Deadspin NFL Over/Under Bet of the Week: Say ‘arrivederci’ to DiNucci

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Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles

Over/Under: 43

Kickoff: 8:20 p.m. ET


Oy vey, where to begin with this collision?

That’s what the entirety of the NFC East has looked like as a whole, serving as a junkyard for four just plain trash teams. Just look at the 7-20-1 combined record!

The Eagles, who currently sit atop them all with a comical 2-4-1 mark, are the first club since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger to lead a division through the season’s first seven weeks with two or fewer wins, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The Cowboys (and Washington Football Team) are disturbingly a half-game out at 2-5.

Perhaps we are in the midst of laying witness to the worst division in the history of pro football. In defense of these two residents set to (somehow) meet on Sunday Night Football, though, injuries have played a sizable role and figure to keep doing so as main units are strapped.

Take the Cowboys offensive line, for instance. They were down four starters as recently as last week, and even with the return of center Joe Looney this evening, this is still an undependable group. Strong O-line play has been a backbone for Dallas’ success the past few years, so if you completely take that away, of course that will trigger a declining offense.

Just ask Ezekiel Elliott, who hasn’t recorded a 100-yard outing all season. The seven-game drought without one is the longest such streak of his pro career.

Above all, the Cowboys were absolutely decimated at quarterback. It’s unfortunate, too, because Dak Prescott was off to a sensational start the first handful of weeks before falling victim to a gruesome ankle injury. His backup, veteran Andy Dalton, then got taken out a week ago with a concussion on a late hit.

Enter seventh-round pick Ben DiNucci; he of three lifetime throws in the NFL, which came in relief of Dalton. Oh and he also got sacked three times, maybe pointing to more issues ahead as he remains under center behind a patchwork offensive line.

Dallas sports a nice trio of receivers but they’re considerably capped with DiNucci starting. Not only should the rookie out of James Madison continue to experience growing pains, he also faces a solid secondary that boasts more-than-respectable corners in Darius Slay and Avonte Maddox. Philly’s D is better than the 28 points they’ve allowed each week and this will be an opportunity to prove it.

The Eagles have also endured their fair share of injuries. Just like tonight’s opponent, Philadelphia’s offensive line has been ravaged by injury — four of their top six lineman are on IR or the PUP list, even.

As a result, Carson Wentz has been getting pummeled, evident in the league-high 76 hits he’s sustained. The Eagles are also tied with Cincinnati for most sacks allowed (28) in all of football.

Four core weapons (Zach Ertz, Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, and Miles Sanders) for Wentz are also sitting, though he is expected to at least get back a couple of other potential contributors here in Dallas Goedert and Jalen Reagor.

No matter what, the fate of this over/under is going to come down to the Cowboys stepping up on defense, which — believe it or not — I think they can do.

Listen, I know they’re dead last yielding a whopping 34.7 (!) points per game. That’s 243 points allowed in total, something they haven’t even done in 11 full seasons of their franchise history (excluding 1982, the strike year) — and we’re not even halfway through the current campaign.

But this week is ringing in a new-look Cowboy D, one that should be vastly improved from the first couple of months.

Dallas is getting two stalwarts back from injury in Sean Lee and Chidobe Awuzie, while jettisoning Everson Griffen, Dontari Poe and Daryl Worley in the last few days can be viewed as addition by subtraction. Against a downgraded Eagles offense, the Cowboys are capable of serviceable work.

Normally, I wouldn’t buy a full point on a total, as that further juices the odds to -130. In this case, though, with the potential of a 27-17/24-20-type outcome looming, I actually do feel it is warranted.

The Bet: UNDER 44 (-130)

The Record: 4-3, +0.7 unit

Last Week: Jaguars-Chargers Under 49.5 (loss)

*Each bet graded as if it were to win 1 unit

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