The first thing that comes to mind when looking at Cowboys -17 vs. Giants is the final game of the 2022 regular season. The Giants were 17-point underdogs in Philadelphia, where the Eagles needed the game to clinch the No. 1 seed in the NFC.
The Giants, who already had clinched a wild-card berth, rested many of their top players, including Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley. Davis Love was the quarterback. All-time free-agent bust Kenny Golladay made a rare appearance with a 25-yard touchdown reception that clinched the cover in a 22-16 Eagles victory.
Aside from the mega-spread and Jones’ absence, Sunday’s game doesn’t really have a lot in common with that one. Instead of heading for the playoffs, the Giants are in the fast lane for a top-five pick in the 2024 draft.
In that Philly game, many of the replacement starters were eager backups on a successful team who were relishing their shot to spoil the Eagles’ party. Now the Giants are a beaten-down team that has lost games by 40, 18, 21, 15 and 24 points already this season. That 40-point loss, by the way, was 40-0 at MetLife Stadium against the Cowboys.
Of course, any time you lay more than two touchdowns in an NFL game, you’re asking for trouble. One glitch in the game script can change everything. Look at the Miami game. Jason Pinnock’s 102-yard pick-six helped that Week 5 game end with a 15-point margin, 31-16. The Dolphins still covered at -14.5, but that same scenario would be a loser here for Dallas backers at this price.
Still, I see this as a good situation for the Cowboys, who will be on point after a loss in Philadelphia. In its three home games, Dallas has beaten the Jets, Patriots and Rams by an average of 37-11. And this Giants team comes in more broken and with a less-experienced quarterback (Tommy DeVito) than all three of those teams.
The pick: Cowboys -17.
New York Jets (+1) over LAS VEGAS RAIDERS
Both teams have terrible offenses by any traditional or analytic measure. They have big question marks at quarterback — the Raiders’ Aidan O’Connell because he’s so new and the Jets’ Zach Wilson because we’ve seen so much of him.
On defense, the Raiders rank 20th in total defensive DVOA (28th vs. the pass and 27th vs. the rush). The Jets are sixth in total defensive DVOA (21st vs. the run and fourth vs. the pass). Though the Jets have a rough travel week, flying cross country after a Monday nighter, I believe their defense has one more prime-time stand in it before it potentially succumbs to the “We’ll never win with Zach” mindset.
Indianapolis Colts (-1.5) over New England Patriots (in Frankfurt, Germany)
After getting treated to Chiefs-Dolphins last week, the German fans will get a taste of what most of the rest of the NFL looks like. The Colts have been a consistent offensive force, scoring at least 22 points in every game for an average of 25.8 ppg, seventh-best of all teams. They do give up a lot of points, but New England’s dysfunctional Mac Jones offense isn’t equipped to go score-for-score with the likes of Jonathan Taylor and Michael Pittman.
Cleveland Browns (+6.5) over BALTIMORE RAVENS
When the teams met Oct. 1 in Cleveland, the Ravens pulled away, 28-3. Rookie QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson started that game for the Browns, but since then, with P.J. Walker and now Deshaun Watson, the Browns are 3-1. In fact, seven of their eight results this season would have covered this number. Both teams are healthy, and this shapes up as an AFC North street fight to be decided by a late kick.
CINCINNATI BENGALS (-6.5) over Houston Texans
Just when it looked as if C.J. Stroud and the Texans were giving me a miracle win as 2.5-point favorites against the Bucs last week, DeMeco Ryans has his offense take a knee on the PAT, and I get another loss. The biggest worry for Bengals backers is the health of WRs Ja’Marr Chase (back) and Tee Higgins (hamstring). If at least one of them can go, it’ll be nice to be on Joe Burrow’s side at less than a touchdown.
San Francisco 49ers (-3) over JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS
Both teams are coming off the bye week. The 49ers needed theirs after losing three games in a row, while for the Jags the time off could serve as a cooler to their five-game winning streak. Figuring the 49ers will push the reset button and get their game back, particularly with WR Deebo Samuel and possibly LT Trent Williams returning.
MINNESOTA VIKINGS (+3) over New Orleans Saints
Josh Dobbs is far from the Offensive Player of the Year, but he’s probably the Most Interesting offensive player this season. He arrived midweek to both the Cardinals and Vikings, and gave both far better play than they could have expected, including coming off the bench to lead the Vikings to victory in Atlanta last week. Willing to take a few points with Dobbs against the Saints in front of a fired-up Skol crowd.
PITTSBURGH STEELERS (-3) over Green Bay Packers
The Steelers have been unimpressive in some of their wins, but they’re still 5-3 and in possession of the No. 5 seed in the AFC. The Packers broke a four-game skid last week at home against the Rams but have not scored more than 20 points in any of the past six games, and the old Heinz Field will not be hospitable for first-year starting QB Jordan Love.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (-1) over Tennessee Titans
This is the type of game where I’m inclined to take the Titans on the basis of the Mike Vrabel-Todd Bowles coaching matchup alone. However, the Bucs have lost four in a row and will be desperate, and unless teams are decimated or actively tanking, they usually run into a win at about this point.
ARIZONA Atlanta Falcons (-1.5) over ARIZONA CARDINALS
The Cardinals were at least competitive with Josh Dobbs, not at all last week with Clayton Tune in a 27-0 loss at Cleveland. Though Kyler Murray’s expected return could produce a surge of enthusiasm in the desert, let’s grab this cheap price on the more talented Falcons in hopes coach Arthur Smith will make better use of his weapons.
Detroit Lions (-3) over LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
This is a really nice scheduling spot for the Lions. Their cross-country trip comes after a bye, while it’s the Chargers who had to hustle home after a physical Monday night win over the Jets. Figuring Aidan Hutchinson’s crew can get after Justin Herbert the way the Jets’ defensive line did. A happy return to SoFi Stadium for Jared Goff.
Betting on the NFL?
Washington Commanders (+6) over SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
Not usually a fan of giving a lot of points with the Seahawks anyway, but really not interested a week after they got ripped apart, 37-3, by the Ravens. Baltimore surely exposed a lot of areas Washington can exploit to stay close in this one.
Denver Broncos (-7.5) over BUFFALO BILLS
Happy to grab more than a touchdown in this prime-time game. In Patrick Surtain, the Broncos have someone who might be able to slow down Stefon Diggs. Since blowing out the Dolphins, the Bills have a five-point win over the Giants, a six-point win over the Bucs and three losses.
Best bets: Vikings, Colts, Falcons
Lock of the week: Vikings (Locks 2-7 in 2023)
Last week: 6-8 overall, 1-2 Best Bets