Top 4 Things YOU Should Know About... Giants-Cowboys Opening Night
Normally when you ask someone the best time of year, the answer is something boring like "Christmas" or "Fourth of July" or even *gag* "Valentine's Day". All of those answers are wrong. Unequivocally, factually incorrect. The best time of year starts tonight and runs through Monday. It's the start of football season, the return from a seven-month trial by boredom, the release from Sundays of actually having to pay attention to other people. I couldn't be more pumped. And because I can't contain my excitement, I enlisted numberFire's help to pore through the stats and pick out four key things that I will be looking for tonight when the G-Men and America's Team finally take the field.
numberFire's Guide to Giants-Cowboys, Week 1
Offense? What Offense?
After these two teams combined for 71 points on week 14 and 45 points on week 17 last season, many observers are expecting another Old West-style shootout this time around as well. In fact, these two teams have not combined for a score less than those 45 points since December 14, 2008, when the Cowboys defeated the Giants 20-8. With that in mind, an over/under of 45 points seems like a bettor's absolute dream. However, I wouldn't automatically assume that a high score is guaranteed this time around. With the Cowboys' upgraded secondary, Eli Manning may have a bit more trouble passing the ball; numberFire has him projected for 1.94 TDs on the night, 5th among NFL QBs' projected week one stats. Tony Romo is right behind him at 1.92 projected TDs. And numberFire isn't sold on DeMarco Murray (0.52 TDs) or Ahmad Bradshaw (0.40 TDs) getting into the end zone with certainty, either. Be extremely cautious if only using past results for the over/under.
Just Want to Feel Close to You...
If the NFL wants a close game and drama, chances are they couldn't have picked a better two teams to open the season. The Cowboys have only beaten the Giants once over the past three seasons, a 33-20 victory in 2010, which is a big part of the reason the Giants have been made four point favorites entering Wednesday. However, in the previous six games between these two teams, four have been decided by a touchdown or less. The Giants won the close affair in every single one of those games, but two of those wins would not have covered that current four point spread. Perhaps the most similar one of those games came on September 20, 2009, when the Giants traveled to Dallas in the early part of the season. That day, the Giants inched out a 33-31 victory on a game-winning 37-yard field goal as time expired. Often, if the line is over three points, you need to expect a giant victory. I'm not sold that will be the case.
Baby Got One Back
The Giants and Cowboys have been two of the most infuriating teams for fantasy-owners the past couple of years because of one evil nine-letter word: timeshare. Between Brandon Jacobs, Ahmad Bradshaw, Derrick Ward, DeMarco Murray, Felix Jones, Marion Barber, Jerry Jones, my grandmother... it seemed like everybody was in play and nobody was a truly solid fantasy option. But trends exist to be changed. Murray and Bradshaw don't look like excellent options at starting running back this week (13th and 15th in numberFire's rankings, respectively), but at least they're likely to be consistent. nF only projects Felix Jones to steal 5.54 rush attempts for 21.24 rush yards on the game, finishing with only 4.05 vulture fantasy points after receiving totals and TDs are added in. Rookie David Wilson is projected to do even worse, at only 3.56 projected carries on the game and 3.28 fantasy points. Finally, names that fantasy owners can (kind of) trust.
Both of these teams have wide receiver pairs that look pretty similar fantasy-wise on paper, with Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks teaming up for New York, and Dez Bryant and Miles Austin as the dynamic duo for the Cowboys. When taking a look at numberFire's Week 1 Projections though, Cruz and Bryant blow their respective teammates out of the water. Wondering why? In a game when both are likely to be receiving plenty of targets, it all comes down to catch rate. Cruz was able to convert 62.88% of his massive amount of targets last season, while an injury-hampered Nicks converted a career-low 56.49% of his targets. Meanwhile, Bryant was right above the league average at a 60.78% catch rate last season, but Austin could not keep up with a slightly lower 58.90% catch rate of his own. That may not be the only difference between the players on each team: for instance, numberFire projects Cruz to get more TD chances with 0.70 projected TDs as compared to Nicks's 0.37 touchdown projection. But the catch conversion rate is definitely something to watch out for, as it may determine who receives more targets throughout the season if (big if) all four of these guys can stay healthy.