It is hard to believe that just a few short months ago the New York Giants were celebrating a Superbowl championship over the New England Patriots. It is hard to believe that since that time the NFL Draft brought new players to the league, the mini-camps, the OTAs occurred and of course the preseason games were played.
That is all over now though as this Wednesday (8.30pm ET) the real stuff starts. The 2012-13 NFL season, sure to have its own brand of controversy and electricity attached to it, begins and it begins with a bang: a divisional match-up between NFC East powerhouses the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys.
Battle of the Quarterbacks: Tony Romo vs. Eli Manning
In boxing you always hear about the tale of the tape and that “in this corner” stands one man and in the other corner is his challenger.
Although there is none of this terminology in football, the tale of the tape still holds true especially in the case of the marquee quarterback showdown between two of the top ten in the game.
To decide which team has the edge you really have to look first at the quarterbacks since the offense is run through them.
BetOnline Betting Lines (accepts all USA clients):
-105 Cowboys +3.5pts, -115 NY Giants -3.5pts
Bet365 Bookmaker odds (for UK & all non-USA residents):
10/11 Cowboys +4pts, 10/11 NY Giants -4pts
When it comes to the accolades, Manning (pictured) with his two Superbowl wins, matching the amount of total playoff wins Romo has period, has the clear and obvious edge. You could look at this and say that this gives the Giants an edge over the Cowboys because of their better and more recent results but at the same time, judging the winner on this basis alone would be foolish.
It is worth noting that both the Cowboys and Giants have seen huge personnel changes since they last met in the final week of the 2011 regular season. Although the quarterbacks remain the same, the guys they are throwing and handing off the ball to are different. It might not seem like a lot but these small personnel changes could make all of the difference.
Normally based on statistical comparison, I would have to give Romo an edge albeit a slight one. I mean if you look at his and Manning’s stats from last season they really are comparable.
Romo: 4,184 yards, 66% completion rate, 31 TD, 10 Int
Manning: 4,933 yards, 61% completion rate, 29 TD, 16 Int
As you can see, Romo had slightly better numbers in 2011 than Manning but it was Manning who got the Superbowl ring. Interesting how that happens.
This is where it comes down to those itsy bitsy personnel changes. When it came down to it, Manning had the better offensive line and better protection. The Giants also had, and keep in mind still have, a better defense than Dallas.
Watch the Injury Report Up Until the Last Second
Another thing to pay close attention to when deciding on winners and losers is the injury report. Depending on the players who wind up on the IR, it could affect the outcome of the game.
To quantify this let’s put the Giants and Cowboys situation into context.
Hakeem Nicks: 76 receptions, 1,192 yards, 7 TD (probable)
Jason Witten: 79 receptions, 942 yards, 5 TD (questionable)
Listed above are the 2011 stats for the Giants’ Nicks and the Cowboys’ Witten. Both of these players were nice role players for their team’s offense last year and would certainly be missed if they don’t play.
Normally Nicks being out wouldn’t affect the Giants so much but with Mario Manningham no longer playing in New York, his absence would leave one more hole and would give the Dallas defense an opportunity to double up Victor Cruz and diminish his productivity. Listed as probable and echoing himself that he will play, count on Nicks to be on the field Wednesday. In terms of how effective he will be? Well, that all depends on how healed his injury really is.
For the Cowboys, Witten is one of Romo’s more reliable targets. He is a tight end and over the years has been used very effectively in the Cowboys’ offense. Because of this, the Cowboys are going to be in some trouble if Witten doesn’t start. Not only did they lose Martellus Bennett, their backup tight end to the Giants, but what they have are two guys with six years and not a lot of success between them and an unproven rookie. The status of questionable is always the most daunting to make a prediction upon but considering that Witten as of Saturday was not cleared for contact yet, make your bets based on him being absent from the game.
Justin Tuck and the New York Defense vs. Demarcus Ware and the Dallas Defense
For this particular match-up the final thing you want to consider are two sacking machines of Tuck and Ware. To give props to the Giants defense you can also throw Jason Pierre-Paul into the conversation.
When you look at how good a quarterback can be, sure you look at who they have to throw to which as we established can make all of the difference, but you also have to look at their offensive line. Simply put, can your offense protect the quarterback against their defense?
Both teams have okay offensive lines but neither is really too special. Demarcus Ware will sack Manning. Justin Tuck will sack Romo. Pierre-Paul will sack Romo. It is just that simple.
So who wins and what is our betting pick?
Currently the Giants are favored by 3.5 points (with BetOnline Sportsbook) but I predict that they will win this game by more than that. I give them a slight advantage in quarterback based on Manning’s improvement from last year and expected continued improvement this year. Plus, if Nicks does in fact play, the Giants have two explosive big play wide receivers and a solid option at running back as well.
The Giants also have an advantage on defense as they boast one of the best cores of defensive ends and defensive backs of any team in the NFL.
Throw in the additional intangibles of the Giants coming in to defend their title, the game being played at the Giants’ home of MetLife Stadium, the Cowboys poor road record of 3-5 from 2011 including a 31-17 loss at the Giants and it all points to the home team. Then there is the usual competitive and hard-nosed play you can expect from a divisional rivalry during the first week of the season, and it all ends with an aggressive affair that will likely see the Giants winning by seven-ten points.
Betting Picks & Tips: Take the Giants to defy the sportsbooks’ handicap. Bet on them to win with BetOnline Sportsbook (accepts all Americans) -3.5pts.