On the evening of Oct. 11, as a Greg Zuerlein field goal split the uprights with no time left on the clock to give the Dallas Cowboys a 37-34 victory over the visiting New York Giants, it would have been perfectly reasonable to assume the G-Men’s 2020 football season was over.
The Giants were 0-5, had lost their star running back Saquon Barkley for the season back in Week 2, and had every right to focus on getting the No. 1 pick in the 2021 draft.
But here they are a month and a half later, having won three in a row to up their record to 4-7. The Giants are tied with Washington for first place in the collectively .333 NFC East and hold an advantage from having swept the season series with the “Football Team.” They enter December with visions of a home playoff game dancing in their heads.
In fact, FootballOutsiders.com’s algorithm says the Giants are the favorites. It gives Joe Judge’s squad, which has only won by more than three points once this season, a 39.9% chance of flying the division-winner flag.
And if you believe in that percentage, which suggests the Giants should have +150 betting odds, you’re going to love what the legal New Jersey sportsbooks have to say.
+260 on a 40% shot?
Sampling five of the 17 online books in the state, we see that the Eagles are still considered the betting favorite, with the Giants and Washington effectively tied for second place:
At the best-in-state price of +260 at FanDuel Sportsbook, the Giants offer tremendous value relative to the expectation calculated by Football Outsiders. There are, however, a few catches to consider:
- Quarterback Daniel Jones hurt his hamstring in the Giants’ unsettlingly narrow win over the lowly Bengals on Sunday, leaving Colt McCoy behind center. The time frame for Jones’ return is unclear. While the second-year QB is by no means among the elite at the position — he has a passer rating of 78.7 this season and his interceptions outnumber his touchdown tosses — McCoy is a downgrade.
- The Giants have a tough remaining schedule — the 10th strongest in the NFL right now, according to Tankathon.com. They close with a home game against the bumbling Cowboys but face four playoff-contending teams before then: Seattle, Arizona, Cleveland, and Baltimore. Six wins probably takes the NFC East. Five wins probably doesn’t (unless you’re the Eagles, who have a tie and at 5-10-1 would edge out a 5-11 Giants team).
- Speaking of the Eagles, who at 3-6-1 are still given the shortest odds to win the division, they play Monday night against the Seahawks and are 6½-point ’dogs while trying to sort out a quarterback controversy. Philly is as high as +240 on the moneyline at DraftKings Sportsbook. If the Eagles pull off the upset, they’re in the driver’s seat and the Giants’ +260 price loses much of its value. The time to bet New York is right now if you’re confident the Eagles will lose this one.
- As poorly as Dallas has played, it has by far the easiest remaining schedule of the East teams — rated the fourth softest in the whole league. Who knows what to make of their one remaining game against a team with the winning record — the COVID-cursed Ravens a week from now — and then they face sub-.500 Cincinnati, San Francisco, Philly, and the Giants. The Cowboys are 3-8 now, but it’s not hard to see them getting to six or maybe even seven wins — which makes them worth consideration at +700 at PointsBet, BetMGM, and DraftKings.
Bad Sunday for bettors
Hardcore Giants fans surely have mixed feelings about the season so far. It’s been frustrating, injury-riddled, and disappointing, but they’re now on a winning streak and in the playoff hunt.
From a betting perspective, this past Sunday’s game against the Bengals typified those mixed feelings.
On the moneyline, the G-Men prevailed. Against the spread, with the Giants favored by 5½ against a Cincy team missing QB Joe Burrow, they got back-doored by a late Brandon-Allen-to-Tee-Higgins touchdown.
That Bengals cover was a huge win for the sportsbooks on what was generally a highly profitable day for the house. At PointsBet, 89% of tickets and 81% of handle was on the Giants giving those points. At FanDuel, it was even more lopsided, with 93% of the bets and 91% of the money supporting the Giants against the spread.
And the mixed feelings continue down the stretch now for Giants fans who might be excited for some postseason football and surely remember from those two Eli Manning Super Bowls that nothing is impossible if you get into tournament. At the same time, they realize three NFC East teams will be picking in the top half-dozen or so in the draft while the division winner will have to wait until the back half of the first round.
Perhaps the right approach is to root for the local team to win the division, but know there’s a silver lining if it doesn’t. And it’s up to you whether to bolster that silver lining with an emotional hedge bet on one of the Giants’ rivals to win the NFC East.