Daily Bet: Giants -3½ vs. Cowboys

Why are the defending-champion Giants going to win and cover against Dallas in tonight’s NFL opener? Let me count the ways:

1) The Giants swept the Cowboys last season—the only reason New York made the playoffs and Dallas didn’t—and those two wins are part of the Giants’ 5-1 SU and ATS run against the Cowboys over the last three seasons (3-0 SU and ATS at home). In those five victories, New York put up 33, 31, 41, 37 and 31 points.

2) Millions of eyes will be tuned into this nationally televised game. Well, Giants quarterback Eli Manning has proven he thrives in these pressure-packed prime-time contests (see the two wins over Dallas last year, followed by the 4-0 run in the playoffs, capped by his second Super Bowl MVP). Cowboys QB Tony Romo has often come up small in these situations (see the two losses in the must-win games vs. New York last year, not to mention the one playoff victory in his career).

3) If you did a “tale of the tape,” New York would own the edge in pretty much every single matchup. The only edge Dallas has is at tight end with Pro Bowler/Romo security blanket Jason Whitten … except that Whitten suffered a lacerated spleen in the Cowboys’ first preseason game and almost certainly won’t play tonight.

4) This marks the first regular-season game for the NFL’s replacement refs. Think these scabs won’t be nervous? Think they might be prone—be it consciously or subconsciously—to side with the home team on close calls?

5) Finally, since 2004, when the NFL started scheduling its season opener for the home field of the defending Super Bowl champion, that defending champ is a perfect 8-0, covering in six of those contests. The only teams that didn’t cover were the Steelers in 2009 (when Ben Roethlisberger didn’t play) and the Patriots in 2004 (when they faced Peyton Manning and the Colts). Both of those were three-point games.

This probably won’t be a blowout—the last four openers were decided by 6, 5, 3 and 9 points—but in a game where turnovers likely will be difference, I’ll side with Manning over Romo. Giants 27, Cowboys 21.

Rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Monday’s Result: Phillies (+160) at Reds (Loss)

Record: 41-34