The NFL regular season is finally here and it all kicks off with the Dallas Cowboys visiting the defending Super Bowl Champion New York Giants tonight. The Cowboys will hope to improve from last season’s 8-8 record and atrocious 1-6 finish to the season, while the Giants will look to continue its success from a year ago and get the year started right with a win over its divisional rival. Although the Cowboys have a winning history in the rivalry, it has been the Giants who have gotten the best of Dallas in recent years. Here is what we can expect from both teams on opening night, as well as in 2012.
The Giants are obviously riding a high from last season and some might think they aren’t motivated, but I beg to differ. As we’ve seen in the last couple years, this has been an overachieving team that is built on self-motivation and heart, especially when playing “America’s team”; the Dallas Cowboys. Since this is the opening game of the season, everyone wants to look good, especially on national TV. If anything, the Giants will be more motivated than usual and will bring their “A” game tonight. Let’s not forget that the Giants are at home as well; which is just another advantage for the G Men.
Both rosters are virtually the same as they were the last time these teams met, so there’s no reason to think the Giants can’t continue to use what worked against the Cowboys last year and what worked was pressuring Tony Romo. The Giants have sacked Romo 14 times in the last five meetings and have knocked him down on many more occasions than that. If the Boys can’t protect Romo, expect him to struggle and possibly make a crucial mistake, like a fumble or interception that might swing the momentum New York’s way.
On the flip side of the coin, look for Eil Manning to thrive at home against Dallas. The Cowboys have only been able to bring him down behind the line of scrimmage four times in those five games, even with All-Pro DeMarcus Ware applying the heat. One thing that may hurt New York in the passing game is the depletion at the wide receiver position. Mario Manningham signed with the 49ers in the offseason and Hakeem Nicks is currently listed as questionable, leaving Victor Cruz as Manning’s only solid target. However, if Ware and Co. cannot get to Manning, it may not matter as long as other guys can step up and make catches.
If Dallas isn’t able to protect Romo, look for the Cowboys to go to more screens and quick passes out of the backfield to their quicksters, DeMarco Murray and Felix Jones. Murray may be the biggest threat to the Giants in the run game and in the pass game, so look for Dallas to try to exploit that edge by getting him plenty of touches.
Bovada has the Giants at four point favorites and I like them to cover that four in the opener. The over/under is set at 45 and since this is the first game of the season, I don’t see these teams coming out as crisp as they may be later on offensively. Because of that and because I think Dallas will struggle to score more than 20 on its own, I like the under.
With the pretty much the same rosters as last season, each of these teams should finish 2012 with about the same records. The Cowboys might improve slightly and the Giants may as well, but I don’t see Dallas making the playoffs. The Cowboys are currently +130 to make the postseason and -160 to fall short and I’ll have to side with them falling short. Interestingly, the Giants are also dogs to make the playoffs in 2012 at Yes +110 and No -140, but I don’t see why they can’t repeat as NFC East Division champs. The only other real competition is Philly and they will only contend if Mike Vick stays healthy all year. I would take the +110 Yes, as it looks like a bet that stands to make money.
As far as repeating as Super Bowl Champions, the Giants are indeed a long shot, but the fact that they’ve already won two in recent years when nobody thought they had a chance, does say something. New York is currently at 18/1 to win the whole thing, so if you are feeling lucky and bet small, it could prove to be a profitable wager as well.