Week 3 of the NFL concludes with a divisional showdown between NFC East rivals: the Dallas Cowboys and the Philadelphia Eagles. Only weeks ago, this might have seemed like a relatively uninspired choice for a primetime Monday Night Football game on ESPN. However, with a surprisingly competitive start from the Eagles, this game has much bigger implications.
Fortunately for NFL betting fanatics, there are clear signals on both the side and the total.
Cowboys, Eagles Battle for Control of the NFC East
I’ve seen enough of the New York Giants and Washington Football Team to know that both are likely out of contention for the NFC East title.
Much ink was spilled in the offseason about Washington’s championship-caliber defense, but at the end of September, it seems the unit may be overhyped. Combined with a full half-season of Taylor Heinicke, it seems like Washington will struggle to be anything more than a divisional nuisance.
As for the Giants, well, if you haven’t figured the Daniel Jones thing out yet, I don’t know what to tell you.
That leaves Dallas and Philadelphia as the teams most likely to compete for the NFC East crown. With Dak Prescott back in his role as starting quarterback of the Cowboys, Dallas entered the season as a modest online betting option to win the division.
The Eagles are more of a surprise; after a dreadful 2020 campaign, the marketplace seemed to have forgotten how much talent was still on the roster. Solid performances from Jalen Hurts, alongside a new coaching staff, have quickly revived the franchise.
All that is prologue to Monday Night Football, which will see the Cowboys and Eagles play another primetime rivalry game. The stakes are surprisingly high for a Week 3 game — the winner will move to 2-1 and gain sole possession of first place in the NFC East, with some early tiebreaker potential thrown in for good measure.
The loser will fall to 1-2, remaining tied with Washington for second place.
Attacking the Total for Monday Night Football
The total for Monday Night’s game is 51. That’s down slightly from an opening consensus line of 51.5, despite the fact that more than 60 percent of tickets are on the over.
If you’re like me, your gut reaction for this game was to hit the over, as Dallas’ prolific offense and quick pace are likely to generate points. Philadelphia will be forced to keep pace, even if it’s not their first offensive instinct, and pretty soon, we’ve got a no-sweat over.
However, the reverse line movement gave me pause, so I dug into the game a little deeper. For one thing, both teams are missing key offensive linemen. For the Eagles, it’s starting left tackle Jordan Mailata, who suffered an MCL sprain during last Thursday’s practice.
That’s on top of the injury to starting right guard Brandon Brooks, who will now miss significant time after straining his pectoral muscle in last weekend’s game against the 49ers.
As for Dallas, they’ll be without starting right tackle La’el Collins because, somewhat hilariously, he’s been suspended for trying to bribe an NFL drug test official.
So we’re probably going to see some mucked-up trench play for Eagles/Cowboys on Monday night. Consider, too, the aforementioned stakes of the game, which might bring out an extra degree of defensive effort. And on top of all that, recall that this is a divisional game, which trends toward the under across the board. So far this season, divisional unders are 7-4, which is in line with the sort of advantage that under bettors typically see when targeting divisional totals.
I’m following the line movement and playing Under 51.
My Pick: Cowboys/Eagles Under 51
Making a Pick for Cowboys/Eagles on Monday Night Football
As of this writing, the NFL odds at BetMGM have Dallas as a 3-point favorite. That’s down from an opening line of Dallas -4. As with most primetime games, there is heavy public action on the game; that, along with some sharp money, is what’s most likely pushing this point spread toward Philadelphia.
But there are a few factors here that favor Dallas. For one thing, there’s pure value. The ability to buy Dallas at a lower spot (that happens to be a key number!) is just solid execution of gambling fundamentals.
Even more than that, though, is Dallas’ larger place in the marketplace. Just three weeks ago, Dallas was pegged as a six-point favorite in this game. That number has come down mostly because the marketplace feels differently about Philadelphia, not because Dallas is flawed. If anything, a win over the Chargers and a close loss in Tampa should leave people feeling like the Cowboys have more substance than usual.
The Eagles, on the other hand, have beaten a dreadful Atlanta team. I’m not yet sure what to make of their loss to San Francisco, but I do feel that their trip to Dallas is their toughest challenge of the season.
The road team has actually won this series five games in a row, but that’s a trend I expect to end tonight. I have a small play on Dallas, now that the Cowboys are down to 3-point favorites.
Given that I like plays on the side and the total in this game, I am also considering a small, half-unit parlay combining those plays, sprinkled on top.
My Pick: Dallas -3