Are the Philadelphia Eagles a 13 or 14-win team? Based on the wildly early point spreads released from Las Vegas oddsmakers, Philadelphia is supposed to run away with the NFC East in 2012.
The argument is often made that when it comes to betting on NFL football, you can't beat Las Vegas oddsmakers. Regardless of whether gambling on NFL games is a fool's strategy for financial success, a hell of a lot of Americans do it.
And that's why every year at this time, Cantor Gaming releases point spreads for all 240 games played from Week 1 through Week 16.
The spreads, which were released last week, can obviously give us a nice indication of what some of the smartest people in the sports world think will happen to our favorite teams. Now, Week 17 isn't publicly handicapped yet, but we can comb through the first 16 weeks to determine just what Vegas is expecting from the four teams in the NFC East.
* In Week 17, the Redskins host the Cowboys and the Giants host the Eagles.
The oddsmakers believe Dallas will lose its first two games, in New York against the Giants and in Seattle. It's also interesting to see that they have the Cowboys down as a one-point underdog at Carolina in Week 7. They also have the 'Boys as one-point 'dogs in back-to-back games against Philadelphia (at home) and Cincinnati (on the road). And then again they're a one-point 'dog against the Saints in Week 16.
Which team's projection seems most accurate?
Projected record headed into Week 17: 6-9. Ten of those games fall within a field goal in either direction.
My take: This is low. The Cowboys are better than 6-10 or 7-9. That said, their schedule doesn't do them any favors this year. It'll be interesting to see if they play as many close games as they're projected to play.
The defending champions are supposed to win their first two games, but it's a pick'em in Carolina Week 3. The only road game they're favored to win all season? Week 13 in Washington.
Projected record headed into Week 17: 7-6-2. Obviously they won't tie twice, but even if you give them victories in those two pick'ems, the oddsmakers aren't confident that the G-men will build off of their Super Bowl season.
My take: Honestly, I still see the Giants as a nine or 10-win team. Still, you'd think the Super Bowl winners would get more love away from home.
The oddsmakers have the Eagles doing the opposite of what they did last September and starting fast with wins in six of their first seven games. Their Week 5 matchup with the Steelers is a toss-up, but they've been made a one-point 'dog.
Which team's projection seems least accurate?
Projected record headed into Week 17: 13-2. And only two wins and three losses that fall within three points.
My take: Philadelphia might have the most talented roster in the league, and oddsmakers can't really project intangible stuff that could interfere with such a run. I'm assuming these lines are set with the presumption that everyone stays healthy. That won't be easy for the Eagles, who led the NFC in adjusted games lost in 2011.
Despite the tumult in New Orleans, the oddsmakers have Robert Griffin III and Co. as a 9.5-point underdog on the road against the Saints in Week 1. They're not favored to win until they host the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 3.
Projected record headed into Week 17: 4-10-1. So if they follow that path, win their Week 2 pick'em with St. Louis and beat the Cowboys at home in the finale, they'll improve by one game in RG3's first year.
My take: While Philly is too high and Dallas and the Giants are probably a little low, this isn't far off. The Redskins are probably still a year away from competing for the playoffs.
This obviously isn't a perfect science. Broad season-long predictions aren't necessarily going to match up with game-by-game point spreads, and sometimes numbers are manipulated by oddsmakers to get the public betting in one spot or another. The latest future odds for Super Bowl XLVII have the Eagles only barely ahead of the Giants. Plus, they aren't always right. They're just right more often than most of us are.
Still, it's fun to take a glimpse at what the Vegas folk believe might go down in 2013.