Time for me to break out my crystal ball and give you my week 1 prediction.
The 2016 NFL Season is finally here and for the 2nd straight year, the New York Giants head down to Jerry World to meet the Dallas Cowboys.
This year’s edition of Big Blue spent some BIG BUCKS in the offseason to improve their horrible defense from 2015. Their spending spree netted a good run stopper from their Gotham Green rivals in Damon Harrison. They also picked up Janoris Jenkins to upgrade from Prince Amukamara in the defensive backfield. OK, I’m burying the lead here. The Giants got themselves Oliver Vernon. The same guy that gave Tyron Smith his worst pass blocking game in his career. Add this to the return of Johnathan Hankins and a motivated Jason Pierre Paul and our friends from the Big Apple are feeling pretty good about their ability to stop teams this year.
On offense they have old reliable, Eli Manning, coming off of a career year and they hurt my feelings by drafting my favorite WR in the 2016 draft, Sterling Sheppard. Adding him to Odell Beckham, Jr & Shane Vereen could make Victor Cruz’s comeback a moot point in a potent passing attack. The Achilles heel of this Giants offense is their below average tackles. Ereck Flowers and Marshall Newhouse really struggle in both pass and run blocking. Unfortunately, the Cowboys don’t appear to have the defensive ends to make them pay this Sunday.
All in all, the Giants appear to be in the best position possible to break their 0-fer in season openers against the Cowboys. We probably should just chalk this one up to a loss and throw in the towel.
Not so fast my friend (as Lee Corso would say)
The Cowboys have been decimated by injuries at the most important position on the field. There seems to be a quiet confidence that this year will be different in Tony Romo’s absence due to the preseason performance of the offense in his absence. A healthy Dez Bryant and Jason Witten along with reliable Cole Beasley form a trio of high-end pass catchers who can make plays against any defense. Did you hear about the young man from Ohio State that runs the rock a little bit? Yeah, that Ezekiel Elliot guy. He looks to be the real deal. His backup, Alfred Morris, looked phenomenal this preseason and still has the ability to be a bell cow runner if need be. Even the down roster guys, Lance Dunbar, Lucky Whitehead & Brice Butler have explosive potential on the offensive side of the ball.
All that is needed for this offense to hum is a QB with poise and great leadership ability. It wouldn’t hurt if he could play a little football too.
Meet Dak Prescott! Will he keep up his blistering pace from preseason. Unfortunately, that is highly unlikely. Will the game be too big for him. Fortunately, that is also highly unlikely. All we have right now is educated guesses and hope but I believe Cowboys Nation will be pleased with what we see from Rayne Dakota Prescott on Sunday afternoon. Where we may be disappointed (or sadly not) is with the play of what appears to be an overmatched defense.
Giants keys to victory
The Giants can end their losing streak to Dallas on opening day games if they are able to do one key thing on offense, one key thing on defense and one key thing on special teams. On offense, they must protect Manning off the edges. This will allow him to stand tall and deliver strikes to his talented receivers. Defensively, they have be able to cover Dez, Witten and Cole Beasley one on one. That will allow them to play the run with 8 in the box. On special teams, the Giants need to have Dwayne Harris be a difference maker on returns like he was in the 2nd matchup last year. If they do these three things, they will have an enjoyable flight home on Sunday night.
Cowboys keys to victory
For the Cowboys to win, they will need to do one key thing on offense, one key thing on defense and one key thing on special teams. On offense, they must end drives with touchdowns, not field goals. Manning is notorious for making mistakes when he has to press so Dallas has to score enough to force his hand. Defensively, they have be able to have a solid secondary cover a tick longer to make up for the lack of talent at DE so they can get pressure on Manning. On special teams, they need to win in kick & punt coverage. Accomplish all three and we will be celebrating the first Cowboys win of 2016.
So where does all that leave us? I am kind of like a little kid with blue lips and a blue tongue because I have been drinking the blue Kool-Aid. I believe that the Cowboys will prevail in a week 1 shootout by the score of 31-28.
The season is upon us now. Time to get your predictions on record now. Let me know what you think in the comments below.