New York Giants vs Dallas Cowboys: Breaking Down Opening Night at MetLife
We are 48 hours away from the kickoff to the 2012 NFL season.
And we are 48 hours away from the New York Giants opening up their season as the defending Super Bowl Champions.
What better way to open up the season than in prime-time on NBC against the Dallas Cowboys at MetLife Stadium.
Ever since the schedule was announced, fans of each team—and of the NFL in general—have looked forward to this game with great anticipation.
After all, any time the Giants and Cowboys are playing each other, fans usually circle the date on the calendar. Throw in the Giants' Superbowl win and all of the drama surrounding the Cowboys and it really gets interesting.
Last year, the Giants swept the season series against Dallas. We'll get into both of those games a little further on in the story.
What should we expect in opening night game between these two NFC East rivals? Click through to find out.
Giants Offense vs Cowboys Defense
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The Giants have shown in the past that they are capable of putting up big points against the Cowboys defense.
In the two games played back in 2011, the Giants scored a total of 68 points (37 and 31 respectively), and Eli Manning had big games against the defense.
He threw for 400 yards and two touchdowns in the first game and 346 yards and three touchdowns in the second game. For the Giants to open up with a victory, Eli will have to continue that trend.
Hakeem Nicks will be playing against the Cowboys after missing most of the preseason recovering from a broken foot and he will be teamed with Victor Cruz and Domenik Hixon, who was named the No. 3 wide receiver for the Giants.
The Giants offensive line will have to be cautious about the whereabouts of linebacker DeMarcus Ware, who creates havoc when healthy.
In the season finale, Ware got to Manning for 1.5 of his incredible 19.5 total for 2011-12. Ware will be coming into the game bothered by a hamstring, but he is listed as probable for the game.
The secondary for Dallas is brand new after drafting Morris Caliborne in the first round of this year's draft and signing Brandon Carr from the Kansas City Chiefs.
What will be key for the Giants is how the Cowboys can handle the Giants running game with Ahmad Bradshaw and David Wilson and how the other receivers like Martellus Bennett, Rueben Randle and Ramses Barden contribute to the offense.
If the Giants get deep into the Cowboys red-zone, don't be surprised to see Manning look for Barden to out-jump a defensive back for a touchdown.
Giants Defense vs Cowboys Offense
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The key for the Giants beating the Cowboys offense is simple: pressure the quarterback.
In the first game, the Giants had three sacks on Tony Romo, two of which came from Jason Pierre-Paul who on that night was perhaps the most dominant player on the field.
In the second game, the Giants had six sacks on Romo, two of which were by Osi Umenyiora.
Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell knows that Romo can make you pay if you give him time to scan the field and use his legs to make plays, so pressuring him, knocking him down and putting him on his back is key for the Giants.
Michael Boley and Mathias Kiwanuka are coming in banged up, but are likely to play in Week 1.
The secondary is banged up as well, as Michael Coe will be starting for the injured Prince Amukamara, who is recovering from a high ankle sprain.
On offense, the Cowboys at times are really good and can score over 30 points, or get shut down and get locked down to less than 14.
Against the Giants at Cowboys Stadium, they scored 34 in a losing effort while putting up 444 yards of offense.
Three weeks later at MetLife Stadium, they were held to 14 points and 251 yards of offense in a bad loss.
Some of the playmakers for the Cowboys are coming in banged up and injured—Dez Bryant is probable with a knee injury as is Miles Austin with a hamstring injury.
Jason Witten has a spleen injury and he will likely play in the game against the Giants. Witten is one of Romo's favorite targets, so watch for that connection.
And how well will the Dallas offensive line hold up against the fearsome Giants defensive line and the ferocious pass rush?
The battle up front will be a deciding factor in this game.
Week 14: December 11, 2011
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The Giants and Cowboys played each other twice in a span of less than four weeks to close out the season.
Back on Week 14 at Cowboys Stadium, Dallas was leading 34-22 and had a chance to close the game out, but Tony Romo overshot Miles Austin on a deep pass which would have gone for a touchdown.
Instead, Dallas gave the ball back to the Giants twice and allowed Eli Manning to engineer two straight winning drives that put them ahead 37-34.
Dallas attempted one last effort to tie the game, but a field goal attempted by Dan Bailey was blocked by Jason Pierre-Paul and the Giants held on to win 37-34, snapped their four game losing streak and improving to 7-6.
If the Giants had lost to the Cowboys, there was a really good chance that they would have been knocked out of playoff contention and put Tom Coughlin's job security in serious jeopardy.
Fortunately, it never got to that point.
Week 17: January 1, 2012
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Three weeks later, a game that was originally supposed to be played at 1:00 pm was flexed to 8:30 and moved to Sunday Night Football on NBC.
The reason: Both the Giants and Cowboys were 8-7 and playing for both the NFC East title and the No. 4 spot in the NFC playoffs.
From the start of the game, the Giants came into MetLife Stadium and destroyed Dallas.
Eli Manning set the tone early by throwing a 74-yard touchdown pass to Victor Cruz, making it 7-0.
A rushing and receiving touchdown by Ahmad Bradshaw put the Giants ahead 21-0 at halftime and everything was looking up for the Giants.
In the second half, Dallas attempted to get back in the game with two touchdown passes from Tony Romo to Laurent Robinson, making it 21-14.
The Giants made sure to not let the game get out of hand in the fourth quarter as Lawrence Tynes' 28-yard field goal made it 24-14 and then a four-yard touchdown from Manning to Hakeem Nicks sealed the game as the Giants won 31-14.
The Giants clinched the NFC East division title and earned the No. 4 spot in the NFC Playoffs, going on to host a game the next week against the Atlanta Falcons.
The War of Words
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There is nothing better than a little trash talk, right?
When these two teams do it, it gets magnified to a whole different level.
Back in July, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones publicly stated that the fans should come on out to see Dallas "whip the Giants ***."
While it might have stirred up the Dallas fans and maybe even got them pumped up, Jones just gave bulletin board material to the defending champions of the NFL who will be raising the championship banner in front of a full house on Wednesday.
JPP and Justin Tuck don't need more reasons to want to drop Tony Romo all night long.
Last week, Giants starting linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka was a guest on Boomer Esiason and Craig Carton's WFAN morning show in New York and he responded with a few choice words for Jones.
"He should," Giants linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka said of Jones on New York's WFAN-AM. "I mean, the Giants have been whupping his ass for a long time. It's gotta be tough on the outside looking in on all of these championships lately," Kiwanuka said, alluding to the Giants' two Super Bowl titles in the last five seasons. "That's the feeling I feel like everybody in the league has and everybody should have because we're here on top and everybody should be wanting to knock you off."
Kiwanuka is right. The Giants have won six out of the last 10 meetings with Dallas and they are 3-0 against them in Cowboys Stadium.
Lets face it: These two teams simply do not like each other. The fans of these two teams do not like each other. On Wednesday, all the talk ends and football begins.
Final Score Prediction
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Do you remember when the Giants opened up the 2008 regular season on that Thursday night against the Washington Redskins?
Michael Strahan is in the middle of the field with the trophy, the atmosphere at Giants Stadium was pure electric and the team played like a defending champion by winning the game.
Now, lets add in the fact that it's the team's second Super Bowl in four years and throw in that it's against the Cowboys, and MetLife Stadium will have a playoff game atmosphere.
Personally, I don't like the Cowboys' chances in this game at all.
The Giants are coming in with the momentum of last season, the fans are going to be crazy and loud from the celebration of raising the championship banner, and this team loaded with talent who on any given night, can beat anyone in the NFL (yes, even the Packers, 49ers and Patriots.)
The Giants will likely rely on using more of the passing attack as it has worked on the Dallas defense in the past, while mixing in the Ahmad Bradshaw/David Wilson running attack.
The biggest thing to me will be the defense putting pressure on the quarterback all night and getting an assist from the Jersey faithful at MetLife Stadium.
Last week, I picked the Giants to win this game, and I still like the defending champions to start out 1-0 on opening night.
Prediction: Giants 34, Cowboys 13