Hey friends, this is my first post as an audio doper, and I thought that I’d kick it off by previewing the opening game of the NFL season. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, or if you’ve contracted a severe case of the college, you probably already know that the Cowboys take on the Giants in the “New” Meadowlands Wednesday at 8:30. I’m gonna break this shindig down into different sections (d-line, o-line) and let you know which one has the advantage. Sort of like Marcellus Wiley, but not incredibly annoying. Now before I get too deep in to anything I want to say that I am a Cowboys fan, but I will be as least biased as physically possible.
D-Line: The Cowboys run a weird hybrid 3-4 defense, where the outside backers play as d-ends but also have lots of pass coverage responsibilities so I’ll count them as D-linemen. Word out of Cowboys camp is that all new additions to the line have had a great impact, and Demarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer make up one of the most powerful outside pass rushing attacks in the league. However they’ll be starting the season without Jay Ratliff anchoring things down in the middle. They’ll be going up against a familiar Giants o-line, however tackle Will Beatty will not be playing leaving experienced backup Sean Locklear protecting Eli’s blindside. The Giants on the other hand, run a traditional 4-3 defense and have some absolute freaks down there. When Osi Umenyiora is listed as second string, you know that they have some major depth, and definitely have the ability to make things terrible for Tony Romo and company. They’ll be playing against a line that hasn’t played together all pre-season, and wouldn’t be that impressive if they had.
Linebackers: Not counting D-Ware and Anthony Spencer, the Cowboys are anchored by the only good thing to come out of Penn State in the past three years in Sean Lee. He led the team in tackles last year, and has had an amazing pre-season leading many to believe that he’s a real pro-bowl candidate. They got rid of old legs (Keith Brooking, Bradie James), in favor of Dan Connor and Bruce Carter, and what was a weakness for the ‘Boys in ’11 could be looking like a strength. Again the Giants have some major depth in their linebacker core. Reports say that BC grad Mathias Kiwanuka is getting used to his role as a hybrid backer, and Chase Blackburn and Michael Boley are looking good. Last year, the Giants suffered from no pre-season activities as did every other team, but still managed to win the Superbowl so I think this unit was better than advertised.
Defensive Backs: Probably the biggest hole in the Cowboys team last year, Jerry Jones went full force in free agency signing free agent Brandon Carr and trading up in the draft for Morris Claiborne. With former pro-bowler Mike Jenkins at third string corner, cornerback looks solid for the boys. Free safety on the other hand is going to incumbent starter Gerald Sensabaugh with unproven Barry Church at strong safety. The Giants are down one of their starting corners, Prince Amukamara, and are starting Michael Coe who has not made an NFL start in his life. The other corner spot goes to Corey Webster, solid, and they have Antrel Rolle and Kenny Phillips at free safety and strong safety respectively. These guys, besides Coe, are proven players, who should provide a solid pass defense against the Cowboys receivers.
Offensive Line: This is a no question advantage for the Giants. They have linemen who have played together for years, and have always been able to open up holes and protect Eli Manning. Their only concern is at left tackle, but it’s not like they’re bringing in some scrub to replace Beatty. Locklear has started 82 games in his NFL career so he knows what to expect. I feel that the Cowboys are relying more on O-line coach Bill Callahan more than the actual players. Other than Tyron Smith, there is no lineman on the team better than their Giant counterpart. I hope Tony can use his weird allusiveness well or it could be a long night.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: This is assuming that both Hakeem Nicks, Miles Austin, and Dez Bryant are all starting. Along with Nicks, the Giants have the breakout star of last year in Victor Cruz to man the outside. This guy torched some poor team for some 500 yard play every week. It’s tough to believe that defenses will turn a blind eye to this guy this year. Coming in to his third season Dez Bryant has had more headlines off the field than on, however his on field talent has never been questioned. Guy’s a freak and with a healthy Miles they make up another dynamic 1-2 punch. I strongly believe that Jason Witten will play in this game. He hasn’t missed a game since ’03, and when it all comes down to it, who needs a spleen? Witten has also been Romo’s security blanket ever since Tony starting throwing passes, and is sure to be a big part of the game. Martellus Bennett was released by the Cowboys because he couldn’t cut it as a back up tight end, which should let you know how his past seasons have gone. He’s been productive in preseason but after watching this guy be a bust for a few years, I don’t think he’s even close to Witten.
Backfield: Eli vs. Romo, well one is a two time superbowl champion and the other one has a large reputation for choking in big situations. While I can’t say that Romo didn’t choke in a game last year (Lions) he did beat the 49ers in San Fran with broken ribs, and put up his best statistical season ever. 31 TD’s 10 INT’s 4,184 yards, that’s really good. Eli on the other hand had 29 TD’s, 16 INT’s, and a whopping 4,933 yards. The argument could be made for either, but I’m gonna take the easy way out and say that it’s a toss up. Ahmad Bradshaw is coming in to his first year as the featured back, with Virginia Tech rookie David Wilson filling in for Bradshaw every now and then. Reports out of camp are that Wilson is showing major potential and Bradshaw is poised for a very good season. Last year the Cowboys saw a major spark in the run game with the appointment of Demarco Murray to the number one spot. He then subsequently broke his leg. However he looks fully healthy in camp, and as long as Felix Jones has that same quick burst, the Cowboys have a great 1-2 punch.
Kicker: Dan Bailey is nasty, as is Laurence Tynes.
Final Prediction: If you’ve watched any of the Giants v Cowboys games in the past 3 years, it doesn’t feel like the Giants have won all 6. These games are always highly competitive and will most likely come down to the fourth quarter and which team wins the turnover and line battles. It very well could come down to which team can get to the quarterback. The fan in me thinks that the Cowboys will win one million to nothing, but I know that this game is going to be extremely close.
Final Score: Cowboys 20 – Giants 17