EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - JANUARY 01: Victor Cruz #80 of the New York Giants goes up to make a catch against Orlando Scandrick #32 of the Dallas Cowboys in the fourth quarter at MetLife Stadium on January 1, 2012 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
The Cowboys travel to New Meadowlands Stadium to kick off the 2012 regular season. We break down the fantasy implications.
The 2012 NFL season gets going a day earlier than normal as the New York Giants host the Dallas Cowboys on Wednesday evening. The division rivals boast a truckload of offensive talent that will strongly influence many fantasy squads this week. While most of the offensive participants will be close to 100 percent, Cowboys tight end Jason Witten remains the big question mark this week.
We will be back later in the week with a full sit/start discussion for Week 1, but for now, here is a rundown of the pertinent Giants and Cowboys to consider in Week 1.
Eli Manning, QB - Manning threw for 746 yards and five touchdowns in two games against the Cowboys last year. The secondary was not a strong point for Dallas last year, and while several new additions have been added to revamp this area, it will still be a work-in-progress to kick off 2011. Manning is hard to sit against anyone, but you should feel confident starting him this week.
Ahmad Bradshaw and David Wilson - Bradshaw is coming off of a hand injury, but he's listed as probable this week. The Cowboys' run defense was a strong point last season, ranking seventh overall in the league. Wilson impressed his team during the preseason, and stands to take away from Bradshaw's workload in Week 1. Bradshaw carried the ball 24 times for 69 yards against Dallas in 2011. Both of these running backs should probably find a spot on your bench for the regular season opener.
Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz - In two games against the Cowboys in 2011, Cruz caught 12 passes for 252 yards and a touchdown. Nicks? 12 catches for 239 yards and a touchdown. Both receivers are certainly worth a start this week, especially now that Nicks is listed as probable.
Martellus Bennett, TE - Facing off against his old team for the first time, Bennett will try to do what he can in the Giants' powerful offense. Jake Ballard led tight ends for New York last year, and he only finished with 38 catches total. Bennett does not belong in your starting lineup at this point.
Giants D/ST - New York gave up 34 points on the road at Dallas in Week 14 of 2011, but only 14 points at home in Week 17. The Cowboys offense was banged up throughout the preseason, but it appears that the majority of first-string will play in Week 1. Don't expect the best performance of the season from the Giants, but with their improved defense in several areas and the ongoing ability to get after opposing quarterbacks, you could do worse this week.
Tony Romo, QB - In two games against the Giants last season, Romo finished with a quarterback rating of 141.3 and 106.0 respectively. New York gave up an average of 255.1 yards per game in 2011, good enough for 29th in the league. Yes, the Giants are coming off of another Super Bowl victory, but don't expect the secondary to suddenly turn into a powerhouse. You should have no problem starting Romo this week.
DeMarco Murray, RB - Analysts believe Murray is poised for a huge year in 2012. The Giants allowed 121.3 yards per game on the ground last year, and even though they have an extremely impressive front line, they can be susceptible to opposing ground games. Murray should be in the starting lineup just about every week, so this is a no-brainer.
Miles Austin and Dez Bryant, WR - Both receivers dealt with injuries throughout the preseason. Both are expected to start in Week 1. With Jason Witten unlikely to play, Romo will turn to this duo to handle a fair amount of targets throughout the night. Statistically speaking, Austin and Bryant have better games when they're on their own, but the two potential fantasy studs should line up opposite each other against New York. Austin's hamstring issues have plagued him since last season, so you may want to hold off on him until he proves he's completely healthy. Starting either receiver this week, though, shouldn't be a problem against New York's secondary.
Jason Witten, TE - Witten is not expected to play as of now. His spleen injury is far more serious than simply playing through pain. He has to be cleared by doctors before he can see any playing time. Witten is listed as doubtful, so go ahead and find another option this week at tight end.
Cowboys D/ST - Rob Ryan's defense is a complex one that takes more than a season to master. The Cowboys stocked up on defensive picks in April's draft, and hope to have properly addressed their concerns on this side of the ball. Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne certainly face a tough test against Manning and the Giants potent offense. Dallas allowed 68 points in two games to New York last season. Until we see how things are going this year, you might want to sit the Cowboys D/ST for now.
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