New York Giants (0-4) at Dallas Cowboys (1-3)
The Cowboys are a tough team to figure out. On one hand, they could easily be 0-4 if the Falcons had recovered an onside kick and they’ve been destroyed by injuries, with a list of long-term unavailable players that they were counting on for big contributions that includes the dominant offensive tackle duo of Tyron Smith and La’El Collins, pass catching tight end Blake Jarwin, starting defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, every down linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, and expected top cornerback Chidobe Awuzie, as well as his potential replacement Anthony Brown.
On the other hand, I liked them coming into the season because they finished last season 4th in first down rate differential and 6th in point differential and their bad record in close games was likely to even out in the long-term. This year, even though they could be 0-4, they’ve primarily been hurt by the turnover margin, which is something else that tends to even out in the long-term. The Cowboys have a league worst -7 turnover margin, in large part due to a 22.22% fumble recovery rate (1 of their own 7 fumbles recovered), but in terms of first down rate differential they actually rank 11th at +2.57%. Had they just recovered one of their first half fumbles against the Falcons, they likely wouldn’t have needed to recover an onside kick to win and their three losses were all relatively close games where the turnover margin played a big role.
That’s a good sign for the Cowboys’ chances going forward, especially since their schedule is starting to get much easier after a tough start to the season. This home game against the Giants is probably their easiest game to date, only rivaled by their game against the Falcons in Atlanta in which the Cowboys won the first down rate battle by 10.80%. The Cowboys aren’t as talented as they were last year and the impact of their injuries can’t be understated, but they won seven games by double digits last season and it wouldn’t surprise me if this ended up being another multi-score win against an easy opponent.
Unfortunately, we aren’t really getting line value with the Cowboys as 8.5-point home favorites. This line has moved slightly from 11.5 on the early line last week, but I don’t think it’s moved enough to compensate for Tyron Smith going down. My calculated line is Dallas -6.5, as the Cowboys won’t have a normal homefield advantage and the Giants have the kind of defense that can keep this close, especially with the Cowboys so banged up on the offensive line.
The Giants’ offense might be the worst in the league without running back Saquon Barkley and they haven’t scored a touchdown in their last two games without him, but the Cowboys have a much easier defense to move the ball against than the 49ers or Rams, so the Giants could easily keep it close or get a backdoor cover. I wouldn’t bet either side, but I’m taking the Giants for pick ‘em purposes.
Dallas Cowboys 26 New York Giants 19
Pick against the spread: NY Giants +8.5