NFL Picks and Predictions 9/5: Cowboys Giants 2012 Season Opener
NFL Picks and Predictions, September 5th: NFL Season Opener – Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants; Can Tony Romo Finally Deliver?
After patiently wading through preseason nonsense, meaningful NFL football is back. We watched as the same headlines were recycled every night on ESPN. If SportsCenter runs one more feature on which Jets quarterback will allow the Jets to be more mediocre, I’ll finally spring for the NFL Network. The only headlines from New York should focus around the defending Super Bowl Champions. The Jets may be louder, but the days of pretending there’s a competition for the best team in the city are gone. The New York Giants will celebrate another Super Bowl win before one of the biggest rivalries in sports kicks off the 2012 NFL season. What better way to celebrate a championship than by rubbing it in the face of the team you beat in week 17 to rip away the division title? As the entire nation watches this Wednesday night, I’ll be seven rows back on the 40 yard line thanks to a misguided eBay user from Miami.
Dallas Cowboys (+4, +175) at New York Giants
Tony Romo takes a lot more heat than he should. He’s a goofball who seems to fall apart at the end of every season, but he starts each year with remarkable consistency. As the only quarterback in Cowboys history to throw for 4,000 yards (he’s done it three times), Romo doesn’t get the credit he deserves. Beyond the top tier of signal callers, Romo is among the game’s best. Last season was one Romo’s most impressive, throwing for 31 touchdowns against just 10 interceptions while battling countless injuries. He threw for 4,184 yards while going through most of the season without a solid rushing attack or offensive line. His best weapons battled injuries throughout the season. Tony Romo carried the Dallas Cowboys, sans defense and protection, to a week 17 division title game. With an injured hand, Romo and the Dallas Cowboys fell to the eventual Super Bowl champions. I’m not sure how you can criticize a guy who puts up such consistent numbers with such extreme passion. Yes, Tony Romo collapses every winter. He has an abysmal record at the end of seasons. However, Romo must be viewed as an elite quarterback over the first half of the season. In terms of a Week One prediction, that’s really all that matters here.
When you break down the Dallas Cowboys, they seem to return the same weaknesses every year. The offensive line is completely reworked for 2012 after a disastrous 2011 season. The Cowboys have plenty of dynamic playmakers in Romo, DeMarcus Ware, Dez Bryant, Miles Austin, and Jason Witten. Still, the holes in their secondary and questions about their offensive line will once again put pressure on Tony Romo to carry more than his weight. Romo will need to scramble to be effective, and his skill players will need to make big plays for the Dallas Cowboys to remain in games. The one advantage the Cowboys have this season over the team that produced such middling results down the stretch last year is a healthy DeMarco Murray.
When Felix Jones suffered yet another injury last season, Murray emerged as a rookie running back that could balance the Cowboys offense. Before his injury, the Cowboys offense seemed unstoppable. As Murray gauged defenses, the passing game opened and pressure was kept off of Tony Romo by default. With a healthy and capable running game, the Dallas Cowboys offense can live without an offensive line. Even Jason Garrett can call an effective offense with a healthy DeMarco Murray.
The New York Giants pass rush is going to have fun in the season opener. The Dallas Cowboys offensive line is just as big a liability as they were last season. With the best defensive ends in football, the Giants should put some pressure on Romo. However, if Murray is effective, the Giants cannot sell out each play. The balanced Cowboys offense should be able to contain, at least somewhat, the explosive pass rushers of the New York Giants. The Giants secondary is weak enough that Romo won’t need much time to make big plays. It’s going to be a battle, but I think the Cowboys offense can be effective against the Giants defense – provided they remain committed to an effective rushing game.
The Dallas Cowboys defense was abysmal last season, let mostly by a dreadful secondary. While Rob Ryan has had a full season to tinker with his team, the roster is so weak that it seems an impossible task to make the Dallas Cowboys an average defensive team. The secondary is in trouble. Eli Manning should be able to pick them apart. Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks will be able to get open against the Cowboys cornerbacks. The Giants can double team and contain DeMarcus Ware. Look for Eli Manning to have a big game. If Ahmad Bradshaw can get going early, the Giants could run away with this one.
Still, it’s important to remember how thoroughly pedestrian the Giants were last regular season before an incredible run through the playoffs. The Cowboys got better – they return a healthy running back that balanced their offense and led to a midseason win streak. Did the Giants improve their .500 roster?
Ultimately, the Over/Under seems to be where the value might be in this game. Set at just 46.5 points, the over looks promising with two explosive offenses. If the Cowboys execute and remain in the game, this could be a shootout. The first game of this rivalry always seems to go well over 46 1/2 points. In the Tony Romo era of Cowboys mediocrity, offense dictates who wins Game One. Even if Jason Witten misses this game, the Cowboys have enough weapons to be productive on offense. Watch the weather, as the forecast calls for scattered thunderstorms, but if the rain stays away this will be a shootout.
In the last six years, the first meeting between the Giants and Cowboys has produced no fewer than 38 points. In all other meetings, the losing team has scored fewer than 30 points just once. If the Cowboys can get to the Giants early, the Giants’ passing attack will surely get to the Cowboys. We’ll watch these two offenses march up and down the field, and the last possession could win the game. If extreme wind and rain stay away, I’ll be betting the over.
As for the spread, I think the Cowboys will hang with the Giants. I like +4, but I’m hoping for Wall Street money to move the line as we get closer to game time. The same is true of a small, risky wager on the Cowboys moneyline. I think the Giants will win, but I expect a high-scoring, close game. I’ll be laying down a spray of bets, with the largest being on the over (weather permitting).
Prediction: Cowboys 28 – Giants 31
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