Three undervalued NFL teams by the odds as free agency slows

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Matt Rourke / AP

Dak Prescott

Sat, Mar 28, 2020 (2 a.m.)

NFL free agency is settling down, and therefore, the local betting odds are doing the same.

After the markets bounced around for the last week and a half following a particularly packed pool of free agents finding new homes, they should now sit fairly steady leading into next month’s NFL Draft. That makes it a perfect time to take a snapshot and evaluate where there might be value heading into another phase of the offseason.

Below are three more teams to join the New England Patriots, which Talking Points already covered earlier in the week, on a list of currently undervalued sides. It’s important to note, much like the disclaimer in the previous piece, that this is not necessarily a call to action and an endorsement to go firing bets.

There’s still so much uncertainty surrounding the season itself that it’s probably best wait it out before getting involved with futures and season-long bets. Those starved for action or striving to stay prepared, however, could find some bargains on the following teams.

Dallas Cowboys

20-to-1 to win Super Bowl (MGM), over/under 9.5 wins (William Hill), minus-115 to win NFC East (Circa)

Last year’s Dallas Cowboys were one of the best teams in NFL history to miss the playoffs.

Go ahead and get those chuckles out of your system.

Better now? Let’s look at the numbers. Dallas, which finished only 8-8, had a plus-113 point differential. The Cowboys’ expected record was 11-6, according to both Football Outsiders and Pro Football Reference’s similar but separate metrics.

The primary reason they missed the postseason was a ghastly 0-5 record in games decided by seven points or less. The bulk of that failure should be, and in fairness, was, pinned one person — now-fired coach Jason Garrett, whose decision-making somehow hit a new low in his 10th season in Dallas.

There’s an argument that successor Mike McCarthy is just as clueless, and if he approaches his second NFL head-coaching job like he did his first in Green Bay, then that’s valid. But McCarthy got the gig because he vowed he had changed and started to embrace new approaches and analytics.

Positive regression is likely to work in the Cowboys’ favor regardless. If McCarthy has even made marginal improvements, then it’s a bonus.

They may have lost more star power than they gained in free agency, with cornerback Byron Jones bolting for the Dolphins and guard Travis Frederik retiring, but nothing drastic was needed in Dallas.

The Cowboys rival the Saints for the most talented roster in the NFC. They should be at the top of NFC betting boards, not in the mid-tier muck alongside the likes of the Buccaneers, Eagles and Packers.

Cleveland Browns

40-to-1 to win Super Bowl (SuperBook), over/under 8 wins (minus-130, plus-110) (Circa), 6-to-1 to win AFC North (Circa)

Click to enlarge photo

Commissioner Roger Goodell speaks at the podium after the Cleveland Browns selected Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield as their pick during the first round of the NFL football draft, Thursday, April 26, 2018, in Arlington, Texas.

Some debate may exist as to whether Dallas truly upgraded in the coaching department. None should as it pertains to Cleveland.

New coach Kevin Stefanski appears far more qualified to helm an NFL franchise than Freddie Kitchens, who was fired after a disastrous one-year experiment last season.

Stefanski even managed to somewhat modernize the Vikings last year as offensive coordinator despite coach Mike Zimmer’s long-held reluctance to do so. And Stefanski has more at his disposal in Cleveland.

Before his outfits turned him into a revolving meme, don’t forget quarterback Baker Mayfield graded out as an all-time prospect at his position and mostly justified the excitement in his rookie season. Sophomore slumps happen; Stefanski and other reinforcements should help Mayfield get back on track this year.

Cleveland may not have gotten bargains on tight end Austin Hooper and right tackle Jack Conklin in free agency, but both acquisitions fill a need and fit well in Stefanski’s system. Oh, and the Browns still have almost everyone that made them a trendy futures sleeper going into last season.

They might not have ever deserved to get as low as the AFC North favorite and a 12-to-1 Super Bowl shot like they did last summer, but they also don’t merit sitting as high as they do now.

Los Angeles Chargers

50-to-1 to win Super Bowl (Circa), over/under 7.5 wins (William Hill), 10-to-1 to win AFC West (William Hill)

It’s extremely rare, if not unprecedented, for a team to build a championship roster primarily out of free agency. That’s why teams that don’t do anything substantial can be even more valuable and telling than the teams with high levels of activity.

The Chargers didn’t do much, but that’s because they didn’t need to do much. Even with Philip Rivers departing and Tom Brady declining them, they have one of the most complete rosters in the NFL.

That’s obscured because of the number of injuries they endured last season. Los Angeles was one of the top 10 most injured teams in the league, and that’s before even accounting for the effect of the injuries. They were considerably hampered with key players like center Mike Pouncey, safety Derwin James and edge rusher Melvin Ingram missing time.

A little more injury luck and the Chargers could get back to looking like one of the top teams in the league like they did in 2018. They also have the No. 6 pick in the draft where they could snag an impact player at either quarterback or offensive line, the only two positions that stick out as positions of need.

Quarterback isn’t as much of a weakness as perceived either. Current projected starter Tyrod Taylor is mediocre but carries more of a track record than a handful of counterparts. He's not a liability.

The Chargers were as low as 12-to-1 to win the Super Bowl going into last season with a win total of over/under 10 games. Going from Rivers to Taylor is a downgrade, but not as big of a downgrade as the odds imply.

Case Keefer can be reached at 702-948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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