NY Giants at Dallas Cowboys (pick, 46 o/u)
Are you catching that fresh, crisp scent in the air? Don’t be ridiculous, that’s not fall in the air, it’s football! The NFL season kicked off Thursday night with a thrilling Super Bowl rematch. Week 1 will continue this Sunday (September 11), and one game in the second window features the New York Giants (6-10 SU, 8-7-1 ATS in 2015) heading to Texas to take on the Dallas Cowboys (4-12 SU, 4-11-1 ATS) at AT&T Stadium (4:25 PM ET).
The 2015 Giants couldn’t stop a pee-wee team. Their defense gave up the most yards in the league and ranked 30th in points allowed. Their secondary was terrible; their front-seven wasn’t much better.
That was a shame, as they possessed the sixth-best scoring offense and the seventh-best passing attack. But, when you give up more points than you score in a season, it’s awfully tough to put together a winning record, even in the feeble NFC East.
The Giants’ 2016 offense will look very similar to the high-powered unit from last year, as Eli Manning (4,436 passing yards, 35 TDs, and 14 INTs) is still at the helm and coming off a career-high in touchdown passes. His favorite target, Odell Beckham Jr. (1,450 yards, and 13 TDs), is heading into his third year as a pro, and will look to build off another very successful season.
New York took to the draft to find a reliable secondary option to OBJ, and they believe they found their man in second-round pick Sterling Shepard. The Oklahoma product is known as a good route-runner and will start opposite OBJ in Week 1.
The Giants will also get a boost from the return of Victor Cruz, who hasn’t played a game since Week 6 of the 2014 season. He may not be his same salsa-dancing-self, but he will provide his squad with another set of hands in the slot.
The G-Men didn’t only make additions to the offensive side of the ball; they spent a ton of money on the defense adding pass-rusher Olivier Vernon, corner Janoris Jenkins, and run-stuffer Damon Harrison, among others. Each player provides an upgrade in a different aspect of the game and will help the unit get back to respectability.
For the home team, 2016 is off to an all too familiar start as Tony Romo is out until midseason with a back injury.
The Cowboys learned what life was like without Romo last season, going 3-1 with their starter but a pitiful 1-11 with one of Brandon Weeden, Kellen Moore, or Matt Cassel taking the snaps.
Their offense managed a measly 17.2 points per game (31st) on the season and, despite having a solid rushing attack to lean on (ninth), they had minimal success putting the ball in the air (27th).
Unlike their Week 1 opponent, Dallas could come up with a stop once in awhile, allowing 23.4 points per game (16th), and ranked 17th in total yards allowed.
The Cowboys’ defense is also dealing with a host of absences, however, including linebacker Rolondo McClain and pass rusher Randy Gregory. The depleted unit is likely to take a step back, in particular when it comes to generating pressure.
But the Cowboys aren’t ready to throw in the towel just yet. They’ll send rookie sensation Dak Prescott – who posted a 78-percent completion percentage with five TDs, no INTs, and a 137.8 passer rating in the preseason – out in place of Romo.
While preseason performances have to be taken with a heaping spoonful of salt, Prescott’s perfect passer rating through the first two weeks of the exhibition slate should give fans confidence the team is in a better position than last year.
Prescott will be able to lean on fellow rookie Ezekiel Elliott, as well, who is primed to run wild behind the dominant Cowboys offensive line. When he is asked to put the ball in the air, he’ll have a stud in Dez Bryant on the outside. Bryant (401 yards and three TDs) not only suffered due to the inadequacy of his quarterbacks last year, but also dealt with a foot injury, only appearing in nine games.
For bettors, it’s tough to put your faith in a rookie quarterback who was selected in the fourth-round, even if he had an inspiring preseason. This is the real-deal now, and the Giant defense will sell-out to stop the run, forcing Prescott to beat them with his arm.
It’s also very hard to imagine the Cowboys defense, which will be without its two best pass-rushers (Gregory and DeMarcus Lawrence), as well as McClain and second-round pick Jaylon Smith, being able to stop the plethora of weapons the Giants have on the outside.
Quarterback play quite often determines the winner of a game, and for that reason alone I have to side with the quarterback who has done it before: Eli Manning.
Pick: Giants (PK).
Photo credit: Mike Morbeck CC BY-SA 2.0 [http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.
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