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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, September 5, 2012 at 10:59 AM

Let's get straight to the facts first - if that's alright with you!

The National Football League - ready to set sail this evening on its sure-to-be-thrilling 2012 season - has featured defending Super Bowl champions hosting this now-annual Kickoff Game for the past eight years in a row and for the past eight years the defending champion home teams have won the games (but not always covered the all-important Las Vegas pointspread).

Let's take a moment to review (note that all home teams are in CAPS) 

YEAR HOME SPREAD ROAD THE RESULT
2011 GREEN BAY - 4.5 New Orleans GREEN BAY 42-34
2010 NEW ORLEANS - 5 Minnesota NEW ORLEANS 14-9
2009 PITTSBURGH - 6.5 Tennessee PITTSBURGH 13-10
2008 NY GIANTS - 4.5 Washington NY GIANTS 16-7
2007 INDIANAPOLIS - 5.5 New Orleans INDIANAPOLIS 41-10
2006 PITTSBURGH - 1 Miami PITTSBURGH 28-17
2005 NEW ENGLAND - 7.5 Oakland NEW ENGLAND 30-20
2004 NEW ENGLAND - 3 Indianapolis NEW ENGLAND 27-24

As you can see, while NFL Kickoff Game home teams are indeed 8-0 SU (straight-up) they will enter this Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants prime-time Wednesday night tilt with a 5-1-2 ATS (again the spread) mark that surely ain't nothing to sneeze at (that's a scintillating .833 winning rate for these home favorites) and you do have to wonder when an NFL road team is gonna knock off a defending champ in one of these season-opening games ... is this the time/place for the 'Boys?

DALLAS at NEW YORK GIANTS - 8:30 p.m. ET, NBC

How 'bout putting things in perspective for a moment? The visiting Cowboys enter this Kickoff Game not having won an NFL game since December 17th (see Dallas 31, Tampa Bay 15) while the defending Super Bowl champion Giants won six games last year after December 17th.

Okay, so the Giants - the first-ever NFL team to win the Super Bowl after going 9-7 SU in regular-season play - really got on one of those rolls (yes, for the second time in five years they did!) with those back-to-back regular-season wins against the New York Jets and these Cowboys and than Tom Coughlin's club zoomed through one of the great post-season runs in the league's history with playoff victories against Atlanta, at 15-1 Green Bay, at 13-3 San Francisco and than in the Super Bowl against 3-point favorite New England but now Cowboys folks are saying this is a whole new year and the two late-season crippling losses to the Giants in 2011 are long since in the team's rear-view mirror.

So, just how do the underdog Cowboys win here at MetLife Stadium in the NFL's inaugural game for the 2012 season?

For starters, the Cowboys absolutely/positively must have a strong ground game here as RB DeMarco Murray - who rushed for 897 yards in his rookie season before suffering a year-ending ankle injury in the Week 14 game against the Giants - must not only keep the Giants' scary pass rush at bay but he must also help keep NYG quarterback Eli Manning stay off the field.

Manning shredded the Cowboys to the tune of 746 yards in last year's two meetings - a 37-34 come-from-behind win by the Giants on December 11th in Arlington and the 31-14 home win on New Year's Night in New Jersey - and now it does appear that WR Hakeem Nicks will be green-lighted for this clash after undergoing off-season foot surgery and so we'll see if the Victor Cruz (1,536 yards receiving last year to rank third in the NFL) and Hicks tandem again terrorizes a Cowboys secondary that did add big-name free agent CB Brandon Carr from Kansas City and don't forget the 'Boys traded up in Round One of last April's NFL Draft to snag LSU cornerback Morris "Mo" Claiborne.

Meanwhile, don't count on Dallas TE Jason Witten (lacerated spleen) getting into any action here and so when Cowboys' QB Tony Romo airs his gotta-have-the-first-down passes you can expect WRs Miles Austin and the troubled Dez Bryant to test novice CB Michael Coe on short-medium routes where YAC (yards after catch) will be a highly critical stat here.

Spread Notes - Believe it or not, the NY Giants are 13-18-1 versus the vig as betting favorites since the start of the 2009 season but the G-men have covered seven of their last nine head-to-head showdowns against Dallas. Note that the Cowboys - who have notched spread wins in four of their last five season-opening tilts - are a collective 2-10 spreadwise when playing fellow NFC East foes the past two years. One last thing here: Dallas is an ugly 13-19-1 ATS away the past four seasons.

In other NFL Week 1 Pointspread Facts & Figures ...

Indianapolis at Chicago - The Colts have failed to cover their season-opener in each of the past four years while the Bears are 0-3-1 spreadwise in their last four non-NFC North affairs.

Buffalo at New York Jets - Did you know that the road teams have covered eight of the last nine games in this AFC East rivalry? Last year the J-E-T-S failed to cover the bloated 9-point home price against the Bills in a 28-24 SU win.

Washington at New Orleans - Keep in mind that last year's Saints closed out the year with nine covers in their final 10 games with the lone loss coming on the 36-32 NFC Divisional Playoff loss at San Francisco. Overall, New Orleans is 23-10-1 spreadwise at home since the start of the 2008 campaign.

Miami at Houston - The Texans banged out a tidy 7-3-1 spread log last year as betting favorites but note in the past five year the AFC South squad has been a twin-figure betting fav just four times and managed to cover only one of 'em (see last year's 30-12 rout over 10 ½-point underdog Cleveland).

San Francisco at Green Bay - Go back the past three years and you'll see that the GB Packers are a collective 23-11-1 against the odds when playing non-divisional foes (that's a .676 winning rate). On the flip side, the SF 49ers enter this Week 1 bash coming off a 12-5-1 spread season a year ago that include outright upset wins against Cincinnati, Philadelphia, Detroit and that aforementioned post-season win against New Orleans.

Seattle at Arizona - The Seahawks are just 7-17-1 spreadwise away the past three years and that includes last year's season-ending 23-20 loss at 2-point fav Arizona. Note that the Cardinals are 4-1 ATS in their last five season-opening games.

Pittsburgh at Denver (Sunday Night) - Strange but true, the Broncos are a composite 14-33-2 against the odds at home since the start of the 2006 season (a wobbly .298 winning rate). Conversely, the Steelers are a rotten 5-11 spreadwise away since late in the 2010 campaign.

Cincinnati at Baltimore (Monday Night) - The Ravens are just 4-10-1 against the odds in their last 15 head-to-head meetings with the rival Cincy Bengals.

San Diego at Oakland (Monday Night) - The Raiders have covered five of their last six showdowns against the Chargers and did you know San Diego is just 6-10 ATS away since the start of the 2010 season?

NOTE: Get our Cowboys-Giants game re-cap plus lots more NCAA Football goodies in the next edition of Jim Sez.

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