NFL Futures Report: Do Cowboys or Chargers Present More Value?

Written By Eli Hershkovich on October 3, 2021
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We’re just three weeks into the 2021 NFL season, but the NFL futures betting markets have already seen some adjustments — specifically for conference championship and Super Bowl odds.

Below we’ll look at how odds have shifted, where Super Bowl liabilities sit at PointsBet and whether the Cowboys or Chargers present value after some big September wins.

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Cowboys and Chargers Sportsbook Liabilities

Between the Cowboys and Chargers — both of which have met expectations or overachieved thus far — Dallas is attracting more action in the futures market.

Although the Cowboys are a public team, meaning they attract many bets because of their name recognition alone, they still rank fourth in regards to PointsBet‘s Super Bowl liability (behind the Rams, Patriots and Bills). Across the market, those odds have dipped from +2800 to while their NFC championship odds went from +1300 to +1100 at PointsBet. The best available conference futures price across legal sportsbooks is .

Additionally, Los Angeles’ Super Bowl odds fell from +3300 to (No. 17 in liability at PointsBet), and it’s now +1200 at PointsBet to win the AFC after closing at +1800 before Week 1. The best price on the Chargers to win the AFC available right now is .

Beating The Market

Let’s dive into which team’s success is more sustainable from a futures standpoint. Keep in mind, a three-game span isn’t necessarily a long enough period of time to evaluate a team’s metrics for the foreseeable future.

Moreover, the Cowboys and Chargers’ odds, respectively, shortened after Week 3 because of their impressive showings. You’d ideally want to bet a team before the market follows suit.

But between two of the league’s most talked about teams to date, which one is best positioned to win its conference and even the Super Bowl?

Dallas Cowboys: Dak Is Back

Coming off a broken ankle last season, Dak Prescott entered the 2021 campaign as the favorite to win NFL Comeback Player of the Year (). Now, he’s fully immersed himself into the MVP conversation, sitting at .

Dallas ranks first in dropback success rate (SR), which is quantified by a team gaining:

  • 50 percent of the yards needed to move the chains on first down
  • 70 percent of yards to gain on second down
  • 100 percent of yards to gain on third or fourth down

Despite the Cowboys amassing the league’s 13th-lowest passing play percentage, finishing behind the likes of the Buccaneers (No. 1), Chargers (No. 6), Chiefs (No. 11) and Bills (No. 14), their success still exhibits Prescott’s efficiency.

Plus, Dallas’ ground game ranks second in SR — in front of both Cleveland and Baltimore — two of the NFL’s pristine rushing attacks. That’s also materialized without star right tackle La’el Collins (suspension), who’s missed the last two games.

While the Eagles’ defense was banged up in the Week 3, Mike McCarthy’s team delivered its offensive stability versus a pair respected units in the Chargers and Buccaneers. That level of balance can carry a team deep into the NFL playoffs. I don’t see any sort of a fall off coming here.

Can We Continue Trusting Dallas’ Defense?

Dan Quinn, who was the mastermind behind the Seahawks’ elite defenses, has the Cowboys yielding the eighth-fewest expected points added (EPA) per play across the NFL.

EPA is defined as the expected points scored based on the down, distance, and field position at the beginning of a play — compared to the end result.

They’ve gone head-to-head with two upper-echelon offenses and a Philadelphia team that employed a head-scratching game plan, considering Quinn’s bunch was already without defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence and defensive tackle Carlos Watkins. The main trigger behind their success is turnovers.

Dating back to last season, Dallas has forced at least one turnover in each of its previous 10 games. Let’s not call Mike Nolan any sort of an architect, but his defensive principles are similar to Quinn’s man-to-man and zone looks, allowing Dallas’ key defensive pieces to adapt without learning a completely new scheme.

The Cowboys have generated most takeaways per game (2.7) thus far, but is any level of that sustainable?

Pittsburgh is the best example for this category. In 2019, the Steelers missed the playoffs despite leading the league in takeaways (2.4). Many expected their offense to return to form last season with Ben Roethlisberger back from injury, but the carryover with turnovers remained a question mark.

Well, Mike Tomlin’s team finished No. 3 in turnovers forced (1.6) a campaign ago.

That’s not to say Dallas will continue at this dominant pace, but with second-year cornerback Trevon Diggs tied for Pro Football Focus’ top coverage grade at his position and Quinn’s bunch producing takeaways without an abundance of pressure, there’s definite reason for belief.

Los Angeles Chargers: Herbert’s Emergence

Herbert is currently better positioned at than the aforementioned Prescott in the MVP race.

Under first-year coach Brandon Staley, Herbert’s growth has helped manufacture the eighth-highest EPA/play while operating under the sixth-highest pass play percentage. His yards per pass attempt (7.6) are in the bottom-half of the league, but that’s a product of Los Angeles’ quick-strike offense, which doesn’t have a receiver with an average depth of target over 10.5 yards.

The Chargers’ EPA/carry also slots in at No. 11 overall, but their rushing success rate (No. 16) and yards per rush attempt (No. 24) are a bit concerning.

Considering the usage (No. 27 in the NFL), those metrics could turn out to be futile down the road. Still, Los Angeles’ push from the right side without Bryan Bulaga (IR, back) is an area to monitor given the lack of quality depth behind him.

Is the Chargers’ defense overrated?

We heard all offseason about how disruptive Los Angeles’ defense could be when fully healthy.  For starters, defensive end Justin Jones and cornerback Chris Harris are banged up.

Staley’s rushing defense also ranks bottom-four in EPA/carry and rushing success rate. That was an area of concern last season, placing dead-last in opponents’ yards per carry. This defense could be severely exposed if turnover luck doesn’t go its way — like we saw in the win over the Chiefs (4).

Which Team Is Worth Backing?

This NFL futures pick needs to be prefaced with how much I despise McCarthy. The veteran coach paraded an awful display of clock management in each of their two wins and nearly cost the Cowboys a victory in Week 2.

Their NFL futures are also a difficult sell because of the nature of the NFC. Despite Tampa Bay’s secondary concerns, it’s still a top-two team in the conference — with the Rams ascending the No. 1 spot in TheLines’ power rankings.

Nevertheless, the AFC contenders (Bills, Chiefs, Ravens, Browns) are still deeper than what the NFC presents. The implied probability of the Cowboys winning the NFC East (69.2 percent) is also much greater than the Chargers doing the same in the AFC West (23.5 percent).

If you’re going to invest in NFL futures between the two, bet Dallas’ Super Bowl odds at .

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Eli Hershkovich Avatar
Written by
Eli Hershkovich

Eli Hershkovich is a lead sports betting writer with TheLines and Catena Media, formerly with Audacy and The Action Network. His goal is to provide you with data and information to lead you to winning bets. Eli is an avid college basketball gambler — among many other sports — and still hasn't forgiven Virginia for ruining his 2018-2019 Texas Tech futures.

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