Approaching the midpoint of the regular season, Eli Manning and the New York Giants are setting the pace in the NFC East. But they do have one reason to look back.
The Giants’ worst performance through seven games came on opening night, when Manning was mediocre and Tony Romo played hero for the Dallas Cowboys. First impressions sometimes mean little, however.
Manning leads the NFL with 2,109 yards passing, and the Giants (5-2) have recaptured the look of defending Super Bowl champions. It’s now Romo and the Cowboys (3-3) who fit the description of mediocre.
Revenge is an overplayed angle in handicapping, and it’s not the main reason I’m joining the crowd and betting the Giants as 2-point favorites at Dallas on Sunday. There are several reasons to side with the favorite and few supporting the underdog.
In fact, if there’s one factor working in the Cowboys’ favor this week, it’s that nobody is betting them. Dallas opened as a 1½-point favorite and might close a 3-point ‘dog, and being on the popular side of a line move like that is a cautionary move.
According to MGM Resorts sports book director Jay Rood, public and professional bettors are on the same side of this one. It’s easy to see why.
Manning is 3-0 at the new Cowboys Stadium, the house Jerry Jones seemingly built for him. But the Giants basically win the money everywhere they go, covering eight straight games away from home, including a dominant showing at San Francisco two weeks ago.
Dallas has been a dud on its home field, going 2-9 against the spread in the past 11 games, and Romo tends to play his worst in front of the home fans.
Manning gets a slight edge at quarterback, even though Romo was spectacular by passing for 307 yards and three touchdowns in the Cowboys’ 24-17 upset victory at New York on Sept. 5.
But Dallas was a healthier team then, and its injury report is ugly now. DeMarco Murray, who rushed for 131 yards against the Giants, is out with a sprained foot. His backup, Felix Jones, is hobbled by a bruised knee. And the defense is missing linebacker Sean Lee, the team’s leading tackler.
The Giants have the better quarterback and coach, and all trends are in their favor. Almost all of the money is on them, too, for better or worse.
Four more plays for Week 8 (Home team in CAPS):
■ BROWNS (+3) over Chargers: It might be surprising to hear that Cleveland is 7-3-1 ATS in its past 11 games. Browns coach Pat Shurmur is way too conservative, but he’s not outclassed by Norv Turner. Temperatures will be in the 40s with wind and a chance of rain. That’s not San Diego weather.
■ Falcons (+3) over EAGLES: This was not a play at 2½, but I’ll take a field goal against a Philadelphia team that goes to the wire almost every week. Atlanta is not the best team in the league at 6-0 and has been on the verge of getting exposed. But Matt Ryan is a steady quarterback, and Michael Vick is a mistake-riddled one.
■ Raiders (+1½) over CHIEFS: It takes a lot to get me on Oakland’s side. The Chiefs are starting Brady Quinn at quarterback, and that’s a lot working in the Raiders’ favor. This is an automatic play twice a year. The road team is 16-1-1 ATS in this series the past nine years, and the Raiders have won five years in a row in Kansas City.
■ BRONCOS (-6) over Saints: The total is 55, so the expectation is for an entertaining and fast-paced game. New Orleans is 2-4 but a few plays from 0-6. At altitude in Denver, a terrible Saints defense should get worn down in the second half by Peyton Manning’s no-huddle offensive attack. Manning will get more stops from the Broncos defense and win a shootout with Drew Brees.
Last week: 3-2 against the spread
Contact sports betting columnist Matt Youmans at email@example.com or 702-387-2907. He co-hosts “The Las Vegas Sportsline” weekdays at 2 p.m. on ESPN Radio (1100 AM, 98.9 FM). Follow him on Twitter: @mattyoumans247.