IRVING, Texas –And finally, we're here.
The game we've talked about since the schedule came out in April has now arrived. And for the second straight year, the Cowboys and Giants square off on NBC in Week 1.
The Cowboys were able to knock off the Giants 31-24 at the Meadowlands but a repeat performance would mean beating New York at home, something they haven't done since moving to the new stadium, which is now named AT&T Stadium.
Eli Manning is 4-0 in Arlington, but the Cowboys are a perfect 6-0 in regular-season openers against the Giants, including both last year's game and the 2007 opener at Texas Stadium, which coincidentally was the last time the Cowboys kicked off a regular season at home.
Here are the gut feelings for staff writers Nick Eatman, Bryan Broaddus, David Helman and Rowan Kavner.
Maybe it's because I wasn't around for the disappointment of 2011 and 2012, but I feel pretty optimistic about this game and this season. The Cowboys' depth on the defensive line is definitely concerning, but we've seen such impressive play from DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher this preseason, I still think they find a way to make plays – especially with the Giants' offensive line dealing with so many issues of its own. The offensive line won't have Brian Waters, but I still think it can hold up well enough, even if Jason Pierre-Paul winds up playing. Then there's this stat: the 41 combined points in last year's opener between the two was the lowest point total in this series in five years. So I'm betting it's going to be a shootout, and I like the Cowboys' odds in that situation.
The absence of Jay Ratliff and the likely absence of Anthony Spencer will hurt the defensive line's pressure. But a healthy Sean Lee, a healthy Bruce Carter, a healthy Barry Church and, most vitally for the pass rush, a healthy DeMarcus Ware should still help create pressure on this new-look defense against a battered Giants offensive line. There've been some shootouts recently when these teams meet in Dallas, and I wouldn't be surprised to see that happen again. But one thing I do see changing is the Cowboys' recent woes at home against the Giants.
I really want to look at this game and factor in what I've seen in the past. I want to say the Giants just have the Cowboys' number here and that Eli knows how to get it done. And while this is a huge game for both teams, the Giants usually find a way to win it…. That's what I know because that's what I've seen. But my gut feeling says the Cowboys have Dez Bryant. And this guy, right now, is just too good to let them lose. And I think DeMarcus Ware is going to play out of his mind as well. I do think it goes down to the wire and Eli will have the ball in his hands for a late drive, but I just visualize a guy like Will Allen saving the day.
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All week long on DallasCowboys.com, I have tried to break this matchup against the Giants down and give you an idea in what direction this game might go. Both the Cowboys and the Giants have had their issues with injuries along the offensive line and neither Jason Garrett nor Tom Coughlin have a real good feel how well their respected groups might play. With rookie starters on both sides and players lining up in spots they normally don't play, it's a big unknown. For all of my studying, this game boils down to one simple thought, and mark this down, the team that plays the best on the offensive line, will win this game.