Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo received a substantial contract extension in the offseason, and there will be no small amount of pressure to prove he was worth it. The Giants lost three of their last five in 2012, missing the playoffs. The long-time rivals face off to open the 2013 season, meaning only one gets to start off on the right foot.
Of the two, there's likely more pressure on Dallas. Having missed the playoffs for three years running, a six-year, $108 million contract for Romo is a big signal that they expect things to change. Romo passed for a career-high 4,903 yards in 2012, but he also tied his career-high 19 interceptions and posted a career-low 90.5 passer rating. New York's pass rush dried up in 2012, and Romo will need that to continue in Week 1.
Meet the Cowboys
After back-to-back 8-8 seasons, the pressure being felt in Dallas is likely a step up from the standard amount that accompanies the storied franchise. Aside from Tony Romo living up to his new contract, a big issue for the team is likely to be health. The team's leading tackler, defensive end Anthony Spencer, is coming back from knee surgery. Jay Ratliff's health is a constant question, and he'll likely miss Week 1. Linebacker Sean Lee missed 10 games in 2012, but a new contract and a new-look defense under coordinator Monte Kiffin have given him all the motivation he needs to find a way to stay on the field. The preseason saw the team generate some turnovers, something lacking under previous coordinator Rob Ryan. The story for the Dallas defense seems to be all the potential, but questions about whether or not it will be realized.
On offense, play-calling duties have moved from Garrett to offensive coordinator Bill Callahan. DeMarco Murray will likely contribute a strong running game, but if the team again asks him to carry virtually the entire load they're likely to see the limits they have in the past. Dez Bryant and Miles Austin return and, like the rest of the team, have an extremely high ceiling they may not be able to reach.
Meet the Giants
With Tom Coughlin as head coach and Eli Manning under center, the 2013 Giants seem to be on track for more of the same, for better or worse. Given that it's brought the team two Super Bowls that might seem encouraging, but things can easily go wrong. The offense finished in the middle of the pack last year with 26 touchdowns and 15 interceptions, 12th in the league with 239 yards per game. The receiving corps will be familiar, with Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks, and tight end Martellus Bennett running the routes. The run game has seen more turnover, with second-year back David Wilson ascending to the starting role. He will need a big step up in production in that role.
Beyond the offense, the defense was a weak point in 2012, finishing second from last in yards per game allowed with 383. The defensive line has been retooled in an effort to turn things around, with second-round pick Johnathan Hankins and free agents Cullen Jenkins and Mike Patterson as key additions. If that works as intended, Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck may be able to bounce back from a disappointing season and restore New York's pass rush. If Eli holds steady, it may be the defense that makes or breaks the Giants' chances.
Local Takes: Cowboys
Tom Ryle of Blogging the Boys thinks that the Cowboys' investment in guard Brian Waters will pay dividends for a long time to come:
However, his full contribution to the team may be felt for as much as a decade because no matter if he is around for one year or more, he is coming in to work with much younger players who will be learning from him and will carry those lessons throughout their careers.
Local Takes: Giants
Sam Spiegelman from Big Blue View has some good info on 7th round pick Da'Rel Scott:
Thrust into a more significant role, [Da'Rel] Scott said his mindset has not changed; he'll continue to prepare like a starter so he's ready if the coaches call on him during the game.
"I prepare myself like I'm going to play every game, whether I'm third, fourth in the rotation or whether I'm first or second," Scott said. "I have to prepare the same way just because of the situation. I have to make sure I'm on top of it, make sure I prepare myself and just make sure they trust me in the game."
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In my mind, there are 29 starters. 11 off, 11 def, 3 specialists, slot corner, 3rd WR, COP back, returner. Cowboys missing 4 of 29 + ST Capt— Blogging The Boys (@BloggingTheBoys) September 5, 2013
cowboys fans you not the only one with injury troubles this week..the Giants have big time JPP issues— Clarence Hill (@clarencehilljr) September 6, 2013
Justin Tuck doesn't have a medical degree but he says "I think he's good to go,'' when asked about JPP vs. Cowboys: http://t.co/Uov7AUgcu0— Paul Schwartz (@NYPost_Schwartz) September 4, 2013
You really should care about the NFC East. It's obviously the best division in the NFL ... wait, come back! The Giants are 4-0 in Jerry Jones' gilded palace of Texas ego. That's totally going to change this year because the Cowboys have Bill Callahan calling plays along with Tony Romo, some input from Jason Garrett and Jerry's always a phone call away. If you can't trust play calling by committee, what can you trust?
The Giants are favored by either 3 or 3½ points at major sportsbooks, according to OddsShark.com.