It's Christmas morning at the NFC East blog, with the New York Giants set to host the Dallas Cowboys to begin their attempt to defend their second title in five years. The game kicks off in less than 12 hours from MetLife Stadium here in East Rutherford, NJ, so let's get you primed with one final look at what to expect.
What the Giants need to do to win, defensive edition
Get enough pressure to throw Tony Romo off his game just enough to control Dez Bryant and Miles Austin despite being shorthanded in the secondary.
What the Cowboys need to do to win, offensive edition
Stick to a balanced attack with DeMarco Murray attacking a defensive front down Chris Canty while avoiding big dropbacks from Romo.
What the Cowboys need to do to win, defensive edition
Shut down Victor Cruz while getting enough pressure to throw Eli Manning off his game. Force a hobbled Hakeem Nicks to beat you.
What the Giants need to do to win, offensive edition
Get Cruz away from Brandon Carr and give the tackles help so that Manning can make those game-changing plays he's become famous for.
Three most important non-quarterbacks, Cowboys edition
Tyron Smith, DeMarcus Ware and Brandon Carr.
Smith makes his debut as Romo's blind-side protector against the league's scariest pass rush. Ware is the key to a rush that will have to get to Manning to give Dallas a chance. Carr makes his debut, and will be charged with having to make sure Cruz and Nicks don't hit any home runs.
Three most important non-quarterbacks, Giants edition
Victor Cruz, Linval Joseph and Corey Webster.
The pressure's on Cruz to step up with Nicks hurt, Joseph to step up with Canty hurt and Webster to step up with Prince Amukamara hurt/Aaron Ross gone.
Injury Analysis: Cowboys Edition
Out: S Matt Johnson (hamstring), DT Jay Ratliff (ankle)
The Cowboys might not actually miss Ratliff as much as you'd think. Josh Brent is a monster who can fill those gaps and Sean Lissemore is probably the most underrated player on the roster. Manning is probably happy he's not in the lineup, but he shouldn't get too comfortable.
Doubtful: S Danny McCray (neck), TE Jason Witten (abdomen)
Witten would be the single biggest loss for either team in this game. Without him, the Cowboys' offense is completely out of its element. John Phillips and James Hanna are capable backups, but this would give the Giants' defense the ability to focus more squarely on Dez Bryant.
Questionable: WR Andre Holmes (knee), CB Mike Jenkins (shoulder), LB Kyle Wilber (thumb)
The Cowboys could really use Jenkins with Morris Claiborne being so green, but I doubt he'll be a factor against the Giants. This could be a big night for Orlando Scandrick.
Probable: WR Miles Austin (hamstring), WR Dez Bryant (knee), LB Dan Connor (hip), C Phil Costa (back), RB DeMarco Murray (wrist), RB Phillip Tanner (hand), LB DeMarcus Ware (hamstring)
Austin won't be 100 percent, which again makes things a lot easier for that weak New York secondary.
Injury Analysis: Giants Edition
Out: CB Prince Amukamara (ankle), DT Marvin Austin (back), T James Brewer (back)
With Amukamara struggling in the preseason, veteran Michael Coe might be a better option to start Week 1 anyway. That said, the secondary will be extremely shallow. Expect to see a lot of Antrel Rolle in coverage.
Questionable: T Will Beatty (back), LB Michael Boley (hamstring), CB Jayron Hosley (toe), LB Mathias Kiwanuka (groin), WR Hakeem Nicks (foot), RB Da'Rel Scott (knee), LB Adrian Tracy (hamstring)
If Hosley doesn't play, Justin Tryon would be the only active backup corner, which would give Dallas an opportunity to exploit the secondary all night by spreading them out.
Probable: RB Ahmad Bradshaw (hand)
This shouldn't be a factor, but it could mean a few extra touches for highly-touted rookie David Wilson in his debut.
B/R NFC East Blog Prediction
Likely not having Witten will hurt the Cowboys immensely, as will the fact that the defending Super Bowl winner has won eight consecutive prime-time openers at home by an average of 10 points per.
The Giants have Dallas' number, having won five of the last six meetings. The Cowboys are a different team now, but the Giants still have an obvious edge this week. And with rain potentially playing a role, we could have less scoring than expected.
Giants 23, Cowboys 20
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