Dallas @ NY Giants (-4)
The stink of another late season melt down still lingers over this Dallas squad. The usual preseason hype didn’t seem to build with the fervor of past years. In its place were conversations about windows and their relative openness, the domestic life of Dez Bryant, and legal collusion. Aside from a few outliers, no one really think this Cowboys team is a contender and most rank them as the 3rd or 4th best team in the division. The core of this Dallas team came together a generation ago (in football years). Witten, Romo, Ratliff, Austin, and Ware are all holdovers from the Bill Parcells-built team. In the years since Parcells’ departure, Jones and Co. failed to surround them with consistent talent and coaching to win. Sure, Tyron Smith was a great pick and Dez Bryant could breakout into a superstar but those are the exceptions. Aside from Smith, the offensive line is a mess. Instead of grabbing young talent in the draft or making a play for a proven starter, Jones spent millions on castoffs from the Panthers and Bengals. Phil Costa, who FootballOutsiders ranked as the worst starting center in the NFL returns after an off season marred by back injuries. Doug Free was moved back to right tackle after spending 2011 doing his impression of a human turnstile on the left. On those plays Tony Romo isn’t running for his life, it remains unclear who he will throw to. Miles Austin’s hamstrings are apparently made of tissue paper and Dez Bryant requires a chaperon to leave his living room. University of Virginia unknowns Kevin Ogletree and John Phillips will try to break through as the 3rd receiver and backup tight end- so Dallas has got that going for them. The Giants may have questions in the secondary but given Dallas’ question marks on the offensive line and the disarray at the skill positions, I can’t imagine the vaunted New York pass rush being held at bay for 4 quarters.
Dallas did make moves to improve their cornerback position. The additions of Brandon Carr and Mo Claiborne as well as the return Mike Jenkins should give Dallas’ defense a shot in the arm. Mike Jenkins doesn’t want to play for the Cowboys. He played with injuries last season and underwent surgery on his shoulder during the off season. After Dallas made the moves for Carr and Claiborne he demanded a trade (he asked for an extension before the Claiborne move). He took his time coming back and even missed his first practice back after the shoulder surgery with what he claims was a migraine. You could say he is disgruntled, but I’m not sure he was ever gruntled to begin with. Dallas elected not to do anything else of note on defense. They promoted glorified linebacker Barry Church to a starting safety spot and franchised perpetual underachiever Anthony Spencer. Will the new corners be enough to compete with Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks? Nicks and Cruz annihilated Dallas in the finale last year. Visions of Terrance Newman chasing Cruz down the sideline remain seared in my brain. Rob Ryan’s complex defense confused his own players more often than opposing offenses in 2011. Will a few new corners change all of that? The Ryan shtick is wearing thin in a few NFL cities and they may have more time to spend as a family in the near future. Dallas failed to generate any kind of a pass rush against New York last year. Aside from Ware, it’s a middling group of pass rushers at best. Could past failures to generate pressure be due to a porous secondary? Maybe-but it seems that logic works better in the reverse. No one thinks NewYork’s secondary is filled with All Pros but the pass rush covers up many of the deficiencies they have. New York shouldn’t have trouble with unproven DeMarco Murray up front. Murray exploded last season but the lion’s share of his numbers came in a romp over a hideous Rams team. The defending champs are a tough draw on opening night and given the glaring holes on Dallas’ O-line and injuries to key figures, the Giants win one that’s not as close at the score indicates.
GIANTS 23 - Cowboys 13