Dallas Cowboys (1-1) at New York Giants (2-0)
The Giants are 2-0, but they haven’t been that impressive. Both of their wins have been close against below average opponents, with a combined margin of victory of 4 points against the Titans and Panthers, and their win over the Panthers was in large part due to the Giants having a +2 turnover margin, which is not predictive week-to-week. In terms of efficiency, which is much more predictive week-to-week, the Giants rank just 25th on offense, 17th on defense, and 20th overall, despite a relatively easy schedule. Even though the Giants are 2-0, they have still played more like the sub .500 team most were expecting them to be this season.
Unfortunately, the public doesn’t seem to be buying the Giants either, so we’re not really getting line value with their opponents, the Dallas Cowboys. If anything, we’re actually getting some line value with the Giants, as this line has shifted all the way from NY Giants -4.5 on the early line last week to NY Giants -1 this week, a huge shift, considering about 1 in 4 games are decided by 2-4 points. That line movement happened, despite the fact that the Giants won and moved to 2-0 last week, because the Cowboys pulled a shocking upset over the Bengals as 7.5-point home underdogs, with former undrafted free agent backup quarterback Cooper Rush making just his second career start.
However, the Bengals were likely overlooking Rush and caught off guard by a backup quarterback who they didn’t have much tape on, similar to the Minnesota Vikings last season, who lost to Rush in his first career start. The Giants should be better focused than the Bengals were a week ago and better prepared for a quarterback who they now have an extra week of tape on. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Rush led touchdown drives on his first two drives against the Bengals before being limited to two field goals and no touchdowns on his subsequent eight drives.
In addition to causing a significant line movement, the Cowboys’ upset win last week puts them in a bad spot this week, as teams cover at just a 41.3% rate historically after a home upset win as underdogs of 5 or more. Part of that is probably because big home upset wins tend to cause a significant line movement that usually tends to be an overreaction of a single week of play, but a big upset win could also make a bad team overconfident, which is not a good situation, even for a team facing a 2-0 division opponent.
Unfortunately, we’re not getting enough line value with the Giants to take them confidently, even with the significant line movement. If the Giants were mostly healthy, they would be the obvious pick, but they figure to be without key defensive lineman Leonard Williams, arguably their best defensive player, in this game for the first time this season, which will be a big loss. My calculated line is still NY Giants -2, so we’re getting some line value with the team in a better spot, but this pick is for pick ‘em purposes only.
New York Giants 20 Dallas Cowboys 17
Pick against the spread: NY Giants -1