The day has arrived and the hours are winding down. After the bad taste of last year, all the turmoil of the lockout (may it never be repeated), and the building excitement through the preseason, the Dallas Cowboys start the 2011 season in New York - uh, New Jersey - against the Jets.
It looks like it will be a beautiful night for football, with partly cloudy skies and temperatures in the low 70s to low 60s. For a last minute look at the forecast you can go here, but it doesn't appear that the weather will be any factor at all.
This is a huge game for a variety of reasons, and there is a lot of coverage of it. In my post on what was going on at Gang Green Nation, the Jets SBN franchise, I found an article that wondered why the networks still love to show Cowboys games. In reviewing the latest articles about the Cowboys, I came across another. At least this one was not laden with obvious distaste for Dallas, and he did acknowledge the reasons why.
The networks pay top dollar for the games and deserve to get the ones they believe will capture the most eyeballs, (Jerry Jones) said on the day ESPN agreed to an eight-year contract extension that will pay the NFL $1.9 billion a season
For now, the games the networks demand include the Cowboys, a team most football fans love or hate and don't like to miss.
More from the media after the jump.
There is naturally a lot of interest in the matchups, the games within the game. One frequently mentioned is Jets center Nick Mangold against Jay Ratliff at nose tackle. The mothership mentions it as the first of the matchups they are watching.
Josh: For me the one to watch will be Jets center Nick Mangold going up against the Cowboys' new $40 million man, Jay Ratliff, though it wouldn't be at all surprising if Mangold gets help from a guard a lot of the time. He's a really good player, though, and if he can handle Ratliff on his own, the Cowboys will really be in trouble. New York will want to run the ball, and it's imperative that Ratliff help shut down the inside game.
The Jets Blog also highlights it at the top of their list.
This is a battle that's made the lists of both ESPN's Byran Boaddus and Ben Stockwell of ProFootballFocus, and for good reason. Nick Mangold, a Pro-Bowler, will be one of the keys in protecting Sanchez, which will be essential to establishing the Jets' passing game.
Oddly enough, every one of the writeups I saw talks about the situation as if the only way Rob Ryan will use Jay is over the center, and as if he is the only nose tackle Mangold will face. There is no mention of putting Josh Brent or Sean Lissemore over Mangold and moving Rat around, which most of us at BTB expect to see during the game. It will be very interesting to see which concept will actually be on the field tonight.
The second matchup everyone is looking towards is Dez Bryant going against Darrelle Revis. In the LA Times, they have a popular quote from Dez.
"I'm not going to change up my game for no corner," Bryant told reporters this week. "I'm not the type of guy to single anybody out - no DB, nothing like that."
Sounds like a little swagger there. I just hope it's not premature. And DMN SportsDay adds the next sentence from Dez, which makes him look a little less arrogant.
"But it's hard not to because he's great."
I guess the shorter quote made for more likely bulletin board material. Nonetheless, whenever Dez and Revis are matched up, it will probably be exciting to watch.
A storyline we at BTB will be watching with a focus that makes a laser look muddled is what is going on with the offensive line some of us call the Yuglies. Their performance is crucial to giving Tony Romo time to pass and keeping him healthy, as well as opening some lanes for the running backs. We have made the argument that this line is better than the one we started last year with, but there are some viewpoints, like this one in the Merced Sun-Star, that think otherwise.
In addition, while it seems Romo's backside will get ample protection from Doug Free, the rest of the offensive line is all newcomers or players in new positions. Two rookies and another player with one NFL start are slated to open the season in the lineup.
That should make this a better team in 2012 but it's an invitation to immediate disaster for a team that struggled to run the ball with efficiency a year ago.
Of course, at BTB we are looking for ways to beat the Jets. Another post from SportsDay offers some keys, and the second one was something I was intrigued by.
Don't be overwhelmed: It's the season opener. It's on Sept. 11. It's in New York. And Dallas is the underdog. The circumstances don't favor the Cowboys but they have to find a way to overcome them. The Cowboys must remain calm, cool and collected in a setting where composure can be easily lost. It could mean the difference between winning and losing.
The performance of the Yuglies, along with the rest of the team, will tell us a lot about how the introduction of the Cowboy Way by Jason Garrett has gone. A good take on that is in the Houston Chronicle's website, and it has this comment.
"I know it's early, but he's got greatness written all over him," tight end Jason Witten said of Garrett, 45, who guided Dallas to a 5-3 record as an interim coach last season.
A good review from a guy who knows a thing or two about greatness.
Of course, this is not your ordinary game. It is the tenth anniversary of the horror that was 9/11. That fact will permeate this game and create a unique atmosphere. An article on the Austin Statesman.com site quotes Rex Ryan.
"I would assume it's going to be emotional for everybody. But in particular with this region, this area, when you talk about 2,753 people perishing in New York alone, I think it's going to be very emotional for a lot of people."
Nobody has an argument with you on this, Rex. But the greatest tragedy any of us can remember has a particular resonance for one Cowboy.
Miles Austin was 17 attending Garfield High School in New Jersey when the terrorist attacked the United States.
On the eve of the 10th anniversary of 9/11, Austin said he remembers seeing the smoke from the World Trade Center from his parents house in Garfield, N.J.
So this is going to be a rather remarkable start to the 2011 season for the Cowboys. Ten years ago, the country took a devastating blow. But the country has rebounded. This is a time to both recall the sadness and celebrate the present. While you watch, get a lump in your throat as you remember where you were when the towers fell. And then enjoy the game. Football is back.
Go Cowboys. God Bless America.