Every week during the season, we’ll scout out the Giants' next opponent. This week, that opponent is the Dallas Cowboys.
Surely you remember the Dallas Cowboys.
They're the team that the Giants beat twice in the final weeks of the regular season to win the NFC East and put themselves into position to make the run that brought home a Super Bowl. It was a matter of inches in the first game, both on Tony Romo's incompletion to Miles Austin and on Jason Pierre-Paul's game-sealing blocked field goal, but inches are all it takes.
And inches have worked out for the Giants in their matchups with Dallas in recent years. Since the start of the 2007 season, the Giants have won seven of nine games with the Cowboys and, not coincidentally, taken home two Super Bowls as well.
Will things be the same this year or will the Cowboys finally find a way to even up the fight in a rivalry that's become about as one-sided as the one between Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner? Let's take a look at what's going on with the Cowboys and try to figure it out.
Injuries - Jason Witten has a lacerated spleen, Austin has another round of hamstring issues and both Dez Bryant and DeMarcus Ware have missed time with injuries during the preseason as well. When it comes to top shelf talent, the Cowboys do as well as almost any team in the league but that only helps them if the players are actually on the field.
If the Cowboys are healthy, they have the weapons to threaten the Giants defense and exploit the cornerback situation down the field. Witten is the biggest question mark and it's a good bet that the team won't push him with so much time before the second game.
The Dez Bryant Rules - Bryant has talent on top of talent, but, again, that only helps if he's actually on the field to do something about it and that's looking problematic after another round of off-field drama. So the Cowboys have instituted a set of rules usually reserved for teenagers -- curfew, no booze, no strip clubs -- in hopes of keeping Bryant from destroying himself.
Defensive Overhaul - Rob Ryan would generate hatred from Giants fans just for being the Cowboys' defensive coordinator, but the fact that he's also Rex Ryan's brother makes him an even juicier antagonist. Those bad feelings will only go up if offseason acquisitions like Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne enable the defense to have as much bite as bark.
DeMarco Murray - Murray got hurt early in the first game last year and missed the second, which means the Giants have never had to deal with a kid who looked like the real deal as a rookie. Slowing down the Giant pass rush isn't easy, but running the ball effectively is as good a way as any since it affects the personnel the Giants will put on the field.
Romo, Romo, Romo - Ask 10 people for opinions about the Cowboys quarterback and you'll get 10 answers that will make you wonder if everyone is thinking about the same guy. There's an Alex Rodriguez-type thing to Romo where his achievements never seem to draw the same kind of reaction as his failures and that will remain the case right up until the point Romo wins a Super Bowl.
That debate obscures how good Romo has been throughout his career, but that's kinda the point. The NFL has no warm feelings for quarterbacks who don't win the big ones and Romo's resume is short on such victories.
He'll get his next chance to change that Wednesday night.