Dallas Cowboys (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS) vs. New York Jets (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS), 8:20 p.m. EST, Week 1 NFL, Sunday, September 11, 2011, Metlife Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J., TV: NBC
by Badger, NFL Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Dal +4.5/NYJ -4.5
Over/Under Total: 41
Two of the teams that generate the most headlines in all of the National Football League are set to clash in a week one regular season opener Sunday, September 11th, when the self-proclaimed Americas Team Dallas Cowboys travel to play the self-proclaimed team to beat New York Jets in Metlife Stadium on Sunday Night Football on NBC.
So much was expected of the Cowboys last season, just like every season, but at this time last year experts were predicting that Dallas would play a home game in the Super Bowl that was played in their our Cowboys Stadium last February. Quarterback Tony Romo got hurt, head coach Wade Phillips lost his job and the Cowboys struggled to a 6-10 season that left everyone wondering if the Cowboys would ever be the same again.
On the other hand, the Jets once again made it all the way to the AFC Championship game, but once again they fell one game short of their goal with a loss to Pittsburgh for the right to go Super Bowl 45.
The two teams took polar opposite approaches to the lockout shortened offseason too, with the Cowboys taking a less is more approach by releasing several longtime Cowboys (Marion Barber, Leonard Davis, Marc Colombo, Andre Gurode), while the Jets made a huge splash by resigning Santonio Holmes and then going out to get Plaxico Burress from the New York prison league and veteran Derrick Mason to give Mark Sanchez more weapons (sorry, Burress no pun intended) on the outside to throw too.
When the oddsmakers out in Las Vegas opened up the betting line for this game they installed the Jets as 4-point favorites at home, and even though the point spread has been out for a few weeks the number has yet to move too much in either direction. There are a few offshore sportsbooks that have moved it up to 4.5, but you can still find plenty of 4s on the board if you shop around.
The over/under total opened up at 40 and has moved a little after the early steam at the betting window, but only a little as you can find it listed at 40.5 or 41 depending on which sportsbook youre wagering at these days.
Offensively this game should be interesting because of the scheme and approach that both teams take to the field. The Jets are a patient, pound it on the ground running team that relies on their defense to win games, while the Cowboys spread the ball around and try to take advantage of mismatches on the perimeter by throwing it with Romo 40 to 50 times a game.
On paper, the Jets look like they might have an easier time generating success in the opener on offense, since the Cowboys 3-4 scheme on defense has yet to perform very well after three preseason games. Plus, with Burress and Holmes on the outside Sanchez has receivers that can stretch the field and beat one-on-one coverage on play-action when the Cowboys start stacking eight men in the box to try and stop the two-headed running attack of Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson.
The Cowboys offense has looked okay so far in the preseason, but they have yet to play against a defense of the caliber of the Jets. The Jets strength in the secondary should be able to contain the Cowboys weapons on the outside (Dez Bryant, Miles Austin, Jason Witten), while the running game might struggle early in the season due to the fact that the Cowboys look like theyll be starting two rookies (Bill Nagy, Tyron Smith) on their revamped offensive line this season.
The Jets and the Cowboys havent played each other since the 2007 season, a game that turned into an easy, 34-3, Cowboys victory on their annual Thanksgiving Day national broadcast in late November. But dont put too much stock into that, because that game is comparing apple to oranges. The Jets started Kellen Clemons at QB back then, so their 180 yards of total offense in the game means little. The Cowboys had Terrell Owens back then too, so its hard to even consider anything from that game will give anyone insight into what will happen in the opener.
The few betting trends that show promise seem to favor the Cowboys in this matchup.
Dallas plays well as an underdog (7-3 ATS in L10), especially when the number falls in that +3.5 to +9.5-point range (4-1 ATS). The Jets also tend to struggle as home favorites of more than 3.5 points (1-5 ATS last two seasons). The rest of the betting trend stats are a mangled mess of nothing, but look for an edge if you can find one.
Badgers Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Every time I look at this game I think that the Jets should cruise to an easy one, as they are the deeper, better team. But my gut keeps telling me to not overlook the Cowboys. Im leaning toward Dallas to cover, but Im not excited enough about it to take too much risk. Ill probably play it safe and take the under of 41 instead, since I see this one ending in a typical low-scoring Jets game. Take the under of 41.
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