to-1

      William Hill odds to win the NFC East: Even

      South Point over/under win total: 9 (over minus-140, under plus-120)

      Kornegay’s report: “Just looking at tickets, the Eagles have twice as many tickets to win the East as any other team. It certainly makes sense. I don’t disagree with what the money says, and the money says the Eagles should win the division.”

      Keefer’s take: The narrative of the NFC East changed from “a division any team could win” to “a division that’s the Eagles' to lose” at some point during the offseason. That’s always a red flag. It’s more convenient to remember the second half of last regular season when Philadelphia’s offense was high-flying and went 7-1 straight up and 5-3 against the spread. But don’t discount the sputters that happened before when it sat 3-5 straight up and against the spread at the midway pole. Quarterback Nick Foles had much to do with the transformation, of course, but it’s unfeasible to expect him to keep a ratio like 27 touchdowns to two interceptions from last season. Anyone can score on the defense, which might have over performed down the stretch a year ago despite ranking in the league’s bottom 10.

      A bet: Eagles under 9 wins. Take caution when a number looks “too good to be true,” as I’ve heard this line described. The Eagles have their issues. It’s just that no one is choosing to pay attention to them.

    •  Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III (10) warms up before the start of a preseason NFL football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014, in Tampa, Fla.

      Washington Redskins

      2013 Against The Spread Record: 5-11 (3-13 straight up)

      CG Technologies weeks 1-16 lines: Underdogs in 10 games, favorites in five games

      Average spread: Redskins plus-1 (biggest favorite: Week 2 minus-9 vs. Jaguars; biggest underdog: Week 12 plus-8.5 at 49ers)

      Westgate Superbook odds to win the Super Bowl: 60-to-1

      Westgate Superbook odds to win NFC: 25-to-1

      William Hill odds to win the NFC East: plus-350 (risking $1 to win $3.50)

      South Point over/under win total: 7.5 (over minus-120, under Even)

      Kornegay’s report: “People are favorable with the Redskins, but I think the Redskins are going to have issues at quarterback, and that’s not a good thing to have at any level. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Kirk Cousins named the starter at some point over the course of the year.”

      Keefer’s take: Robert Griffin III has accounted for nearly three times the amount of touchdowns than interceptions and taken Washington to the playoffs. Kirk Cousins has more interceptions than touchdowns and has won a single game, two years ago by the way, with the Redskins. So let’s call off any debate about which quarterback would be better for new coach Jay Gruden. There are much bigger problems anyway, namely a defensive backfield that might be the worst in the NFL. In order to mask the secondary, linebackers Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan must play at an ascendant level. They’re no doubt capable, but that’s a heavy burden to carry.

      A bet: Robert Griffin III over 22.5 passing touchdowns. Injuries are the only factor that could hold Griffin back from an outstanding season.

    Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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