Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys are looking to reverse some trends, one being three consecutive seasons without a playoff appearance.
Losing four straight home games to the New York Giants is another streak the Cowboys are aching to break in today’s season opener. Dallas is a 3½-point favorite, and the line factors in a home-field advantage that might not exist.
The Cowboys went 1-7 against the spread at home last season, a money-burning trend that has handicapper Micah Roberts recommending a bet on the underdog Giants.
Romo, armed with a six-year, $108 million contract extension, has one playoff win in his 6½ seasons as Dallas’ starting quarterback. On the other side is Eli Manning, who has led the Giants to two Super Bowl wins.
Roberts, a former sports book director and an analyst for “The Linemakers” on SportingNews.com, blames owner Jerry Jones and Romo, a not-so-dynamic duo, for a string of disappointing years in Dallas.
“The Cowboys are loaded with talent and should be considered one of the favorites to win the NFC East, but until Jones takes a step back, this cycle of losing won’t end,” Roberts said. “Rather than make big changes on the roster, Jones rewarded Romo, one of the problems in keeping the team from the playoffs. The leadership is horrendous.”
Jones also stripped coach Jason Garrett of play-calling duties and ousted defensive coordinator Rob Ryan as a scapegoat.
The Giants, behind Manning and coach Tom Coughlin, have been more substance than style.
“Coughlin runs his club the way he wants to as one of the toughest coaches in the league,” Roberts said.
Six of the teams’ past eight meetings soared over the total. Roberts, who “sees no reason to buck the trends,” picked the Giants to win 37-33.
Roberts analyzes the rest of today’s Week 1 schedule:
■ New England (-9½) at Buffalo: Rookie quarterback E.J. Manuel looked good during his brief preseason, but I’m not sure it’s enough to influence a play against the Patriots. Home ’dogs should be attractive, yet the Bills are 1-8 ATS at home against the Patriots over the past nine years. I still have a lot of concerns about New England’s depleted offense, but Tom Brady should be able to overcome that. Because of Buffalo’s no-huddle offense, look for the pace to be fast, and over the total of 51 is the best play. Patriots, 37-24.
■ Tennessee at Pittsburgh (-7): I’m in wait-and-see mode with these teams, especially the Titans. Ben Roethlisberger is back and he might be able to give a glimpse of the past to help us forget the Steelers’ dreadful games last season without him. Is this the year when quarterback Jake Locker takes control and leads Tennessee to better things? Steelers, 24-20.
■ Atlanta at New Orleans (-3): The underdog has covered six of the past eight meetings, but I’m buying the return of coach Sean Payton being a big factor for the Saints. Rob Ryan had a good preseason as the Saints’ new defensive coordinator, but the Falcons won’t get stopped cold. The teams’ past five meetings at the Superdome went over the total, and I lean to this going over 54½. Saints, 38-34.
■ Tampa Bay (-3½) at N.Y. Jets: It’s tough to see many positives with rookie quarterback Geno Smith starting for the Jets. I was on the Bucs bandwagon last season as they covered 10 games, but most of those were as underdogs. Tampa Bay has covered only five of its past 18 games as a road favorite. Look for the New York defense to play well enough to keep the game close and also keep it under the total of 40. Buccaneers, 16-13.
■ Kansas City (-4) at Jacksonville: I was singing the praises of coach Andy Reid and quarterback Alex Smith all offseason, saying the Chiefs will be battling for a playoff spot. But in this spot, I’ve got to take the home ’dog. Even though it’s a new team, it’s hard to get past the fact the Chiefs have been favored in only five road games the past three seasons and lost them all. Smith is a good game manager, but he doesn’t bring a big-play aspect, either. Expect the Jaguars to cover for the 13th time in their past 15 season openers, and look under the total of 42½. Jaguars, 20-16.
■ Cincinnati at Chicago (-3): The Bengals have a nice mix of talent on both sides of the ball and should make a run in the AFC. The Bears probably won’t be one of the NFC’s elite teams, and Jay Cutler’s flaky attitude has a lot to do with that. He has worked with some of the best offensive coaching minds in the game, yet still routinely makes dumb plays. New coach Marc Trestman won’t change that. Bengals, 23-21.
■ Miami at Cleveland (-1): I like the direction the Browns are going, and Cleveland will be a tough place for opponents to play this season. Running back Trent Richardson is headed for a breakout year, and he’ll do enough in this game to carry Cleveland to a low-scoring win. Browns, 16-10.
■ Seattle (-3½) at Carolina: The Seahawks traveled to Carolina last season and won 16-12 as 1-point favorites, but that was when Panthers quarterback Cam Newton was pouting and making bad decisions. He eventually got inspired, winning and covering his final four starts. The best play might be over 45. The Panthers went over the total in six of their last eight games, while Seattle went over in seven of their last nine. Panthers, 30-29.
■ Minnesota at Detroit (-4½): I’m not a fan of quarterback Christian Ponder and was amazed at how well the Vikings did last season, finishing 10-6 in spite of him. It was all about Adrian Peterson’s running and a decent defense. I’m not so sure Ponder will get away with it again this year. I also expect a big turnaround by the Lions, who have the talent in place to be fighting for a playoff spot. A good start is important. Lions, 28-17.
■ Oakland at Indianapolis (-10): The Raiders were in the Eastern time zone five times last season and went 1-4 ATS. Four of those games were set at plus-9½. Oakland will have few betting backers today, but how will the Colts react to being the hunted instead of the hunter? Last season, Indianapolis relished the underdog role and fought hard for straight-up wins. The Colts were favored in only six games with no line higher than 4½. Indianapolis’ run defense was awful, and the running combination of Darren McFadden and quarterback Terrelle Pryor can keep the Raiders close. Colts, 23-17.
■ Arizona at St. Louis (-4½): The Rams won both meetings last season as underdogs. St. Louis was favored only twice last season and lost both times. Carson Palmer should help the Cardinals’ passing attack, and his presence has made an impact on the total. Last year, the totals in the two meetings were 36 and 38½. In this game, it’s 41½ and rising, and I agree with it. Sam Bradford showed enough in the preseason that he’s ready to take a giant leap, but I can‘t lay points with him yet. Rams, 27-24.
■ Green Bay at San Francisco (-4½): The past five meetings between these teams went over the total. Even though we didn’t see much of 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in the preseason, we saw enough of him last season to know defenses can’t stop him. San Francisco went over in 10 of its last 11 games. The 49ers won both matchups last season with two different starting QBs. I’m higher on the Packers this time around, but my bet is over the total of 48½. 49ers, 34-31.
COMPILED BY MATT YOUMANS