|Tony Romo and the Cowboys will be looking to avenge two costly 2011 losses to the Giants when the teams meet Wednesday night. (AP Images)|
Cowboys vs. Giants -- Week 1
Where: MetLife Stadium (turf, outdoors)
When: Wednesday, 7:30 p.m. CT (NBC)
Spread: Giants by 4
Forecast: Rain likely; projected kickoff temperature: mid-70s.
2011 records: Cowboys (8-8); Giants (9-7)
Past results: Two most recent meetings -- Jan. 1, 2012: Giants 31, Cowboys 14; Dec. 11, 2011: Giants 37-34. Series record: Cowboys hold a 56-42-2 edge.
What matters: There are tons of storylines for the Cowboys as they enter this game. The quarterback is always a hot topic, and this year the injuries are huge. The Cowboys have added key parts on defense. But overall, this game is about the Cowboys overcoming their issues with the New York Giants. On Dec. 11 last in Dallas last season, the Cowboys had the Giants practically beaten -- up by 12 with four minutes to play. If the Cowboys hold on, they go up two games in the NFC East and it's unlikely the Giants go to the playoffs at all, much less to the Super Bowl. But they lost, 37-34. Three weeks later, the Cowboys had a rematch at the Meadowlands in a winner-take-all game; they couldn't handle the pressure and lost, 31-14, to end their season. So more than starting up a new season, the Cowboys need to find a way to get over this “Giant” obstacle that has beaten them down five of the last six times.
Who matters: Veteran QB Tony Romo was pretty good last season from a statistical standpoint. He had a career-high 102.5 QB rating and threw 31 touchdowns to just 10 interceptions. But that 8-8 record is the mark that gets tagged to Romo's name more than any other stat. Romo is the key and always has been. He has the ability to make the offensive line, his receivers and backs better, and even the defense, if he can keep them off the field.
Key matchups: The Cowboys had a hard time stopping Giants' pass-rusher Jason Pierre-Paul in both meetings last year. Even though the Cowboys have swapped the tackles this year, moving Tyron Smith to the left side and Doug Free to the right, it's likely that both will have to deal with Pierre-Paul. And whoever isn't on Pierre-Paul won't have it much easier with Justin Tuck. The Cowboys' tackles must hold up against the Giants' end rushers.
Injuries of note: Where to start for the Cowboys? They have three key players questionable for the game: TE Jason Witten (spleen), DT Jay Ratliff (high ankle sprain) and CB Mike Jenkins (shoulder). All have had limited practice this week but are headed to New York and are expected to be game-time decisions. Safety and special teams ace Danny McCray (shoulder/stinger) is doubtful.
Inside stuff: One of the new players not getting a lot of pub this year who could have a big effect on the season is fullback Lawrence Vickers. The Cowboys added him to give a boost to the running game. The combination of Vickers and Murray is something the Giants never saw last year.
Connections: Giants tight end Martellus Bennett never got the chance to start in his four years in Dallas because Witten never missed a game. Now Bennett is getting the start with his new team, and Witten is a game-time decision. Regardless of Witten's situation, Bennett will be looking to have a big night against his former team.
Stat you should know: DeMarcus Ware has more sacks of Eli Manning (10.5) than any other quarterback in the NFL. He has 99.5 career sacks in 112 career games, and if he gets to 100 in the next three games, he'll be the second-fastest to that mark in NFL history, behind only Reggie White (96 games). Of Ware's 99.5 sacks, 57 of them have come on the road.
Bulletin board quote: Jerry Jones might have started it this offseason when he told a group of fans at the Cowboys training camp in California that they need to come to “the stadium this year and watch us beat the Giants' asses.”
Looking ahead: For the second straight season, the Cowboys not only start the year at the Meadowlands for a night game but then travel in Week 2 to the West Coast. After playing at the Jets and 49ers in 2011, this year the Cowboys go to the Giants and then Seattle. Either way, the Seahawks game is big. Either the Cowboys need to avoid an 0-2 start, or they need to make sure not to have a hangover if they manage to pull off a big win over the defending champs.
Prediction: Giants 31, Cowboys 27