The defending Super Bowl Champion New York Giants will kick off the NFL season against their division rival Dallas Cowboys on Wednesday, Sept.5th. In 2011 the Giants swept the Cowboys in their two-game series, both in dramatic fashion. In the first game the Cowboys had a chance to tie with a field goal, but Jason Pierre-Paul blocked it to end the game. In Week 17, the Giants ended the Cowboys season at MetLife Stadium before going on to win the Super Bowl.
The Cowboys finished another year of disappointment in 2011 finish third overall with an 8-8 record in the NFC East. Here is where the Cowboys finished in their stats from last year:
Total offense: 11th (375.5)
Passing Yards: 7th (4,201)
Rushing: 18th (1,807)
The Cowboys are looking to redeem themselves after another disappointing season and get back to the playoffs. However, they are already dealing with a number of injuries to some of their key players. Tight end Jason Witten suffered a laceration to his spleen and is questionable for Week 1, however it looks as though a Week 2 return is more likely to be seen.
Both the offense and defense are dealing with nagging injuries, but all are expected to play on Wednesday:
Miles Austin (hamstring)
Andre Holmes (knee)
Phil Costa (back)
DeMarco Murray (wrist)
Phillip Tanner (hand)
Wide receiver Dez Bryant has dealt with patella tendinitis in his right knee, but is also expected to play on Wednesday.
The Cowboys main offensive man is their quarterback, Tony Romo. In 2011 he had a career high in passing rate with 102.5 points and threw for 31 touchdowns. Romo is very good in the pocket, but a weak offensive line against players like Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck, and Osi Umenyiora make his job harder. Romo has a nice release, but his favorite receiver Witten is out for Week 1. Romo will have to take advantage of his receiving core in Austin and Bryant against the Giants, who are missing cornerbacks Terrell Thomas and Prince Amukamara.
Laurent Robinson signed as a free agent with Jacksonville during the offseason. He caught three touchdown passes against the Giants in 2011. Kevin Ogletree will step in to fill that hole with the wide receivers.
The Cowboys have two explosive running backs in DeMarco Murray and Felix Jones and will probably be the biggest offensive threat the Giants will face on Wednesday. Murray missed the last few weeks of the season with a broken ankle he suffered in Week 14 against the Giants, but he managed to rush 897 yards for the season. Murray is currently dealing with a nagging wrist, but is otherwise back to his strengths to run the football. Their jobs won't come easy when they face the Giants defensive ends in Pierre-Paul, Tuck, and Umenyiora.
With Witten out for Wednesday and their backup, Martellus Bennett, now with the Giants, the Cowboys will need to use their blocking tight end John Phillips to start.
Total defense: 14th (343.2)
Passing: 23rd (3,906)
Rushing: 7th (1,585)
The defense has also suffered some nagging injuries, but no one has been ruled out for Wednesday as of yet:
Dan Conner (hip)
Kyle Wilber (thumb)
DeMarcus Ware (hamstring)
Matt Johnson (hamstring)
Danny McCray (neck)
Jay Ratliff (ankle)
Morris Claiborne (knee)
Mike Jenkins (shoulder)
Ware was second in the league in 2011 with 19.5 sacks. This health is the most important for this defense in order to stay strong. Ware has a way of confusing opposing lines by shuffling around before the snap, and it's important that the Giants offensive line keeps him away from Eli Manning. The Cowboys will be facing the Giants new rookie running back in David Wilson who will provide a new explosiveness the Giants haven't had in a while. Sean Lee provides a force in the Cowboys' defense and was the team leader in tackles in 2011 with 131.
The Giants will be facing a new secondary in Dallas, but as far as much improved secondary is questionable. Jenkins is coming off shoulder surgery he had during the offseason and is not expected to play Week 1. Dallas signed free agent Brandon Carr during the offseason, but doesn't have any real experience against the Giants' wide receivers. I'd imagine defensive coordinator Rob Ryan placing Brandon Carr and a safety to defend Victor Cruz, but then that leaves the rookie Claiborne having to cover Hakeem Nicks. It could also be a reversed situation, but the results would be the same. What those results will be, we'll have to see on Wednesday, but I'm sure it will not go in favor of Dallas.
Dan Bailey is coming back after having an impressive rookie season for Dallas. He made 32-of-37 field goal attempts scoring 135 points. In his first game against the Giants in 2011, he had the opportunity to tie the game and send it to overtime, but Pierre-Paul managed to block the field goal to end the game. Jones is the guy to be returning punts for the Cowboys and averaged 26.6 yards in 2011. Bryant will be returning punts in 2012, but is not expected to in the opener. Punter Chris Jones only had 10 punts in 2011 for 426 yards.
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