If you bet the Cowboys before the season began to win the NFC championship, you are looking pretty good right now to cash in a nicely priced ticket as Dallas is the team to beat in the conference. Here's an NFC futures update from SBR's best sportsbooks.
Cowboys Riding Rookie Duo
Back before teams reported to training camp, the Cowboys were anywhere between +800 & +1000 on NFL odds to win their first NFC title since 1995 -- which was the last time the franchise won a Super Bowl and really was the final year of the Troy Aikman/Emmitt Smith/Michael Irvin triplets era.
Frankly, even those odds seemed short with Dallas coming off a 4-12 season, having a franchise quarterback with major health questions and with a terrible defense. But sometimes, it's better to be lucky than good. And the best thing to happen to the Cowboys was seeing Tony Romo go down with a back injury in the preseason. That opened the door for fourth-round rookie Dak Prescott to take over under center, and he has been spectacular in leading Dallas to an NFL-best 10-1 mark and franchise-record 10 straight wins entering Week 13. Prescott is the fourth-rated QB in the NFL and has thrown just two interceptions in 340 attempts. To think, the Cowboys tried desperately to trade back into the late first round of the 2016 draft to take Memphis' Paxton Lynch. Had that near-trade with Seattle worked (Denver swooped in with a better offer), then Prescott surely isn't taken in the fourth round by Dallas. Meanwhile, fellow rookie Ezekiel Elliott has been the NFL's best running back this season. A truly amazing draft class. But keep in mind no rookie QB has won a Super Bowl.
The Cowboys have a clear path to home-field advantage in the NFC playoffs as no other teams in the conference have fewer than three losses. So obviously if Dallas finishes 4-1 in the final five games, it will be the top seed. The schedule does get tougher starting this week at Minnesota and then at the Giants (only team to beat Dallas), vs. Tampa Bay, vs. Detroit and at Philadelphia.
The shortest odds on Dallas to win the NFC is +160 at Bovada.
Seahawks, Then Dropoff Among Rest
Back in mid-July, Seattle was the +350 favorite on NFL picks to win the NFC title, followed by Green Bay at +375, Carolina at +450 and Arizona at +500. Of course the Panthers and Cardinals played in last season's NFC Championship Game, but neither is going to make the playoffs this year barring a miracle. Injuries have played a role, but neither Cam Newton nor Carson Palmer is playing near his 2015 level when Newton was the NFL MVP and Palmer a candidate for the award.
Now it's the Seahawks (7-3-1) who are the second-favorites at all sportsbooks to win the NFC. Their chances of earning home-field advantage took a big hit in Week 12 with an upset loss at Tampa Bay. Even if Seattle were to win out, it might not surpass Dallas because of that tie. But the Seahawks do control their destiny for the No. 2 seed and will win the NFC West.
Oddsmakers don't have much faith in the likes of the NFC South-leading Atlanta Falcons (+775) or the red-hot NY Giants (+950). Atlanta certainly has a Super Bowl-caliber offense, but its defense remains a question. The Giants entered Week 13 on a six-game winning streak and still have a shot to beat out Dallas for the NFC East title and potential No. 1 seed. But New York's winning streak was largely built on the backs of bad teams. Its schedule is much harder the rest of the way.
I still like Seattle to win the conference title as long as it does get the No. 2 seed.