The inaugural game of the 2012 NFL regular season showcases the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants at the New Meadowlands tonight. All the other games in week one are either on Sunday sometime and of course the two on Monday night.
The first thing that comes to mind is the matchup between the Giants’ NFL-best defensive line and how the Cowboys will handle the pass rush. The ‘boys had issues on the line coming into the season and have had particular issues on the interior. Watch to see how the Giants may attempt to take advantage of it – possibly with inside blitzes (when they do blitz) and/or overload blitzes that will test how well the Cowboys guards or center can peel off to the side the pressure’s coming from.
The feeling from the Cowboys’ offensive coaches should be evident early on. If they don’t think they can keep defenders off of Tony Romo for very long, they’ll be calling a lot of slants and screens….3-step drop passes and *bang* get it out. While this is a common tactic against any team with a good pass rush, it also helps masks deficiencies in your own blocking.
The Cowboys will probably try to establish the run early because of the Giants’ own woes in the interior of their own defense. They didn’t escape the entire preseason and training camp without injury and the interior was where they wanted help following the 2011 season when they ranked 19th against the run. So, it’s sort of a weakness-against-weakness thing. Strange, but that’s how it maps out. The last time they met, Romo was sacked 6 times.
But that means there must be a strength-against-strength part right? You got it.
The Giants have as good a “pair plus one” of receivers – two good ones plus a rookie with apparent upside – as anyone in the NFL. Victor Cruz had a monster year out of nowhere in his second season last year and Hakeem Nicks has been a force since he entered the league. His foot’s health is still a little questionable but the word is that’s he’ll play. Rookie Rueben Randle should see some action too.
The Cowboys have the corners to match up whether or not Mike Jenkins, nursing injury, can go. The big battles to watch are Claiborne on Victor Cruz and Jason Pierre-Paul vs. Cowboys LT Tyron Smith. I doubt Smith can handle the game’s premier DE pass rusher, so they’ll probably be running max-protect or at least keeping an RB in to slide to that side when Smith gets beaten. With offseason acquisition CB Brandon Carr, the Cowboys do have some flexibility and perhaps some wrinkles that will keep Eli Manning on his toes. They’ve got their own elite pass-rusher in OLB DeMarcus Ware.
With TE Jason Witten injured, Romo and the Cowboy passing game will definitely be tested in week one. With the Cowboy’s deepest-in-NFL CB position, they’ll still have guys to cover without Jenkins if he sits out.
I’m looking for the Giants’ RBs to have a good game. The Bradshaw/Wilson combo will certainly be more dynamic than the Bradshaw/Jacobs one and Wilson has some power to go with his elusiveness and balance.
As always, it will be interesting to see how much of the playbook was kept under wraps in the preseason so there are always going to be a few wrinkles that catch us fans – and hopefully the opposition – unawares.
With the “scabs” officiating, let’s all hope the players and not the refs grab the headlines Thursday morning! PLEASE! If the NFL Gods exist!