Sometimes, the only reason there’s a moneyline favorite is because the bookie has to pick one team – regardless of whether he or she really wants to.
The Giants and Cowboys are each 0-1 after Week 1, and have little to show for much-ballyhooed offseason shakeups after disappointing maiden efforts. They’ll face each other on Sunday Night Football this week in what likely feels like a must-win game to both front offices.
New Giants head coach Pat Shurmur came out on the losing end of his debut in a 20-15 home loss in East Rutherford, New Jersey to vaunted Jacksonville – nicknamed “Sack-Sonville” by clever pundits. Veteran quarterback Eli Manning struggled throughout the day, finishing with a QBR of 32.8. The 2-time Super Bowl champion did not throw a touchdown pass, and provided the Jaguars a defensive touchdown on a pick-six by Myles Jack in the 4th quarter.
The Cowboys stumbled while launching a new era sans Dez Bryant and Jason Witten. The duo of quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott were suffocated by a dominant Carolina defense in an ugly 16-8 loss. Prescott finished with 170 yards and an impotent 5.9 yards per completion. WR Cole Beasley was the only receiver to have a good game, and Elliott’s lone touchdown felt more like consolation than hope in the end.
Still, there has to be a favorite. The Silver Star is at home this week, and the Cowboys hold a (-3) edge in the point spread in addition to a (-145) moneyline. The O/U point total is at a conservative (42) as bettors and house handicappers wait to see if either team can generate more offense any time soon.
The Giants offense did have some bright moments with the return of wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and the much-anticipated debut of #2 overall draft pick Saquon Barkley. Beckham finished with 11 catches for 111 yards in his first outing since breaking his ankle last October. The dynamic Barkley was kept under control by the Jaguars defense over the first 3 quarters, but exploded for a 68 yard touchdown run in the 4th quarter to make the game interesting down the stretch. Barkley finished his first National Football League scrum with 18 carries for 106 yards. He will likely start in many, many more.
New York wasted late opportunities to claim a win, including a failed 4th down conversion attempt in Jacksonville territory with under 2:00 to go. The final blow came on a muffed punt with 54 seconds remaining.
Can Manning find a groove against a defense that played well, but not well-enough in Week 1? Carolina quarterback Cam Newton passed for under 200 yards, but was accurate on over 65% of his throws and added key 1st-down conversion on the run, finishing with 13 carries for 58 yards and adding a rush TD.
The Cowboys will be looking to extend their win streak to3 games against their division rivals from the Big Apple. But the offense must find some success in the downfield passing game. Prescott wasn’t versatile enough in spreading the ball around against the Panthers, a factor that is in his control. But even if he improves in look-offs and check-downs, Prescott still lacks a go-to threat on the outside. Wide receivers Allen Hurns and Deonte Thompson were non-factors in the season opener, combining for four catches for 47 yards. Terrence Williams was nearly a ghost. The OL sans Travis Frederick (who is out indefinitely with an autoimmune disease) will have a much more difficult time opening up running lanes for Elliott if the Giants defense is able to commit 8 or 9 men in the box. The Giants’ defense could also get an added boost by the possible return of Olivier Vernon who has participated in practice this week after coming off a high ankle sprain.
At least the crowd will be helpful to the Cowboy defense in Jerry World. The Giants must protect Manning in the pocket and need to avoid turnovers. Manning will not have the chance to utilize Barkley or Beckham Jr. if he is constantly hurried by DeMarcus Lawrence and company. If the Giants offensive line does not step things up after a shaky Week 1, Eli could be flat on his back often.
The loser of this contest will find themselves in the basement of the NFC East early in the season. I’m liking the Cowboys to play another strong 4 quarters on defense, but the addition of Barkley could prove to be a paradigm-changer for a Big Blue team that has struggled to run the football in recent years.
Under the bright lights in prime time, I’m liking the over (42). The offenses should loosen up and execute a little better, just as the Bengals and Ravens blew out the O/U with 42 points in the 1st half on Thursday Night Football in Week 2.
Take the over for a winner at Jerry World.
Kurt has authored close to 1000 stories covering football, soccer, basketball, baseball, ice hockey, prize-fighting and the Olympic Games. Kurt posted a 61% win rate on 200+ college and NFL gridiron picks last season. He muses about High School football on social media as The Gridiron Geek.