Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott is in and New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. might be out for Sunday night’s season opener at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
But New York coach Ben McAdoo doesn’t sound concerned about facing Elliott, the NFL’s leading rusher last season with 1,631 yards who will be allowed to play in Week 1 before probably serving his six-game suspension from Week 2 to Week 7.
“All backs run the same when there’s nowhere to run,” McAdoo said.
The Giants held the Cowboys to 260 total yards — 116 below their season average — in a 10-7 win over Dallas in December. New York, which finished second in the NFL in scoring defense last season (17.8 points per game), also limited Cowboys star wideout Dez Bryant to two catches for 18 yards in two games last season.
Beckham, who injured his ankle in a preseason game Aug. 21, will be a game-time decision, but we’re backing New York as a 4-point underdog regardless.
The Giants have won three straight games in the series and are 5-0 against the spread in the past five meetings. New York is 6-2 ATS in its past eight at Dallas and 9-4-1 ATS since 2004.
Even if Beckham doesn’t play, quarterback Eli Manning should have time to find new receiver Brandon Marshall and rookie tight end Evan Engram against a suspect Cowboys pass rush and rebuilt secondary.
Dallas also has been horrible as a home favorite under coach Jason Garrett, going 10-25 ATS.
Four more plays for Week 1 (home team in CAPS):
BENGALS (-3) over Ravens: Cincinnati has won five straight at home over Baltimore and six of seven. Going back further, the Bengals are 14-7 straight up and 13-8 ATS at home against the Ravens. Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco, who missed the entire preseason with a back injury, is 2-6 in his career at Cincinnati with five touchdown passes and 12 interceptions. Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton will have receiver A.J. Green and tight end Tyler Eifert back after they missed a total of 14 games last season. Bengals coach Marvin Lewis is 0-7 in the playoffs, but has given his team’s backers some Septembers to remember, going 18-6-2 ATS during the month.
Panthers (-5) over 49ERS: San Francisco has drawn sharp money for Kyle Shanahan’s coaching debut, but we can’t get past the 49ers’ dismal defense, which gave up a league-worst 30 points per game last season. The Panthers should have no problem getting past that defense with Cam Newton and rookie running back Christian McCaffrey leading the way. Carolina, which went 6-10 last season after its 15-1 Super Bowl run in 2015, is poised to bounce back. The Panthers have dominated the series with the Niners, going 16-4 ATS overall and 8-1 ATS in San Francisco.
Cardinals (-2) over LIONS: Arizona has won seven straight in the series, picking off Matthew Stafford three times in a 42-17 win in Detroit in their last meeting in 2015. Stafford recently signed the richest contract in NFL history ($135 million, five years), but the Cardinals’ Carson Palmer will be the best quarterback on the field. He should have plenty of time to get the ball to David Johnson and the ageless Larry Fitzgerald against an anemic Lions pass rush that produced only 26 sacks last season. The Cardinals were second in total defense and led the league in sacks with 48.
PACKERS (-3) over Seahawks: In what we see as the NFC championship preview, Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay get the edge in the season opener. The Packers are 6-0 straight up and 5-1 ATS in their past six at home against Seattle and are riding a 53-34-2 ATS run as single-digit favorites. The Seahawks, our pick to win the NFC, are 2-8-1 ATS in openers on the road and lost 38-10 last season at Lambeau Field.
Contact reporter Todd Dewey at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @tdewey33 on Twitter.