Yes, I know I know. I have yet to post my final season preview (decked out with division outlooks, playoff/SB predictions and regular season awards, etc.), but I can assure you those will be on the way tomorrow. Unfortunately I've been a bit caught up with the second week of classes, but thanks to just one morning class tomorrow I will have all Thursday afternoon to touch up my final predictions and post them.
But for now, I'll give you a full preview of tonight's matchup, which is set to kick-off at 8:30 pm ET on NBC. Pre-game coverage includes Football Night in America and musical performances by Mariah Carey and No Doubt.
Eli vs. Romo
New York's Manning backed up his 2011 offseason "elite" talk by capturing his second Super Bowl championship in the last four seasons, both against the New England Patriots. His postseason success, in my opinion, has allowed him to surpass his older brother Peyton in that category. For now, anyways.
Romo, on the other hand, is looking at what I would think as a "do or die" season. Romo has had great regular season success and is, in fact, currently second on the all-time passer rating list (96.9) just behind none other than the reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers.
There's no doubt (ha, get it?!) that Romo's regular season success has been there–47-30 record as starter–but in the postseason Romo is a different quarterback. And not in a good way. He's taken Dallas to the playoffs on three separate occasions, but has posted a 1-3 record and, due to not coming up in the clutch, Romo has been labeled by some as an overrated quarterback.
I think Romo is a great quarterback, and I can back that up, but he will need to prove it by taking the 'Boys back to the postseason and stepping his game up a couple of levels this season.
Recently Manning has owned Romo and his Cowboys, winning both division match-ups late last season and he has the targets to continue that streak again tonight.
Both sides have playmakers (Ware in Dallas; Tuck, JPP and Umenyiora in New York), but New York's front seven, which appears to be fully healthy, will be putting the pressure on Tony tonight. If they can shut down DeMarco Murray early it will force Romo to make some big plays and turn the 'Boys one-dimensional, which they appeared to be for most of last season anyways.
Tom Coughlin has demonstrated his ability to keep a squad together in two of the last four seasons, keeping a struggling Giants franchise together for a full 17 weeks, plus postseason. I'd take the proven, experienced Coughlin over the inexperienced Jason Garrett (13-11 coaching record in two seasons at the helm for Dallas) any day of the week.
Who to start:
Eli Manning--if he's your primary quarterback, of course. If he's your backup, clearly you should keep him on your bench if you have a top five guy such as Brady, Rodgers or Brees. Duh.
Tony Romo--whether Dallas wins or loses (I'm expecting a NYG victory), Romo will rack up some points. New York's front seven will undoubtably knock him on his backside five to six times (at least), but the yards and a couple of touchdowns will still be there.
Victor Cruz--Cruz will be just fine. For those wondering if he'll have an off year just because he's coming off his break-out season, you're only going to end up looking silly. Of all the Giants players, I feel as though Cruz is most excited for 2012.
Dez Bryant/Miles Austin--Romo's numbers will be there, meaning his two top targets in Austin and Bryant will have big nights. I'm not completely sold on Bryant this season yet, and they are both listed as probable for tonight. But I don't expect them to be effected by their respective injuries, and we could see both as 100-yard receivers tonight with a TD catch each.
Who to sit:
Ahmad Bradshaw--he's listed as probable (hand) and will likely start for New York tonight at RB, but I'm not expecting him to have a huge game. If he's your third back, I'd probably take a chance on him, but I'm just waiting for Manning to come out gunning and Bradshaw to see limited carries with a low effect on Dallas' run defense.
Jason Witten--clearly this is an injury issue. Though he's a game-time decision (spleen), he's last been listed as doubtful and I expect him not to play just in case he isn't fully recovered quite yet. Witten is a no-no at TE this week.
This will be a close game down to the wire, but New York will prevail in the first official game of the season. Cruz will get to do his salsa dance on two separate occasions as New York captures a thriller at home, 28-17.
Just an fyi: I will be posting my complete Week 1 game picks in the next couple of days (probably Friday or Saturday, after my season preview of course). They will also be available for viewing in the "Game Picks" tab at the top of the page as the season progresses
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