New York Giants (0-0) at Dallas Cowboys (0-0)
The Cowboys won the NFC East with 12 wins last year, but I think they’ll have a tougher time in 2015. Defensively, they were pretty weak in 2014, ranking 26th in rate of moving the chains allowed. They get Sean Lee back from injury, but lose Henry Melton, Justin Durant, and Sterling Moore, key part-time contributors, to free agency and also lose Orlando Scandrick to a torn ACL and Rolando McClain to a 4-game suspension. They signed Greg Hardy, but he too is facing a 4-game suspension and, without him or McClain, the Cowboys’ defense figures to really struggle to start the season.
They were much better offensively, ranking 4th in rate of moving the chains, but they also had no injuries, ranking 2nd in adjusted games lost and they lost DeMarco Murray to free agency this off-season, leaving them with arguably the worst running backs in the NFL. They haven’t suffered any injuries yet, but most teams are relatively healthy right now so it won’t make as much of a difference that the Cowboys are completely healthy offensively as it would later in the season, like it did last year.
The Giants are one of the few teams in the league that is already dealing with serious injury problems. Victor Cruz, Jason Pierre-Paul, William Beatty, and Jon Beason are already out for this game and likely a few other games, but they also had the most injuries in the league last year en route to ranking 18th in rate of moving the chains differential. They should be better than that this year even if they continue to have some injury problems thanks to the return of guys like Prince Amukamara, Robert Ayers, Odell Beckham, Rashad Jennings and Geoff Schwartz, all of whom missed serious time with injury last season, to health. They have easily the best defense between these two teams and should be able to put enough points on Dallas’ offense to keep this one closer than the line.
That line is way too high at 6 (6.5 in some places) and not just for talent reasons. The Cowboys haven’t been a good home team in recent years, going 20-30 ATS at home since 2009, including 14-27 ATS as home favorites and 5-10 ATS as divisional home favorites. The Giants, meanwhile, are 57-38 ATS on the road since 2004 (the start Eli Manning/Tom Coughlin era), including 37-24 ATS as road underdogs and 16-9 ATS as divisional road underdogs. The Giants also tend to be better earlier in the season, going 47-34 in the first 8 weeks of the season, including 25-16 ATS on the road in the first 8 weeks of the season. This is my 2nd favorite play of the week.
Dallas Cowboys 31 New York Giants 30
Pick against the spread: NY Giants +6