It is the most wonderful time of the year. Professional football is on the horizon, no team has been eliminated from playoff contention, and every fan is clinging to the hope that “this could be our year.” While this sentiment is commonly associated with overly optimistic Cowboys fans, that does not seem to be the case this season.
Those who cheer for America’s team on Sundays don’t seem to expect a Super Bowl this season, but most would agree that there is still hope for the 2022 Cowboys. There are positives and negatives about this team, but for the most part, it is just question marks. The result is that no one can get a read on the Cowboys, including the ones who are paid to set the expectations.
Few know what to expect from the 2022 Dallas Cowboys, including Vegas
How will the offensive line perform without their star left tackle? Will the receiving corps look competent without Amari Cooper? Is Dak Prescott truly the “healthiest he has ever been?” What will the split between Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard look like? If the defense can’t force turnovers, will they still be good? How much does losing Randy Gregory hurt the team? These are just a few of the questions that should be answered in the first few weeks of the season.
But for right now, these questions have created a cloud of uncertainty. No one can confidently predict the outlook of the 2022 season. Six wins, thirteen wins, and every outcome in between are on the table for the Cowboys this year. They are much different than a team like the Bears or Bills, whose fates are essentially sealed barring an injury or unexpected breakout.
And the people who set the lines are similarly confused by this team.
When the 2023 Super Bowl lines were first announced, the Cowboys were given a 7.7% chance to win it all, per DraftKings Sportsbook. Only the Bills, Chiefs, Packers, and reigning champion Rams were ahead of them. But then the question marks started popping up as Dallas did nothing to address the uncertainty. Slowly, their odds of winning the Super Bowl began to drop. With an implied probability of 4.3%, they are currently tied for the tenth highest likelihood of hoisting the Lombardi with the Bengals and division rival Eagles.
This is similarly reflected in the probability that the Cowboys win the NFC East. In March, Dallas saw a 55% chance to repeat as division winners, per Vegas lines. Between the Cowboys' dysfunction and the Eagles' spending, that probability has decreased to 40%.
So, Vegas views the Cowboys as worse than they were when the offseason started, right?
Well, not exactly. Because when the initial lines came out for week one of NFL action, the Cowboys were two-point underdogs. While they are still not expected to win, the current line fluctuates between one and one-and-a-half points. And 46% of bets are still being placed on the Cowboys in this matchup.
Their win total has also remained somewhat unchanged. Four months ago, the 2022 Cowboys were tied for the fifth-highest projected win total at 10.5. But after months of inaction and poor management, that number has only decreased to 10.
So, to summarize, Vegas sees the long-term prospects of the Cowboys being significantly worse than it was four months ago. Their Super Bowl odds decreased by 44%, and their odds of winning the NFC East similarly declined by 27%. But that only equates to half a game off their win total (4.7% decrease) and an improved week one line (25% increase). Granted, the Buccaneers have not had the best offseason in the league, but they still have the second-best odds to win it all. If Dallas is only a mediocre team, as the Super Bowl odds would suggest, they have no business being +1.5 against Tom Brady and the Buccaneers.
On a game-by-game and regular season win total basis, the Cowboys had an average offseason. On a Super Bowl and NFC East contending basis, the last four months have been disastrous for the Cowboys. So, which one is it?
Well, the reason for the discrepancy in how much the market has moved in these areas is because Dallas has a high ceiling and low floor. On a game-by-game basis, they should be able to compete with most teams in the league if they stay healthy. This was a 12-5 team last season, and Dallas retained a decent amount of their weapons.
But over the long term, no one knows what to expect. They could string together a few key wins early and ride the momentum to an NFC East crown. They could also completely fall apart with a weak offensive line and natural regression hitting them hard on defense. And this uncertainty is reflected in the Vegas lines. Will they make the Buccaneers and Bengals matchups interesting in the first two weeks? Probably. Will they be successful this season and win the NFC East easily? Who knows.
Essentially, Vegas sees the Cowboys as a halfway decent team that should be competitive in big games. But they also see a team with a handful of question marks, a coach on the hot seat who could impress or fall apart, and an owner who doesn’t seem to care about the 2022 season. You can’t confidently predict them to win the division, and you can’t confidently predict them to make the playoffs, so that is why the odds seem worse over the long term. Their game-by-game outlook hasn't changed, but their overall success is harder to guarantee given these question marks.
And that is how fans should approach this season. There are not many reasons to have faith that this year will be better than last. But with a little luck, the question marks could work to the Cowboys' advantage if all the answers fall in their favor. Dallas is a wild card this year. So with less than a week until the regular season, who's ready to gamble?