Cowboys and Giants Kickoff the Season
COWBOYS/GIANTS KICK OFF 2012 SEASON WITH RIVALRY GRUDGE BATTLE
That will get everyone's juices flowing! Even though everyone's already very excited about the start of the new pro football season, the NFL has kicked things up a notch by involving the defending Super Bowl champions in a divisional grudge battle against a team they may resent more than anyone.
The Giants win TWO Super Bowls and they still have to share the stage with"America's Team" at the start of a new season!
Clearly the worm has turned in the NFC East. The Giants have made a habit of stealing the Cowboys thunder in recent years. It had always been Dallas who was the media darling, peaking (or bottoming out as the case may be), when FOX couldn't stop cutting away to Jessica Simpson every time Tony Romo threw a pass. That was dumb at the time, and even seems dumber now!
Tony Romo hasn't been to the Super Bowl. Eli Manning has won two of them.
Dallas has a nice new stadium (cathedral). So do the Giants, who have two Super Bowl trophies they can show off instead of a wide screen TV that reminds fans that they're too far away from the field.
Dallas is barely on the media radar any more because pundits who keep hyping a team eventually stop once they've been embarrassed enough times. The Giants are getting some respect. But, even they are still getting overshadowed in their home city because Tim Tebow joined the Jets. If only Tony Romo had been a virgin!
All that will get flushed by the wayside once the Cowboys and Giants start knocking heads Wednesday Night. Neither team wants to start the season with a loss. You could argue that neither team can afford to start the season with a loss in a division that also includes the Philadelphia Eagles. This isn't college football where you can schedule some patsies to help you get up to speed. One of the most important games all season in the NFC East will be the first game played in the NFL...and the first game we all enjoy on national TV.
Let's run some numbers to see how things might play out...
DALLAS COWBOYS AT NY GIANTS (8 p.m. on NBC)
Las Vegas Spread: NY Giants by 4, total of 45
The market currently sees the Giants as one point better on a neutral field. Home field advantage is worth three points in the NFL. So, the Giants would be -1 on a neutral field, +2 in Dallas, -4 at home. Note that this game first went up at -3 a few weeks ago...meaning oddsmakers were rating the Cowboys as dead even with the defending Super Bowl champs. Sharps played the champs at the key number of three.
2011 WON-LOST RECORDS/SCHEDULE STRENGTH
Dallas: 8-8 (5th ranked schedule according to USA Today)
NYG: 9-7 (1st ranked schedule according to USA Today)
Both teams played very tough schedules last year. And, that proved important in the playoffs. The Giants were battle tested through the regular season. When they got healthy defensively at just the right time, they put that big game experience to work in dramatic fashion. They beat Atlanta, Green Bay, San Francisco (both on the road), and then New England over a four-game stretch that confirmed this team's championship credentials when healthy. Don't think of them as a 9-7 team. Think of them as a 12-4 team that falls to 9-7 if they suffer injuries while playing a brutal schedule! Dallas also lost some players to injury last year, and would be better than 8-8 in most other divisions.
2011 TURNOVER DIFFERENTIAL
We look at this stat to get a sense of the risk/reward elements for NFL teams, and to see if anybody suffered any extreme good or bad luck. Not much to report here. Both teams were on the right side of zero. Luck doesn't seem to be much of a factor. Note that both quarterbacks in this game can become interception prone in pressure situations. If one falls behind, then turnovers could follow in a way that helps the game blow up. To this point, Manning has done a better job than Romo of trimming out those kinds of miscues.
2011 OFFENSIVE STATS
Dallas: 375.5 yards-per-game on 5.9 yards-per-play
NYG: 385.1 yards-per-game on 6.0 yards-per-play
Very similar offenses. You'd be hard-pressed to find more similar offenses than these two teams in the whole NFL right now. They're productive in very similar ways. And, their quarterbacks can give you a heart attack in very similar ways as well. That could set up an entertaining show for everyone Wednesday Night...particularly if the role replacement refs played in high scoring Preseason games continues to help out offenses.
2011 DEFENSIVE STATS
Dallas: 343.2 yards-per-game on 5.6 yards-per-play
NYG: 376.4 yards-per-game on 5.6 yards-per-play
This is misleading because the Giants were dealing with defensive injuries all season. They would be more like low 300's and low 5's if they had been able to keep their stars on the field. What you saw in the playoffs doesn't match those seasonal stats. And, what you saw in the playoffs wasn't a mirage. That's what the Giants can do when healthy! Dallas was a disappointment considering all the emphasis that was put on that side of the ball heading into the season. They did play a tough schedule though. We know that the offenses are very similar. The market price of Giants -4 is telling you that the sharps believe the Giants have an edge on the defensive side of the ball at the moment.
IMPORTANT CHANGES IN 2012
To us, the only thing that matters is that the Giants are healthier than they were while compiling the full season stats you saw above. Well, both teams probably feel like they're better positioned to play well tonight than they were during the worst of times last year. We'll be using this category in our early NFL previews to look at coaching or quarterback changes. It's still the same coaches and quarterbacks...which would suggest something resembling last year's meetings.
NY Giants (-3) beat Dallas 31-14 at home
NY Giants (+4.5) beat Dallas 37-34 on the road
Eli Manning helped the Giants pop 30 points in both games last season. Dallas had one big scoring game and one bad one.
You'd have to expect offensive aggressiveness from both quarterbacks. That's the nature of how these teams try to get the job done. If you're a total player, that may be more upside with an Over than an Under given the styles. Though, it's always possible that interceptions will keep some points off the board. Be sure to check game night weather forecasts to see if conditions will be helping (calm) or hurting (windy) passers. The market seems to be in line with what healthy production would suggest for these teams. Handicappers must determine whether or not a"Super Bowl hangover" will be in play for the home favorite. It can be tough to get up for early season action after you've just climbed to the mountaintop. Dallas wants what the Giants have, which could turn the Cowboys into a very live dog.
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Back with you Thursday to preview Pitt-Cincinnati in college football. Then we'll look at Florida-Texas A&M and Georgia-Missouri Friday and Saturday to get you ready for those high profile SEC debuts for the former Big 12 teams. Sunday and Monday will bring stat previews like you just read here for the NFL prime time action. Don't you dare miss a day of the NOTEBOOK!
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