It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Pro soccer 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 doesn’t seem to be the case this season.
Those who cheer for America’s team on Sundays don’t seem to expect a Superbowl 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, they are just question marks. The bottom line is that no one can get a read on the Cowboys, including those who are paid to set expectations.
Few know what to expect from the 2022 Dallas Cowboys, including Las Vegas
How will the offensive line perform without their star left tackle? Will the receiving corps look competent without Amari Cooper? Is Dak Prescott really the “healthiest he’s ever been”? What will the separation between Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard look like? If the defense can’t force turnovers, will they still be good? How much does it hurt the team to lose Randy Gregory? These are just some of the questions that need to be answered in the first few weeks of the season.
But for now, these questions have created a cloud of uncertainty. No one can confidently predict the prospects for the 2022 season. Six wins, thirteen wins, and every result in between are on the table for the Cowboys this year. They are very different from a team like the Bears or Bills, whose fates are essentially sealed barring an unexpected injury or breakup.
And the people setting the lines are equally confused by this team.
When the 2023 Super Bowl lines were first announced, the Cowboys had a 7.7% chance of winning it all, according to DraftKings Sportsbooks. Only the Bills, Chiefs, Packers, and reigning champion Rams were ahead of them. But then the question marks began to appear as Dallas did nothing to address the uncertainty. Slowly, their odds of winning the Super Bowl began to diminish. With an implied probability of 4.3%, they are currently tied for the 10th highest probability of hoisting the Lombardi with the Bengals and their division rival Eagles.
This is similarly reflected in the probability of the Cowboys winning the NFC East. In March, Dallas saw a 55% chance of repeating as division winners, according to Las Vegas lines. Between the Cowboys’ dysfunction and the Eagles’ spending, that probability has dropped to 40%.
So, Vegas sees the Cowboys as worse than they were when the offseason began, right?
Well not exactly. Because when the initial lines came out for the first week of NFL action, the Cowboys were underdogs by two points. While they’re still not expected to win, the current line fluctuates between a point and a point and a half. 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 mismanagement, that number has only dropped to 10.
So, to summarize, Vegas sees the Cowboys’ long-term prospects as significantly worse than they were four months ago. Their Super Bowl Odds dropped by 44%, and their odds of winning the NFC East also dropped by 27%. But that’s only half a game of their win total (down 4.7%) and an improvement on the Week 1 line (up 25%). Granted, the Buccaneers haven’t had the best off-season in the league, but they still have the second-best odds to win it all. If Dallas is just 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 down season. On a Super Bowl and NFC East contender basis, the last four months have been disastrous for the Cowboys. So which is it?
Well, the reason for the discrepancy in how much the market has moved in these areas is that Dallas has a high ceiling and a 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 in the long run, no one knows what to expect. They could string together some key wins early and ride the momentum toward an NFC East crown. They could also completely fall apart with a weak offensive line and a natural regression that hits them hard on defense. And this uncertainty is reflected in the Vegas lines. Will they make the Buccaneers-Bengals matchups interesting in the first two weeks? Probably. will they succeed this season and easily win the NFC East? 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 bench who could either impress or fall apart, and an owner who doesn’t seem to care about the 2022 season. You can’t confidently predict they’ll win the division, and you can’t confidently predict they’ll make the playoffs, so the odds look worse in the long run. Their play-by-play outlook hasn’t changed, but their overall success is harder to guarantee given these question marks.
And that’s how fans should approach this season. There’s not much reason to have faith that this year will be better than last. But with a little luck, the question marks could benefit the Cowboys if all the answers fall in their favor. Dallas is a wild card this year. So, with less than a week to go in the regular season, who’s ready to bet?