There's nothing new in a rookie quarterback starting Week 1 of an NFL season, but they are almost always first-round picks. That won't be the case in Dallas on Sunday afternoon as Dak Prescott will be under center for the Cowboys against the New York Giants with Tony Romo injured yet again. Prescott, the former Mississippi State star, is the first fourth-round QB to start Week 1 for any team since Kyle Orton in 2005 with Chicago. Prescott will be just the fourth rookie QB in franchise history to start a season opener, with Quincy Carter being the most recent in 2001. How'd that work out?
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It's somewhat fitting that the last fourth-round QB was Orton, because he also once had to fill in for an injured Romo -- that didn't go well. That was in Week 17 of the 2013 season at home against the Philadelphia Eagles in a de facto NFC East title game. The Eagles won in Big D 24-22 thanks in part to a late interception of Orton. After last season's terrible 1-11 record without Romo, the Cowboys are 78-49 all time in the regular season when he starts and 10-23 when he's out.
This will be the NFL regular-season head coaching debut of the Giants' Ben McAdoo. I was a bit surprised they hired him last January after Tom Coughlin was pushed out because if you are going to fire your two-time Super Bowl winning coach because things got stale, shouldn't you overhaul the whole staff instead of promoting your offensive coordinator? McAdoo was only in that job for two seasons, his only two years as a coordinator in the NFL. He's the 17th coach in Giants history and second-youngest in the NFL behind Miami's Adam Gase. Giants QB Eli Manning backed McAdoo, and New York didn't want to lose him to potentially Philadelphia, which also interviewed him.
Giants at Cowboys Betting Story Lines
My pick for NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year before Romo went down was Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott, the No. 4 overall pick. He is the heavy -140 favorite on that prop at BetOnline as well as a +700 third-favorite to lead the NFL in rushing yards. I'm not quite as sold on Elliott winning the award with a rookie quarterback in there instead of Romo. Plus, Prescott (+1200) could steal some of those ROY votes if he plays as well in the regular season as he did in the preseason. Prescott completed 78 percent of his passes for five touchdowns and no picks. Working in Elliott's (and Prescott's) favor is running behind the NFL's best offensive line.
The Cowboys decided to keep Romo (fractured vertebra) on the active roster instead of putting him on injured reserve, which would have meant missing the first eight games. So presumably the Cowboys think Romo will be back sooner than the potential 10-week injury window that was the long end of the diagnosis. Probably the earliest Romo could play would be at Green Bay in Week 6. But the bye week is right after that. I'll be fascinated to see what Jerry Jones' decision will be if the Cowboys are something like 6-1 under Prescott when Romo is ready. Dallas also smartly added a veteran to back up Prescott in Mark Sanchez, who was released last week by Denver.
With the Romo injury, the Giants are now the +145 favorites to win the NFC East for the first time since 2011, which was the last time they made the playoffs (and won the Super Bowl). I believe they will win the division, and it might not take more than nine wins. The Eagles already have punted on the year in trading starting QB Sam Bradford to Minnesota and starting No. 2 overall pick Carson Wentz. Obviously Dallas is starting a rookie QB for at least half the season. And Washington's going to regress.
I expect big things from Eli Manning this year. He comes off his best season, setting career highs in yards (4.436) and touchdowns (35). Manning is +1000 to lead the NFL in passing yards. Now the Giants have receiver Victor Cruz back to go with superstar Odell Beckham Jr. as well as a good-looking rookie WR in Sterling Shepard, who is +900 to win Offensive Rookie of the Year. I'm still not sold on the offensive line, though. The front office, meanwhile, spent a ton of money in free agency to upgrade a defense that was the worst in the NFL in 2016.
Giants at Cowboys Betting Odds and Trends
At 5Dimes , the game is a "pick'em" (was Cowboys -3.5 before Romo injury) with a total of 46. On the alternate lines, the Giants are -1 (-103) and the Cowboys are -1 (-103). Last year at home, Dallas was 1-6-1 against the spread and 5-3 "over/under." On the road, New York was 4-3-1 ATS and 5-3 O/U.
The Giants are 4-1 ATS in their past five in September but 1-4 ATS in their past five in Week 1. Dallas is 1-5 ATS in its past six vs. the NFC. The over is 6-1 in New York's past seven vs. the NFC. The over is 6-2 in the Cowboys' past eight vs. the NFC East. The over is 7-0 in the past seven meetings in Dallas. The Giants are 5-2 ATS in their past seven in Dallas.
Free NFL Picks: Giants at Cowboys Betting Predictions
It's the fourth straight year these two have opened against one another. The Cowboys won last year 27-26 at home on a Romo 11-yard touchdown pass to Jason Witten with seven seconds left. Romo threw for 356 yards, three TDs and two picks. Manning threw for only 193 yards and no scores. Dallas has won five straight Week 1 matchups with New York overall. That ends here. Take the Giants and over.
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Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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