Breaking Down Why the Giants Will Beat the Cowboys in Season Opener
While the Cowboys have spent a good portion of their offseason seemingly preparing their roster for the Giants and this Week 1 matchup, New York looks like a clear favorite to start their 2012 campaign 1-0 tomorrow night.
According to ESPN, the Giants are a four-point favorite. Here's why I think the Giants beat the Cowboys and cover that spread.
Giants' Healthy Defensive Line
The Giants will tell you that a big reason why this football team won just seven of its first 14 games last season was its inability to keep Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora and Jason Pierre-Paul healthy at the same time.
Tuck missed four games early on in 2011, and Umenyiora only returned for the Giants' final game of the season. With all three healthy, New York was a perfect 5-0 last season.
Wednesday night, all three figure to be 100 percent again.
The Giants overwhelmed Dallas up front in two games last season, sacking Tony Romo nine times and providing 17 other quarterback hits or pressures. Having the three pass-rushers available Wednesday should mean the Giants are able to continue that harassment of Romo.
If the Cowboys can't better protect Romo, it's difficult to envision this football team leaving New York with a win over the defending Super Bowl champions.
Dallas is Banged Up
While the Giants begin 2012 relatively healthy across the board, the Cowboys certainly can't say the same.
Tight end Jason Witten is still dealing with a lacerated spleen and may not play, defensive tackle Jay Ratliff has a high ankle sprain and remains questionable and special teams ace Bobby McCray is unlikely to play with a neck injury.
Cornerback Mike Jenkins (shoulder) and linebacker Dan Connor (hip) are listed as questionable, too.
Those potential holdouts sit on top of preseason dings to Miles Austin (hamstring) and Dez Bryant (knee).
The Giants, on the other hand, have only receiver Hakeem Nicks (foot) to worry about before Wednesday, and he's still a good bet to play.
Games obviously aren't won and lost on the medical table, but Dallas will be a short-handed football team come Wednesday night. The Giants should have all their weapons available.
History on New York's Side
Will the Giants beat the Cowboys Wednesday night?
No defending Super Bowl champion has lost a season opener since the NFL began kicking off each new season with a home showcase of the reigning Lombardi Trophy winners.
Eight times out of eight, the defending champion has won the season kickoff. These Giants look like solid bets to make it nine out of nine.
Also, keep in mind that the Green Bay Packers used a very similar stretch of postseason wins—winning their final six games in 2010 after starting 8-6—to fuel a 15-1 regular season last season, including a season-opening win over the New Orleans Saints.
Could the Giants continue feeding off their 2011-12 postseason momentum, much like Green Bay did a year ago?
The Cowboys spent most of their offseason gearing up to stop exactly what Manning did to them late in 2011.
In two games over a three-week span, Manning threw for almost 800 yards and five touchdowns against Dallas. In the NFC East clincher in Week 17, Manning lit up the Cowboys for 346 yards, three touchdowns and a 136.7 passer rating.
Manning used that final performance as a springboard into the playoffs, where he threw for nine touchdowns against just one interception as the Giants won four straight games.
Does Dallas have the horses on defense to put up a better fight this time around?
Free-agent signing Brandon Carr and top-10 pick Morris Claiborne were good starts. But I don't think this secondary comes together all in one regular-season week.
Maybe by the end of October—when these two meet again—the Cowboys will be better prepared on the edges to handle a passing attack that is one of the NFL's very best. Expect Manning to play well Wednesday night.
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