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The Giants Title Defense Starts Now

Previewing the big matchups in Wednesday night's opener



    The Giants Title Defense Starts Now
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    New year, same result?

    The salary cap era in the NFL means that it is almost impossible to put together a team without a few glaring weaknesses.

    Few teams have done a better job of recognizing how to deal with that reality than the Giants. They have spots where their talent ranks somewhere near the bottom of the league, but they've made their peace with it by strengthening other areas to minimize the risk created by the trouble spots.

    The offensive line gets bailed out by Eli Manning's ability to deliver the ball under pressure and bounce back right after taking a hit. The secondary isn't particularly good, but the pass rush is so overwhelming that they can get by without top flight corners and with Antrel Rolle.

    This strategy has worked out well enough for them, obviously, but it will get another test on Wednesday night because some of the Cowboys' strengths are well positioned to exploit Giants weak spots. It works both ways as the Giants have some of the same potential advantages and it's a good bet that the team taking best advantage of these matchups will win the first game of the 2012 NFL season.

    Miles Austin/Dez Bryant vs. Michael Coe/Corey Webster - Austin and Bryant are both healthy, which means they should provide a pretty stiff test for the undermanned Giants cornerback corps. It will be an especially big test for Coe, who has never played at this level as a starter before, and rookie Jayron Hosley is even less experienced should the Giants feel the need to make a change.

    Jason Pierre-Paul and friends vs. Cowboys offensive line - This battle will have much to do with who wins the one above because, frankly, Tony Romo will throw for a lot of yards if the Giants allow him to be comfortable in the pocket. The Cowboys renovated their line this offseason, but they don't have anyone who really stands out as a strong blocker other than left tackle Tyron Smith and that should mean opportunities for the Giants to put Romo to the turf.

    DeMarcus Ware vs. Sean Locklear - Locklear wasn't anyone's projected Giants left tackle, mostly because he'd been an unremarkable right tackle throughout his entire career, but he's here and he'll be facing one of the best pass rushers in the history of the league. If he's unremarkable on Wednesday, Ware is going to spend a lot of time in the backfield as he begins his quest to snatch away Michael Strahan's Favre-assisted single-season sack record.

    DeMarco Murray vs. Rocky Bernard/Linval Joseph/Chase Blackburn - The Giants weren't terrific against the run last season and they're playing without Chris Canty, who was their best interior lineman a year ago. Murray has kinda flown under the radar in the discussions of this game, but there won't be any missing him if he carves up the middle of the Giants defense and keeps Manning off the field.

    Hakeem Nicks/Victor Cruz vs. Brandon Carr/Morris Claiborne - We started with a receiver-corner matchup and we'll close out the same way. Carr and Claiborne were brought to town specifically because the Cowboys corners flopped so royally in the two losses to the Giants last season, but Carr was a No. 2 in Kansas City who might be miscast as a No. 1 this season and Claiborne is playing his first NFL game.

    The Giants won their games against Dallas last year because the Cowboys couldn't keep Manning from blowing out bulbs on the scoreboard. If Carr and Claiborne take away that option and the Cowboys hold their own against the pass rush, the title defense could wind up starting with a loss.

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.