FRISCO, Texas –And we're back. The Cowboys and Giants – again - are kicking off the regular season with yet another highly-anticipated matchup.
Sunday's game at AT&T Stadium marks the debuts of rookies Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott, who should have quite a supporting cast around them with a stout offensive line and playmaking receivers such as Dez Bryant and Jason Witten.
But the Giants aren't short of explosive weapons either, highlighted by Odell Beckham Jr., who is arguably one of the NFL's most electrifying players.
This game will mark the Cowboys' first season opener since 2006 without Tony Romo as their starting quarterback. On the flip side, the Giants roll in Eli Manning, who hasn't missed a game since being named the Giants' starter 12 years ago.
Here are the gut feelings for staff writers David Helman, Rob Phillips, Nick Eatman and Bryan Broaddus.
David Helman:I don't know how many of our readers are familiar with the old FOX TV show "The X Files," but one of the characters in that show had a poster in his office that said "I Want To Believe." Heading into Dak Prescott's NFL debut, that's exactly how I feel – I want to believe. Prescott has been sensational at every step so far. I want to believe that he and Ezekiel Elliott can form a dynamic ground attack, and I want to believe he can consistently find Dez Bryant and Jason Witten without turning the ball over. I want to believe that the Dallas defense can follow up a solid showing in the preseason and find a way to limit a scary-looking Giants passing game. There are enough signs to be optimistic that these things are possible. But this is the NFL, and life is usually harder than that. I think Prescott will be fine, if not spectacular – but he'll probably make a costly mistake or two. I also think Zeke will crack 100 yards in his first NFL start, but it won't be enough. In a hotly-contested division battle, I'm going with the 13-year NFL veteran – Eli Manning – to make more plays than the rookie. I want to believe, but I just can't bring myself to do it. The Cowboys will put up a spirited effort, but I've got the Giants winning – something like 28-24.
Rob Phillips:Dak Prescott's debut is by far the biggest storyline in this fourth Cowboys-Giants opener since 2012, and my gut feeling is he plays well Sunday and reinforces the team's confidence in him as Tony Romo's injury replacement. From everything we've heard about the rookie quarterback, he has prepared himself as much as humanly possible to lead the offense against a revamped and talented Giants defense. When you're truly prepared, you typically play relaxed and confident. Ezekiel Elliott should set the tone in the running game like he did in a dozen or so plays at Seattle, too. That will help Prescott. Defensively, the Cowboys have the corners to match up with the Giants' versatile receivers. The biggest factor will be how much pressure the defensive line gets against Eli Manning. If he's too comfortable in the pocket, it won't matter how well the secondary covers. Manning's experience is the difference to me in what could be a tightly-contested game.
Nick Eatman: This one has been a tough to read for me – and it should be. The Cowboys and Giants always play tough games, regardless how good the teams are. We should be getting used to these Week 1 matchups by now, but it's still hard to predict what will happen, other than a tight contest down to the wire. I'm fully expecting Eli Manning to have the ball in his hands with about two minutes to play and driving down the field. I've been saying it all week on "Cowboys Break," but something tells me Barry Church will have a key play/moment in this game. At first, I kept saying it will be a big moment for one of the teams, leaving it open that he could give up a big play or have a missed opportunity. But now, I'm starting to lean that his play will be a positive one. Maybe it's Church who picks off a Manning pass in the final minutes or in this specific case, gets a pick on a game-tying two-point conversion. Other predictions include 100 yards even for Ezekiel Elliott and Geoff Swaim gets a touchdown – maybe the first one of the game. I've got Dallas winning a close one, 28-26.
Bryan Broaddus:The strength of this Cowboys defensive line is its tackles. Where I have my concerns is that, as good as they might be -- will this group be able to finish the job? Getting close and getting Eli Manning on the ground are two separate things, and history has shown that Manning doesn't take sacks. My gut feeling is that front will be close throughout the game, but their inability to get Manning on the ground -- especially in obvious passing situations -- will lead to some game changing plays that will be too much to overcome. Giants take this one 24-20.