Rivalries amplify sports to new levels. The fierceness college football hits a high when the Buckeyes storm the Big House; the poetic tension of nine innings comes to life when the Sox and the Yanks square off. Rivalries promote media discourse and purvey pressure, and hell, they're a whole lot of fun to watch.
2011 encapsulated everything Big Blue and Big D are about: Two head-to-head matchups showcasing hard hits, sound quarterback play and perpetual dramatics. The Giants wound up seizing the NFC East from the 'Boys with a 31-14 victory in week 17.
The rest is history.
Fresh off their Super Bowl run, the Giants are clear-cut favorites to reclaim the division. However, with an already talented roster and a slew of newly inked stars, Dallas may emerge again as a formidable contender.
But in the "city that never sleeps," Tom Coughlin and company can afford to rest for now. The Cowboys show promise, but they're not quite on New York's level. Let's take a look at a few reasons why Big D is no threat for NFC East supremacy.
Dallas' protection unit had its ups and downs in 2011, and with the return of tackle Doug Free, expectations should be tampered again in 2012.
Free was moved from left tackle (the protector of the "blind side") to right tackle this offseason, swapping in favor of 2011 first-rounder Tyron Smith. But Smith allowed eight sacks as a rookie, and the paltry Free will still be exploited on the edge.
The Cowboys were burned by Jason Pierre-Paul in week 14, allowing six tackles and two sacks. The Giants' overwhelming prowess at defensive end will again be trouble for Tony Romo.
As for the guards, former Bengal Nate Livings and ex-Panther Mackenzy Bernadeau were signed this spring in hopes of renewing interior dominance in Arlington.
However, with multiple new additions, how will Dallas's unit come together and mesh? Bernadeau started just one game in 2011, and Livings was part of a Bengals team that ranked 30th in rushing behind guards and centers.
With a potentially faulty line, it's hard to see Dallas going far next year.
There's no denying it: Dallas has a hell of a receiving tandem in Miles Austin and Dez Bryant. But beyond these two wideout weapons, there's not much else to work with.
Neither Austin nor Bryant were able to play full seasons in 2011, and the loss of Laurent Robinson in free agency will undoubtedly hurt. If either Austin or Bryant fail to produce, who will step up?
It likely won't be reserves Kevin Ogletree or Danny Coale, who have a combined 25 career receptions. New York has far more depth at the receiver position, and, according to The Washington Post, stud wide receiver Hakeem Nicks will be available for opening day, despite his lingering foot injury.
The Cowboys of recent memory have had serious trouble defending against the pass.
Last year, opposing signal callers averaged an 88.4 QB rating and over 240 yards passing, and while things may shape up at the cornerback position, their talent at safety remains as dismal as ever.
Gerald Sensabaugh and newcomer Brodney Pool combined for three interceptions in the 2011 campaign. By comparison, Kenny Phillips alone had four picks. The 'Boys struggled against tight ends and running backs in pass coverage, and things aren't projecting to be much better this season.
Dallas ranked 23rd in total pass defense last year, and cornerback was the first thing addressed by Jerry Jones. The drafting of Morris Claiborne partnered with the release of long-time problem spot Terrance Newman were huge steps towards improvement.
But by far the biggest move Dallas made was the inking of prized corner Brandon Carr. Formerly with the Chiefs, Carr was given $25 million guaranteed to ameliorate Big D's secondary woes.
However, it's tough to ignore Carr's bust potential.
Last year, Carr registered a .46 win probability. In comparison, New York's Corey Webster notched a mean 1.33.
Will Carr be able to live up to his massive contract and improve Dallas's defense by leaps and bounds? The skepticism is certainly warranted.
Dallas has an impressive offense, but it's not quite on Big Blue's level.
Despite boasting a boatload of primetime players and household names, the Cowboys were surprisingly average on the offensive side of things in 2011. Statistically speaking, they ranked 15th in the league in total scoring, while the Giants finished ninth.
And in their two matchups, New York outscored Dallas by a mark of 68-48. Romo's system will produce, but it's going to be tough to keep up with the defending champs.
In case you forgot, the Giants have a standout, physical No. 1 corner that is set to take the field again in 2012.
Terrell Thomas will be welcomed back with open arms, and his return means everything to New York's inconsistent defense. A healthy Thomas, plus the secured future of Pro Bowler Osi Umenyiora should stabilize the Giants' D and keep them fiercely competitive all year.