Dallas Cowboys (13-3 in 2007) -5 , 49 at Cleveland Browns (10-6), 4:15 pm Eastern Sunday, FOX
by Zman of Predictem.com
The Cleveland Browns, unexpected winners of 10 games last year, look to build on that success when they open the 2008 NFL regular season by hosting the Dallas Cowboys Sunday afternoon at Browns Stadium.
Football bookmakers across the land are listing the Browns as 5 1/2-point home underdogs for Sunday’s game, with a total of 49. Cleveland is also getting right around +200 on the various moneylines, with Dallas giving around -240.
The Cowboys won 13 games a season ago, then blew home-field advantage in the NFC playoffs by losing to the eventual-champion New York Giants in a divisional-round game. Dallas then tried to upgrade on defense over the off-season, picking up veterans like LB Zach Thomas and CB Adam Jones, and nabbing CB Mike Jenkins out of South Florida with one of their two 1st-round picks.
Cleveland was one of more pleasant surprises of last season, just missing the playoffs after winning 14 games in its first three seasons under coach Romeo Crennel. Then, over the off-season, the Browns also tried to improve on defense, bringing in DTs Shaun Rogers and Corey Williams and using three of their five draft picks on that side of the ball.
Dallas QB Tony Romo is working on becoming the new Brett Favre. Romo threw for 4,200 yards and 36 TDs in his first full season as the starter last year, but threw 19 INTs and still hasn’t led the Pokes to a playoff victory yet.
On the other side of this QB match-up, Derek Anderson rose from being the 3rd-stringer on the Cleveland depth chart last summer to throw for 3,800 yards and 29 TDs last year. But the 3rd-year NFL-er and former Oregon State Beaver matched Romo by throwing 19 INTs, including four in a crucial late-season loss to Cincinnati that kept the Browns out of the playoffs.
Also, Anderson suffered a concussion in Cleveland’s pre-season game against the Giants a couple of weeks ago, and hasn’t played since. He’s slated to start Sunday, but if he falters, or can’t go, the Browns will go with Brady Quinn, the sophomore pro out of Notre Dame.
Dallas went 97 against the spread last year, and 3-3 vs. ATS as road favorites. Meanwhile, Cleveland went 12-4 ATS last year, the 2nd-best pointspread mark in the league, and 2-1 both straight up and vs. the numbers as home underdogs.
The Cowboys ranked 3rd in the league in total offense last year at 366 YPG, 17th in rushing at 109 YPG, 9th in total defense at 308 YPG, 6th vs. the run at 95 YPG, 4th in total yardage at +58 YPG and 12th in time-of-possession at +1:06 per game.
The Browns ranked 8th in total offense last year at 351 YPG, 10th in rushing at 118 YPG, 30th in total defense at 360 YPG, 27th vs. the run at 130 YPG, 20th in total yardage at -9 YPG, and 23rd in time-of-possession at -1:00 per game.
These two teams last met in September of 2004, when Dallas beat the Brownies 19-12 down in Texas.
For what it’s worth, the Pokes went 2-2 straight up and 1-3 against the spread this pre-season, while Cleveland went 0-4 both SU and ATS in its summer practice games.
The totals went 10-6 in Cowboys games last season, which averaged 49 total points per, while the O/Us also went 10-6 in Browns games, which also averaged 49 points.
Zman’s Pick: I like Dallas in this spot.