Fantasy Football 2012: 5 Storylines to Watch for in Cowboys vs. Giants
By now most leagues have drafted, and owners are less worried about sleepers and more worried about who to start and who to sit. The problem with that is it's difficult to know how this season will unfold when your best guess is based off last season and the preseason—two things that offer a very incomplete picture of what to expect.
But with every game played, fantasy owners learn a little more about both teams. Watching the first few weeks helps you target favorable matchups for your possible flex players later in the season by seeing which defenses struggle and identifying which undervalued players to target in trades.
It's impossible to know for sure how these storylines will play out after just one week, but here are five one to pay special attention to while the Cowboys and Giants face off.
Is the Cowboys Secondary Legit?
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
The Dallas Cowboys secondary was pretty bad last year, making them a good fantasy football matchup for receivers. It also made their defense difficult to own, despite the sacks that they put up.
The Cowboys hope to have fixed that this offseason by signing free-agent cornerback Brandon Carr and spending a Top-10 pick on cornerback Morris Claiborne. Both guys can be playmakers, but it remains to be seen if they can turn the Cowboys defense into a strong unit.
Claiborne is a touchdown threat every time he intercepts the ball, and if he and Carr can lock down opposing receivers, the Cowboys defense would be a great fantasy football option.
It also would make them a shaky matchup for receivers, which is something to keep in mind when one of your bench guys plays them.
If the Cowboys still struggle to defend the pass, then they might be a matchup to take advantage of for your players.
The Cowboys start the season dealing with the talented Giants passing attack, a unit featuring Eli Manning throwing to stars Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz, so we should have a good idea from the start how much better their defense has gotten.
Was Victor Cruz a 1-Year Wonder?
Victor Cruz came out of nowhere for the Giants to become one of the top receivers in the NFL as well as a top scorer in fantasy football last year.
Cruz probably won a lot of people their fantasy football leagues last year, and this year he won't be a sleeper. He's being drafted as the top receiving threat he proved he can be.
The problem with that is Cruz is being drafted based on his breakout year, and anything less than that same production would make him a bust. It's important for the people who drafted Cruz to see if he can replicate what he did last year; otherwise, they'll need to trade him before his value drops too far.
Cruz has an excellent chance to excel in this game, as he faces an unproven Cowboys secondary and should be the primary target for Eli Manning as Hakeem Nicks continues to recover from offseason injury. Nicks still will be there to prevent double-teams, but the Giants may want to limit his touches if they can.
If Cruz picks up where he left off from last year, then his fantasy football owners shouldn't worry too much.
But if he struggles, it might be time to test the trade waters—just in case.
Can the Cowboys Offensive Line Function?
Rich Schultz/Getty Images
The Dallas Cowboys have a ton of offensive talent that fantasy football owners love, but those playmakers can only make plays if the offensive line gives them a chance to.
The Cowboys have the misfortune of having an offensive line that hasn't gotten to play together much yet, something they'll have to deal with in the best pass-rushing division in the NFL.
If the Cowboys offensive line looks as bad as they did in the preseason, it doesn't look good for Tony Romo playing a full season, and the running game will struggle to get going as well.
Now that games count it's possible that the Cowboys offensive line improves and it manages to be serviceable against the super-talented Giants defensive line.
If it doesn't, then it might be time to look for some insurance for Tony Romo if he's your starter, because he's going to get hit a lot.
Ahmad Bradshaw and David Wilson's Carries
Rob Carr/Getty Images
Ahmad Bradshaw is the starting running back for the Giants, and many fantasy owners drafted him as such. But other fantasy football owners saw that the Giants spent a first-round draft pick on running back David Wilson and figured he'd be getting the ball plenty.
Bradshaw will start the season as the starter and will remain there until injuries or performance sideline him, which makes it hard to keep Wilson on your fantasy football roster.
Both players' value will be determined by how many touches each gets during the games when Bradshaw is the starter. If the Giants trust Wilson to take a good portion of the carries this early in the season, then it's probably a good bet that Bradshaw will only see a diminishing role as the season moves on.
On the other hand, if Bradshaw gets almost all the carries for the Giants, it might be a little early to have Wilson on a roster. In that case, he might be a guy to drop if you need more depth.
Dez Bryant's Focus and Miles Austin's Health
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
When they're at full strength, Dez Bryant and Miles Austin—the two starting receivers for the Dallas Cowboys—are two of the best receivers in the NFL.
Both guys can be dominant and take over games, which is great news for their fantasy football owners.
The bad news is that they've rarely been at full strength recently; Austin has battled injuries, and Bryant has had off-the-field trouble.
If both guys are healthy and mentally stable they're great fantasy football guys to own. But they both have the potential to be a headache this season if their issues continue into the season. If one has or both have a good game, it could go along way toward easing your mind, or it could make them good candidates to trade if you don't trust them to keep it up.
If they struggle, then it serves as a reminder to everyone who owns them how difficult they can be to manage. They'll both have big games at some point this season, so they could be great targets to buy low.
However, no matter how cheap they come, they'll still be a headache to fantasy football owners everywhere.