I don't know that a 3-8 team like the Dallas Cowboys should even entertain thoughts about making it to the postseason, but such is the state of the NFC East that the Cowboys are just two games behind the division lead, with a chance to close that lead to just one game this weekend.
For that to happen, not only will the Cowboys have to win their game against the Redskins, but the Giants and Eagles will also have to lose for the Cowboys. The odds of that happening are not as remote as you might think. FiveThirtyEight.com lists the win probabilities for each NFC East game as follows:
The odds here suggest there's a 15% chance (37% x 88% x 47%) of the NFC East weekend playing out exactly the way the Cowboys need it. But these win probabilities don't exactly match the Vegas odds that we've seen for the three games this week, and which have the Jets as the favorites and the Cowboys with much longer odds.
Which is why I've enlisted professional help from Scott Cooley at Bookmaker.eu to understand why the spreads for the games are the way they are, after which I'll offer up my picks against the spread for the NFC East games.
Sunday, 1:00 PM EST: New York Jets at New York Giants (+2.5, 45)
Here's Scott's take on the spread for this game:
We opened this Sunday night as a pick ‘em and immediately took wiseguy action on the Jets, moving them to -1. By Monday night, we had adjusted up to Jets -2.5. As far as wagers taken we are fairly even so that should tell you where the smart money is. We fully expect to see Giants money as the weekend rolls around as they have much more public appeal. I don’t know if the Giants’ O-line can keep Manning off his back more plays than not here.
Watch social media carefully during this game. If you see a gif or a vine of Odell Beckham making a spectacular catch, the Giants are almost certainly going to lose. Maybe one of these days we'll see a highlight-reel catch from OBJ in a winning Giants effort.
The Over/Under presents an interesting challenge in this game. Both teams are likely to play ball control as they try to avoid costly mistakes that could jeopardize their playoff chances. The Jets are going to lean on their running back in this game, and their defensive line is going to spell trouble for the ailing Giants O-line, thus keeping the Giants passing game in check. I take the Under in this one.
The wiseguy action went the Jets' way, and I'm taking the hint. Pick: Jets (-2.5)
Sunday, 4:25 PM EST, Philadelphia Eagles at New England Patriots (-9.5, 49)
Scott doesn't expect a lot from the Eagles.
The injuries haven’t scared bettors away from backing the Pats, and it looks like they’ll get some key players back Sunday night. We’re taking New England money at about a 3-to-1 clip. Sam Bradford will be back but that’s only a minor upgrade for the Eagles from our vantage point. As I’ve stated before, this is not a quality Philadelphia team and it will be difficult for it to stay within the number. With the way the Patriots lost last week, I expect them to take out some frustration on the Eagles.
The Eagles suck, but the Patriots without Rob Gronkowski also suck, going only 6-8 against the spread over the last two years when The Gronkster doesn’t play. With the money continuing to come in on the Patriots, the spread could easily hit double digits by Sunday, and no way I'm taking double digits on an injured Patriots offense (Julian Edelman is out, Danny Amendola is questionable) that has become overly reliant on Tom Brady. What if Brady gets a hangnail during the game?
I'm looking for the Eagles to keep it close with some improbable plays on special teams. I'm also looking for the most entitled fan base on the face of the Earth to find another reason in this game to fuel their faux outrage over some perceived sleight that nobody really cares about but Patriots fans will whine about for weeks. Pick: Eagles (+9.5)
Monday: 8.30 PM EST, Dallas Cowboys at Washington Redskins (-4.5, 41.5)
The sharps were all over the Cowboys in early action. Take the hint.
There’s usually an overreaction from bettors after a major injury so we had to factor that into the Cowboys’ line. We took some sharp action on Dallas after opening Washington -5 and moved the spread to -4 within a few minutes. The Redskins are certainly a different beast at home, but I don’t expect the Cowboys to just roll over now that Romo is out again. Dallas is a defense-first team now and we’re not anticipating a shootout Monday night.
You've probably heard all about how Washington is 5-1 at FedEx Field this season. What you haven't heard is that the Redskins haven’t covered as a favorite since Week 2 of last season. Which trend are you betting on?
Pick: Cowboys (+4.5)