The Eagles are the NFC’s top betting choice to win the Super Bowl at +600 on FanDuel Sportsbook, third overall. San Francisco is fourth at plus-650.
Sounds about right. Today’s buzz is all about the 49ers. Their defense is ridiculous, their running game is what playoffs teams need to survive, Jimmy Garoppolo is good enough.
The overall favorite is Kansas City at plus-430, followed by Buffalo at plus-450. Hard to argue that.
The fifth-best odds? How about them Cowboys? Dallas is +850.
We’re not going to knee-jerk an anti-Cowboys reaction. Let’s give Dallas its due respect. There are elements of the 8-3 Cowboys’ game we like and elements we don’t like.
I know about America’s team and all that, but I don’t see the Cowboys being better than San Francisco or the Eagles. Dallas has been oversold for a generation. The results simply haven’t reflected the hype.
Troy Aikman and Michael Irvin aren’t coming through that door, folks, unless they’re part of a broadcast team.
There is only one bye in each conference of the 2022 NFL Playoffs schedule. The other six conference playoff teams will have to play (and win) an extra game.
If you don’t win the division — and Dallas is two games plus a tiebreaker behind the Eagles — you have to win three road games to get to the Super Bowl.
Since the wild card system began in 1970, only 10 wild cards have advanced to the Super Bowl. Only six have won, the last being the Packers in 2010.
Getting to the Super Bowl through the wild card route is physically demanding and treacherous since you’ll likely be playing teams just as good and on the road.
If the Eagles win the NFC East, they would host the divisional game and with a win would host the NFC title game. It’s a much simpler road to Glendale, Ariz.
WHAT WE LIKE ABOUT THE COWBOYS
No denying that Dallas has a strong defense — seventh overall, second in points allowed, third in pass defense, but a concerning 25th against the run.
However, I can think of one NFC contender with a strong running attack — the Eagles, who are ranked third in rushing — and a potential January game when running the ball will be paramount.
STRONG PASS RUSH
This part of the game that would be the most troubling to an opponent. The Cowboys lead the NFL with 45 sacks (the Eagles are third with 36). They are third in turnover differential with plus-5 (Eagles are first with plus-13).
Second-year linebacker Micah Parsons has gotten so much publicity that even Penn Staters probably are tired of hearing about him. Parsons is second in sacks with 12 — one behind the Patriots’ Matthew Judon — and probably the league’s defensive MVP.
The pass rush is driving the Cowboys’ odds. A consistent pass rush disrupts a quarterback’s timing, can cause fumbles, contribute to interceptions and put an offense behind the chains, trying to convert third-and-16s.
THE WIN OVER MINNESOTA
This might have been the most impressive win of the season by any team. Dallas was dominant in the 40-3 dismantling of the Vikings in Minneapolis. This victory followed a 31-28 overtime loss at Green Bay, when Dallas blew a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter.
Which Cowboys team shows up will determine their playoff viability. No team is going to play great every game, including the 10-1 Eagles.
Pollard is more effective that Zeke Elliott with his breakaway speed and elusiveness. Zeke still has abilities but he looks a step slow. Pollard is a problem for defenses.
Michael Gallup looks better each week coming off an ACL injury he suffered at the end of 2021. CeeDee Lamb would have to be contained in a playoff game. And the Cowboys are among the teams flirting with explosive free agent Odell Beckham Jr.
DAK PRESCOTT, AT TIMES
Dak is solid but remember when Cooper Rush won four straight games and then played well against the Eagles? There was talk in Dallas that maybe Rush was the best play moving forward.
When Prescott is playing in rhythm and his running game is working, he is an effective, if not elite, quarterback.
If Dak is hot, Dallas can beat anybody.
WHAT WE DON’T LIKE ABOUT THE COWBOYS
DAK PRESCOTT, AT TIMES
Dak is confusing. He looks great at times. When he overthrows an open receiver, you wonder about him. He has run only 19 times in six games. Defenses game-plan differently if Dak isn’t a running threat.
If Dak isn’t hot, Dallas can lose to anybody.
McCarthy won a Super Bowl in 2010 with a young and frisky Aaron Rodgers. He hasn’t been back to the big game since, and he had many chances with the Packers and Rodgers.
McCarthy always seems to make a questionable play-call at a crucial time and his clock-management skills have never been admired.
TOO MANY PENALTIES
Dallas ranks 31st in penalties with 7.5 per game. The league leader has 3.9. The Cowboys had 13 penalties against the Giants on Thanksgiving.
“We can’t have any pre-snap penalties,” Dallas right tackle Terence Steele told the team’s website. “They bite us in the butt.”
IT’S BEEN TOO LONG
Dallas hasn’t won a Super Bowl since 1995, before many of its current players were born. This generation of NFL players doesn’t shirk at the sight of the Cowboys’ star.
To current players, the Cowboys have lost 11 playoff games and only won four wild card games since 1996.
This year’s Cowboys have the feel of a team that might win a playoff game on the road, maybe, but then have to win a divisional game at Philly or San Francisco. That second week might stop them.
The NFL is a right-now, this-week-only league. For coaches and players, it’s sacrosanct to look beyond the current opponent.
Fortunately, fans and the media doesn’t have to live by that outdated methodology.
In Philly, we study the Cowboys, regret their strengths, chuckle at their weaknesses. We grudgingly believe they’re a good team, maybe a great team.
We also believe they aren’t Super Bowl material … not this year. You can bet on it.