Romilly Evans expects the beefed-up Dallas Cowboys to get off to a strong start against a struggling Big Blue...
Napoleon thought there was only one question to ask about generalship: is he lucky? More important than innate talent, more important than work ethic, more important than strategy. Assuming, of course, that you had enough of those other commodities to ascend the ranks to general in the first place.
This theory has been playing out neatly in the limited confines of the NFC East battlefield since the mid Noughties when two towering talents respectively took the reigns at the New York Giants and the Dallas Cowboys. Eli Manning and Tony Romo having been going at it ever since, racking up record passing yards and touchdowns along the way.
However, despite similarly skilful team rosters and styles of play (both men rack of their fair share of interceptions as well as big TDs), when it comes to the pair's individual records, a chasm exists. Manning has two Super Bowl rings, Romo struggles to get past Wildcard Week.
Manning emerges from a pack of Patriots to lob a desperate pass on to David Tyree's helmet and set up the Super Bowl (now known in league lore as The Catch). Romo fumbles the ball as holder for a 19-yard field goal as time runs out in the play-offs. Luck, one might opine, has been the key contributor.
So as the dynamic duo face off again in this week's star-studded opening at Cowboys Stadium, live on Channel 4, can we expect a change of luck for Romo's Boys? Well, the honest answer is that the Cowboys don't appear to need it at against Big Blue - if we're talking Week One.
In their infinite predictability, NFL schedulers have pitted the Giants against the Cowboys six times in the opening weekend and Dallas have never lost - twice with Romo at the helm. Romo has also enjoyed a winning streak over the Giants, prevailing in his first four starts. However, in the past seven, Eli has redressed the balance (6-1).
That said, those Week One stats look more relevant ahead of yet another rematch. For the Giants re-emerge beaten-up and advancing in years (particularly on their offensive line). Center David Baas and right tackle David Diehl have spent much of the pre-season on the treatment table. Their back-ups run the cautionary gamut from inexperienced to underwhelming.
No sooner had the Giants released 1000-yard rusher Ahmad Bradshaw, then his replacement Andre Brown broke his leg. Which leaves the responsibility of rushing on the foot speed of David Wilson for the foreseeable future. Manning does have his receiving double-act of Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz back training at full speed, but Domenik Hixon and tight end Martellus Bennett will definitely be missing.
Romo, on the other hand, has plenty of young blood to look forward to after some canny signings in the off-season. These new additions could potentially shore up matters on both sides of the ball for years to come (think Will Allen, Justin Durant, Gavin Escobar and Travis Frederick).
It's a tribute to both Romo and head coach Jason Garrett that owner Jerry Jones has taken one more leap of faith with them. At 33, Romo - who has just one postseason game in seven years - knows it's time to repay that faith.
He has already come out with lines like "this team will win the Super Bowl one day" which treads the tightrope between bullish and disconcertingly vague. But, for now, he knows his specific task is to get Dallas off to a flyer and he has all the tools at his disposal to get one over on Manning Jnr (who statistically throws fewer touchdowns and more interceptions than Romo).
Make no mistake, the Cowboys feel they must make the play-offs this year. In a hard-fought division, there are no guarantees but they can certainly lay down a marker this weekend.
Back them at both first-half and full-time rates on the handicap and count on Romo to exploit the gaps in the Giants front four and feeble secondary. In short, he's due a change of luck.
Back Dallas Cowboys to win on the Moneyline @ 1.548/15 or better
1.728/11 or better">Back Dallas Cowboys (-2.5) to win on the Match Points Spread @ 1.728/11 or better
Back Dallas Cowboys (-1.5) to win on the First Half Points Spread @ 1.728/11 or better
Back J.Witten to score First Touchdown @ 7.06/1 or better