Both sides have talked more smack than pro wrestlers with Jerry Jones lobbing a couple verbal hand-grenades the Giants way and former Cowboy Martellus Bennett taking jabs at Romo and his whole former team. Both teams have key injuries to play through as well. Wednesday night the talk stops and it’s time to find out what the 2012 Cowboys are made of and if the Giants are ready to defend their title as champs.
It’s not like talk is needed to heat up this rivalry, it has everything that NFL fans could want in the first game of the season. Big names, history, and a couple teams from different areas of the country that don’t particularly care for each other in the least.
Let’s break it down:
A preview of the Giants/Cowboys game:
Giants offense versus the Cowboys defense:
Passing– The Giants still have Eli Manning so the passing game will be good and they also have their star receiver Victor Cruz. In 2 games with Dallas last year, Cruz completely blew up a suspect and aging Cowboys secondary with a total of 252 yards. The Cowboys made changes in the secondary and I think their poor performance against the Giants had
a lot no everything to do with the changes. They added new secondary coach Jerome Henderson who comes from the Browns and is familiar with Ryan’s defense. Giants WR Manningham went to the 49ers. WR Nicks is injured but is expected to play against Dallas. TE Jake Ballard has been replaced for the Giants with former Cowboy TE Martellus Bennett.
For Dallas, gone is CB Terrance Newman (to the Bengals) who was injury prone and a step or two slower…..make that three, than he use to be. CB Brandon Carr was signed from the Chiefs to replace Newman and represents a serious upgrade. His 2 INTs against Chargers QB Phillip Rivers in the preseason sent the message loud and clear, “this ain’t last years secondary”. Joining Carr in the secondary is the Cowboys first pick in the draft, CB Morris Claiborne a ball hawking rookie who replaces Mike Jenkins who will likely not play in the game after off season shoulder surgery. While Claiborne may make rookie mistakes, he has the talent to make positive plays too.
Last year in the 2 games against the Giants, Newman and safety Abram Elam were consistently beaten and exploited by Eli. Replacing Elam in the secondary is Barry Church who gets his chance to start for Dallas. Church has improved his game since last year and represents a physical presence that brings “POP” to would be receivers.
My Take: The Cowboys secondary is improved and that should help make things a little more difficult for Manning and Cruz.
QB PRESSURE: The Giants offensive line has no major changes and was solid at protecting Manning last year. The Cowboys still have sack guru DeMarcus Ware and have also added rookie Tyrone Crawford who adds energy and a non stop motor. Crawford should see action in the D line rotation. It looks doubtful that NT Ratliff will play for Dallas due to injury but it is still possible.
Last year the Cowboys failed to pressure Manning particularly in key moments late in the game. With a season under their belt, under defensive coordinator Ryan, the players appear to be more on top of the blitzes and schemes now.
My Take: The Cowboys must pressure Manning better than last year. They only had a total of 2 sacks in 2 games with the Giants. They may be improved a little here but Ware is still their main chance to get to the QB. With better corners, Dallas may be able to blitz more often than they did last year however if Manning gets plenty of time to play pass and catch with his receivers, he can shred even the best secondaries.
Rushing game– RB Brandon Jacobs left for the 49ers so there are shoes to be filled. To fill Jacobs’ shoes, the Giants drafted RB David Wilson out of Va. Tech in the first round. During preseason he has looked solid carrying the ball as the Giants turned him loose in their 3rd preseason game against the Bears and he rushed for 49 yards in just 5 carries. Giants RB Ahmad Bradshaw injured a hand and missed most of preseason but is expected to play in the Dallas game.
On defense, the Cowboys are usually solid against the run and with star young LB Sean Lee, the rushing defense should be good again.
My Take: Dallas should be fine against the run however they better not look past the rookie Wilson who looks to be a very good RB.
Cowboys Offense versus Giants Defense
Passing: Tony Romo and the Cowboys expect to have a healthy Miles Austin who has been out with hamstring issues. Dez Bryant hurt a knee in preseason but is expected to return. Romo’s favorite target TE Jason Witten injured a spleen in a preseason game with the Raiders and is a game time decision. It’s very uncertain that Witten will be able to play. The Cowboys have Phillips and the rookie Hanna to play TE.
The Giants secondary has been hit with injuries as Amukamara injured an ankle and is not expected to play in the Dallas opener. Also CB Terell Thomas is out for the season with an injury.
My Take: If the Cowboys get a healthy Miles Austin and Dez Bryant on the field, this could be a real advantage for them going up against a depleted Giants secondary. Witten is doubtful in the opener.
QB Pressure: This is where the Giants are best and last year they were tops in the NFL at getting to the QB. Besides Eli, it’s one of the main reasons they were able to win the Super Bowl. Last year the Giants sacked Romo a total of 9 times in 2 games. Three came from Pierre-Paul. The Cowboys have new faces at guards Livings from the Bengals and Bernadeau from the Panthers. Tyron Smith moves over to left tackle to protect Romo’s blind side and try to neutralize the sack happy Pierre Paul. Costa the center has had back pain but is expected to play. DE Chris Canty for the Giants has been placed on PUP list.
My Take: This is the area where I think the Giants have a big advantage. Their ability to get after the QB with their front line along with an inexperienced Cowboys O line that hasn’t played much together, could equal big trouble for Romo. Protecting Romo will be critical.
Rushing game: The Cowboys have a healthy DeMarco Murray who was outstanding last season before getting injured in the first game against the Giants. His absence really hurt the Cowboys chances of winning the NFC East last year. The Cowboys brought in veteran physical FB Lawrence Vickers from the Texans to help clear a path for Murray. Murray is the key to the Cowboys being able to run the ball successfully against the Giants.
My Take: Having Murray back is a big plus for Dallas and if they can run the ball, it should ease some of the pressure off Romo on passing plays.
SUMMARY: Should be another classic battle. Both teams come into the opening game with strengths and weaknesses. The Giants injury depleted secondary must try to contain a good Cowboys passing game while the Cowboys “make do” offensive line must try to contain the best pass rush in the NFL. Both teams bring in young rising star RBs in DeMarco Murray and David Wilson.
After losing to the Giants with an opportunity to win the division last year, one would think that the Cowboys will come into this game with a chip on their shoulders. They certainly have more to prove than the Super Bowl champ Giants. Last year I think the Giants played with more toughness and determination to win than Dallas.
May be time for Garrett to play Al Pacino’s pregame speech from “Any Given Sunday“.