The Dallas Cowboys came within a questionable officiating call of reaching the NFC Championship Game last season, but their focus is on repeating as division champions when they kick off the season against the visiting New York Giants on Sunday night. Dallas swept the Giants last season en route to a 12-4 campaign and the NFC East title and has won four straight games in the series.
The Cowboys will sport a different look after running back DeMarco Murray, who ran away with the league rushing title last season, signed with hated rival Philadelphia in the offseason. Joseph Randle, Murray’s backup, is expected to head a committee that includes former Oakland Raiders running back Darren McFadden. New York gave up 31 points in each of the losses to the Cowboys last season and will be without their top defensive player in defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who broke his thumb and had a finger amputated during a fireworks mishap. Another question surround the Giants has been the contract status of quarterback Eli Manning, but he is reported to be close to signing a four-year, $84 million extension.
TV: 8:30 p.m. ET, NBC.
LINE HISTORY: Most shops opened the Cowboys as 6-point faves. It spent some time at -5 and -5.5 before coming back to -6. The total opened at 49.5 before working its way up to 51.5.
COVERS POWER RANKINGS: Giants (+2) + Cowboys (-3.25) + home field (-3.0) = Cowboys -8.25
INJURY REPORT: Giants – DE Owamagbe Odighizuwa (Probable, foot), WR Victor Cruz (Out, calf), DE Jason Pierre-Paul (Out, finger), LB Jon Beason (Out, knee). Cowboys – CB Brandon Carr (Questionable, hand), LB Rolando McClain (Eligible Week 5, suspension), DE Greg Hardy (Eligible Week 5, suspension).
WHAT CAPPERS SAY: “Tom Coughlin is the oldest coach in the NFL by a five year margin and he?s coming off back-to-back losing seasons. Coughlin is clearly facing ?win now or get fired? pressure in 2015. The Cowboys defense finished #2 in the NFL with 31 takeaways last year, and Tony Romo finished with the league?s highest QB rating. Don’t expect either stat to repeat!” Covers Expert Teddy Covers.
The Giants don’t have cheerleaders, so here’s a double-dose of the Cowboys cheerleader squad
ABOUT THE GIANTS (2014: 6-10 SU, 7-9 ATS, 10-6 O/U): The biggest revelation for New York last season was the emergence of then-rookie wideout Odell Beckham, who finished with 1,305 yards receiving and caught four of his 12 scoring passes against Dallas despite missing the first four games. Beckham made a national name for himself with a highlight-reel one-handed touchdown grab in the second meeting against Dallas that nearly blew up the Internet. Fellow wide receiver Victor Cruz, who suffered a torn patellar tendon last season, is unlikely to play while dealing with a calf injury, so the Giants may rely on their own backfield triumvirate of Rashad Jennings, Andre Williams and free-agent acquisition Shane Vereen. Manning threw for 30 TD passes and 4,410 yards last season to quell fears after his dismal 27-interception campaign of 2013.
ABOUT THE COWBOYS (2014: 12-4 SU, 10-6 ATS, 9-6-1 O/U): Tony Romo finished with 34 scoring passes versus only nine interceptions last season while establishing a franchise record with a 113.2 passer rating, but he will have to adapt to the absence of Murray, who amassed 12 100-yard games. Randle averaged 6.7 yards per carry behind the league’s best offensive line and Romo has the luxury of a stud wide receiver in Dez Bryant, who had 88 receptions for 1,320 yards and topped the league with 16 touchdown catches. “Obviously nobody does it better going up to get the ball and when it’s in his hands, great things happen,” veteran tight end Jason Witten said of Bryant. The Cowboys have some concerns on the other side of the ball after losing cornerback Orlando Scandrick to a season-ending injury and Rolando McClain for the first four games.
* Over is 6-0 in the last six meetings in Dallas.
* Over is 5-0 in the last five meetings.
* Giants are 0-4 ATS in their last four games in Week 1.
* Cowboys are 6-2 ATS in their last eight games in Week 1.
COVERS CONSENSUS: Fifty-six percent of Covers users are backing the Cowboys.