JERSEY CITY, N.J. –After nine months and four day, the start to the NFL season is literally only a matter of hours and minutes away.
With their eyes on the countdown clock, DallasCowboys.com's writing staff is ready to weigh in with some final thoughts on the season opener against the defending champion New York Giants. Here is the gut feeling of Nick Eatman, Josh Ellis, Bryan Broaddus and Rowan Kavner:
Nick: I might say this every year, but I'm not sure I can remember a season opener with this much buildup. All we've done since the schedule came out in April is talk about this Giants game. Finally it's here. I have a lot of the same feelings about this game as I did last year's opener with the Jets. Because of that, I'm giving the Cowboys a much better chance. If – big if – the Cowboys can get the Giants blocked, they can win this. But, my gut tells me the Giants will find a way to sneak by.
Josh:Though I think the Cowboys are a better team than in 2011, a look at the schedule tells me they're in for a tougher road than last year, and the offseason upgrades may not necessarily be enough to dramatically improve their record. Wednesday night's game is just the beginning. Not only have the Cowboys struggled against New York in recent years, but the defending champions are a perfect 8-0 in these mid-week kickoff games. The Giants' home field advantage will be felt, and I think the game will have some weird twists, possibly including a refereeing debacle on the part of the league's replacement officials, but something tells me the Cowboys are ready for this one.
Bryan:My gut feeling is that third-down defense for the Cowboys on Wednesday night will be good. I know the Giants have all kinds of skill players that can make you struggle - Cruz, Nicks and Bradshaw – but, I feel like that this summer Rob Ryan has really done a nice job of getting the best players on the field when it has mattered the most. I watched this group in Oxnard, Calif. give their own offensive teammates trouble. We saw it with the ones in Oakland, San Diego and St Louis. If the secondary can hold up with Brandon Carr, Orlando Scandrick and Morris Claiborne at the corners and Gerald Sensabaugh, Barry Church and Mana Silva at the safety spots, you will see pressure that has a good chance of getting home on the rush.
Rowan:Finally healthy, the Cowboys have the players on the offensive line they had hoped for when the preseason started. But sending out an offensive line that hadn't played together against Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck and the Giants' defensive line is a daunting task. A slot player like Cole Beasley, who can take advantage of quick passes, could be the key if Jason Witten (who has been declared doubtful) can't go. Both teams have a cornerback making their first career start. Whether Cowboys' rookie Morris Claiborne or Giants' five-year veteran Michael Coe hold up could be the difference.