The Cowboys season opener is all but here. We have just a 4 day wait before the Giants come to town to start the 2013 journey, and with a new season returns old traditions. Here’s my final Giants @ Cowboys predictions, continuing the series from last year.
The Giants will be looking to set themselves back on their Super Bowl path in week 1, also serving as a revenge match from their week 1 loss to Dallas in 2012. The Giants upgraded their defensive line this year, but didn’t do much to address an already atrocious secondary. Overall, they have lost lots of the luster they were receiving just a year ago, but have just a good chance as anyone in the division to be the winners of the NFC East. The Cowboys on the other hand have had a questionable offseason but a drastic improvement to the coaching staff and culture around Valley Ranch makes them a better team than what Dallas fielded last year. The Cowboys will be ready to see the debut of new defensive coordinators Monte Kiffin and Rod Marinelli, and are also anxious to see star receiver Dez Bryant back at work.
-Jason Pierre Paul will start
-Victor Cruz will start
-Anthony Spencer will participate, limitedly
-Brian Waters will not play
Biggest Match Ups
DeMarcus Ware vs Will Beatty: The Giants had a weak defensive line last year, but it is known that they still field one of the best pass rushing squads in the NFL and will undoubtedly be putting pressure on Romo all night. To match that, the Cowboys need All-Universe and future Hall of Famer pass rusher DeMarcus Ware to do what he does best and bother Manning in the pocket a ton. Will Beatty is a good left tackle, but even the best of the best struggle against the converted defensive end. Beatty will do a solid job most of the night, but Ware makes his presence known and has a good night with a couple splash plays including a sack. Winner: Ware
Tyron Smith vs Jason Pierre Paul: JPP is not quite on the level or legacy level of DeMarcus Ware, but he will be counted on just as much for his own team to provide pressure from Romo’s blindside. Like the previous matchup, Smith does a good job against JPP. He plays well in the pass protection department and the run, except a sack. Overall, JPP makes impact with the sack but doesn’t do much for the rest of the night. Winner: Draw
Dez Bryant vs Prince Amukamara/Corey Webster: Webster is not that good of a corner, and while Amukamara is the top corner in NY, he is nowhere near top notch. Dez Bryant is an unstopabble monster and will have a good night no matter who is covering him. Amukamara plays well and provides excellent coverage on a few plays, but you just can’t expect anyone to be able to really keep Dez Bryant very quiet. Winner: Dez Bryant
Players to Watch
Giants: Rueben Randle
Randle had a good second half last year and developed into a nice 3rd option for NY. Cruz and Nicks make a very dangerous duo of pass catchers, but Claiborne and Carr have the tools to limit them as they did last year. If Nicks and Cruz can’t contribute as much as the Giants expect, Randle is a great fallback option. He may have a huge impact on the game.
Cowboys: Miles Austin
Dez Bryant is the second best receiver in the NFL and teams will definitely spend lots of time game planning for him every week, trying to find ways to stop the rising superstar. However, it seems like lots of people have forgotten Miles Austin. He is a bit old, but he is fast and better then a few No.1 receivers. He is a top 10 No.2 pass catcher and can make defenses pay big time if they don’t stay attentive to his side of the field as well. He is big, has excellent hands, big play ability, and knows how to score.
Quarter by Quarter
Q1: The Cowboys start with the ball and test the Giants offense slowly at first. They probe with a few short passes and runs before ultimately punting away their first possession. The Giants get right into it, but after a first down, Manning doesn’t get anything on 2 deep passes and Dallas regains the ball. This time, Romo goes all out and with a strong passing attack, marches down the field before Austin catches a 1 on 1 jumpball in the endzone over Webster for a 10 yard TD and the first score. The Giants don’t get anything on the next possession, but force a punt again and take a big return all the way back to the Dallas 20. Manning gets his team to the 10 yard line before having lots of time in the pocket to find Cruz in the back of the endzone to tie the score.
Q2: The Cowboys go off in the second quarter, as Romo takes another drive down to the redzone and hits Witten this time for a short 5 yard TD and a 14-7 lead. The Giants drive down as well, but the Cowboys tighten up in the redzone, dropping a potential pick on 3rd down, and force a field goal. The Giants trim down to 14-10 and Romo retakes the ball. The drive doesn’t go well, as Romo is under pressure and throws a pick to Antrel Rolle at midfield. The Giants drive only 10 yards however before Ware gets Manning from behind, forcing a fumble and Hatcher gets on it. The Cowboys take it back down and Romo hits Dez on a back shoulder fade for a 7 yard TD around Amukamara, and extend to a 21-10 lead.
Q3: Doubled up and down by 11, the Giants will look to rebound in the 3rd quarter. It gets off to a rocky start, as George Selvie records a sack and constant pressure doesn’t allow Manning anything. The Cowboys get the ball back and this time get a field goal to make it 24-10 with a big 3rd quarter lead for Dallas. Manning makes a mistake on the next drive, throwing a short pick to Claiborne and the Cowboys stadium erupts at the opportunity. The Cowboys get to the redzone, but the offensive line, playing well so far, had a breakdown and 2 sacks kill the drive. Dallas still gets a field goal and extend to a 3 score, 27-10 lead. Manning finally gets something going and goes for a field goal to finish the quarter, and the Cowboys head to the 4th quarter leading 27-13.
Q4: The Cowboys defense chokes the Giants offense and play hard noses, protecting the late lead. With 8 minutes left, the Giants go for it on 4th and 1 from midfield, but Bruce Carter penetrates to deny the conversion. The Cowboys seem to have it wrapped up as Bailey hits another field goal, and the Cowboys lead by 17, 30-13, with 6 minutes left. But Manning shows the game is far from over, leading his team down for a TD quick, leaving 4 minutes on the clock in a 30-20 game. The Cowboys feel slight pressure, but don’t mind much. It turns out to be a mistake as they go 3 and out and have to punt. The Giants offense ignites once again, grilling the Cowboys defense for another TD, leaving 1:30 on the clock. The Giants trail 30-27, with all 3 timeouts left, and the game becomes very interesting. The Giants use all timeouts and Dallas punts. NY has the ball at their own 25 with 1 minute and now timeouts left. Manning gets a few passes out and gets to midfield but the clock burns. From midfield, Jason Hatcher earns his money. Manning has time in the pocket but can’t do anything and Hatcher finally sneaks up from behind and drops Manning at the Giants 45. The Giants hurry up to spike the ball, leaving 10 seconds on the clock. On the next snap, Manning keeps his eyes downfield, scrambling around and the clock runs out. Manning still evades a few defenders before getting a clean opening and launches the ball into a crowd at the goal line, but Will Allen knocks it away to seal the game, and Dallas escapes a near disaster.
Final Score: Cowboys 30, Giants 27
Romo: 26/39, 330 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT
Murray: 21 rush, 85 yards, 3 rec, 30 yards
Witten: 6 rec, 60 yards, TD
Bryant: 8 rec, 120 yards, TD
Austin: 5 rec, 65 yards, TD
Ware: 4 tackles, 1 sack, 1 FF
George Selvie: 3 tackles, 1 sack
Lee: 12 tackles, 1 pass defended
Claiborne: 4 tackles, 2 pass defended, 1 INT
Manning: 28/45, 300 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT
Wilson: 24 rush, 100 yards, TD, 2 rec, 35 yards, TD
Nicks: 7 rec, 80 yards
Cruz: 8 rec, 105 yards, TD
Randle: 4 rec, 50 yards
Jason Pierre Paul: 2 tackles, 1 sack
Antrell Rolle: 8 tackles, 1 INT