Betting lines are a perception, and the perception of the Dallas Cowboys is very good these days.
That's obvious from the fact that they are 1-point favorites at the Meadowlands on Sunday against the Giants, who have won six in a row and are a game behind them in the NFC East.
It's probably justified against a team whose last five victories have been over opponents with a current combined of 13-36 record. On the other hand, past New York teams have often failed to win games against teams they're supposed to beat.
``We all know that we had a good run of six games, but this is the real test for us against one of the best teams in the division, in the league,'' veteran receiver Amani Toomer said. ``If we want to be considered in that upper echelon in the league, this is a team we are going to have to beat to show that.''
This will probably have little resemblance to the first meeting on the first Sunday night of the season.
Dallas won that game 45-35, then the Giants went on to allow 35 points in a loss to Green Bay the next week. In the six wins since, they've allowed 79 points, or one point less than in the first two. New York also leads the league in sacks, getting 12 in one game against the Eagles and Donovan McNabb.
They won't get 12 in this one, nor will Jason Witten, the Cowboys' tight end, go romping wide open down the middle, as he did in the first meeting, when he had six catches for 116 yards.
The Cowboys were very pleased with themselves after routing the Eagles last Sunday night.
``Obviously, they've gotten better since Week 1 and so have we,'' Terrell Owens said of the Giants after that game. ``So we can kind of solidify ourselves and separate ourselves.''
Based on T.O.'s cockiness ...
GIANTS 23-21
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Indianapolis (minus 3 1/2) at San Diego
It might be letdown time for the Colts. The Chargers already let down against Adrian Peterson. But ...
COLTS, 28-24

Cleveland (plus 9 1/2) at Pittsburgh
Another game with a division lead on the line, although the Browns are an unlikely challenger.
The Steelers have outscored their opponents 122-26 in four home games. The Browns may score 26, but 122 is a little out of reach.
STEELERS, 36-26

San Francisco (plus 10) at Seattle (Monday night)
The 49ers spent a lot of money in the offseason without improving very much. Or at all.
SEAHAWKS, 27-16

Jacksonville (off) at Tennessee
The ``off'' is for the status of Jaguars QBs David Garrard and Quinn Gray. Doesn't matter.
TITANS, 16-10

Minnesota (plus 6 1/2) at Green Bay
Even with Adrian Peterson, the Vikings are too one dimensional for the Packers.
PACKERS, 27-11

Detroit (plus 1 1/2) at Arizona
The Lions started as the favorite until the wagering folks realized they're pretty good at home often bad on the road. But they seem to have shaken off the bad part.
LIONS, 21-16

St. Louis (plus 11 1/2) at New Orleans
On to 0-9 for the Rams.
SAINTS, 31-3

Buffalo (minus 3) at Miami
And for the Dolphins. Unless the Bills are looking ahead to the Patriots, something they're not good enough to do.
BILLS, 19-2

Atlanta (plus 4 1/2) at Carolina
The Panthers finally lost on the road. Now they can win at home.
PANTHERS, 24-15

Denver (off) at Kansas City
Whether Broncos QB Jay Cutler plays or not ...
CHIEFS, 22-10

Philadelphia (plus 3) at Washington
Neither team is playing well right now.
REDSKINS, 16-14

Cincinnati (plus 4 1/2) at Baltimore
Neither team (echo) is playing well right now.
RAVENS, 24-20

Chicago (minus 3) at Oakland
One week, the Raiders will surpass last season's victory total. Not yet.
BEARS, 17-7

LAST WEEK: 8-6 (spread); 10-4 (straight up)
SEASON: 67-58-5 (spread); 86-44 (straight up)

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