With the 2012 NFL regular season kicking off today, I reached out to the editors of fellow FanSided sites GMenHQ.com and TheLandryHat.com to get an inside look at the two teams playing in tonight’s season opener. G-Men HQ editor Joe Tufaro and The Landry Hat editor Steven Mullenax both took the time out to answer a few questions.
How do these two experts see tonight’s big game going down? Here is what they had to say
What are your team’s expectations going into the season?
Steven Mullenax: The fans overall expectations are always the same: Superbowl. My expectations are a playoff birth. I think even that may be difficult to achieve with our schedule this year and also considering the division we play in. But the Cowboys are a better overall team then last year’s group who were just one win away from the playoffs.
Joe Tufaro: The Giants and Tom Coughlin want to build a perennial winner. They would like to infuse the young talent they have acquired with veterans who know what it takes to win a Championship. The Giants are in the enviable position of having some players as leaders who have won two Super Bowls.
What will a win over your rival in week 1 do for your season?
SM: I think a Cowboy’s win would set a winning tone for the rest of the year. Beating the Superbowl champions at home would give the team a much needed confidence boost going into a very tough season. With the Seattle Seahawks and Tampa Bay Buccaneers on deck, an opening night win could give the Cowboys a positive 3-0 start.
JT: Winning week one will help “Build the Bridge” from last years success into this season. It obviously will be a nice step towards winning the division, which is always the first goal of this team.
What is the key matchup for your team?
SM: The key matchup in this game will be running back DeMarco Murray and the Cowboys’ troubled offensive line against the Giants’ formidable defensive line. If Dallas can find success in the running game, it softens the pressure on Tony Romo and opens up the passing lanes. If Murray isn’t effective Wednesday night, I can not see Dallas winning this game.
JT: The key match-up for us will be the Cowboys receivers vs our secondary, however it’s not a straight up match because our defensive front is so dominant on passing downs. On offense we need to make sure Eli has time to perform his magic.
Who are three players to watch on your team?
SM: Excluding the aforementioned Murray, ofcourse, I believe the three players to watch are TE John Phillips, CB Morris Claiborne and S Barry Church. Phillips will be replacing All-Pro tight end Jason Witten, if he is unable to play due to his spleen injury. Claiborne will face his biggest challenge yet covering wideouts Hakeem Nicks or Victor Cruz. We’ll have to see if the highly touted rookie is up for the challenge. Finally, Church will be starting at safety, a position that has been a weakness for the Cowboys in the past. He impressed in training camp, so now we get to see if Church’s play translates to the field.
JT: The new player to watch on our side is RB David Wilson. His ability to break tackles and run through people is eye opening and he will be active in the passing game out of the backfield. Reuben Randle is another young player with speed and great hands that will become a nice target for Eli very quickly. Of course everyone knows now that JPP can wreck a game single handedly.
Who wins the game?
SM: In the Cowboy’s first game against the Giant’s last year, Murray suffered a season ending ankle injury in the first quarter and Dallas was one Jason Pierre-Paul blocked field goal away from going into overtime. Both RB Brandon Jacobs and WR Mario Manningham made big contributions in that game. With those players now out of New York, I’m not sure the Giant’s are a better team then last years’. Dallas, on the other hand, is an overall better team, especially on defense. In their second meeting last year, Dallas was within one score of tying the Giants in the fourth quarter before our aging defense broke down. Prediction: I see the new Cowboys shocking the world and winning this one, 20-13.
JT: I think we are a touch healthier than the Cowboys at this point, and I believe the home crowd and atmosphere puts us over the top in this one.