John Canton: The NFL season is finally here. Yes! The seven months of waiting are over as the New York Giants host the Dallas Cowboys in the first game of the NFL season tonight. Joining me for the entire NFL season as we pick every single game (that's 256 games by the way) are my friends Bret Clev and Mike Maloney. I can assure you that they are as degenerate as I am as it relates to how much we follow the NFL.
We're going to save the long winded introduction for Friday's NFL picks column. That's because every week the plan is to put up a post on Thursday morning for the early game (or Wednesday in this case) and then on Friday morning we'll preview the games coming our way on the Sunday and Monday. When we reconvene on Friday for this column we'll tell you a little bit more about our backgrounds. Then we'll jump into the picks.
For now, we'll just focus on the first game of the season.
Dallas Cowboys @ New York Giants (8:30pm ET)
Bret: Earlier in the offseason, I felt like this game could be a chance for the Cowboys to show they were ready to be a legit Super Bowl contender this year. As I've done more research though I'm more and more convinced that the Giants will win this game. Let's start with the home field advantage. Since the inception of 'Super Bowl Champs host the kick off game' the home team is undefeated. 8-0. That, in and of itself, is a pretty convincing stat.
It goes beyond that though. While Miles Austin has practiced for 3 consecutive days - and for the first time this preseason - I still have a hard time believing he's 100%. I don't expect Jason Witten to play either. That leaves Tony Romo with very few targets, and very little time to get the ball out, with the make shift line up against the best D-Line in the NFL.
The Giants on the other hand, seem to be fully healed up and ready offensively. Look for Martellus Bennett to have a huge game along with their talented WR duo Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz.
Looking at the stats from last year, it's actually kind of uncanny how similar these two teams were statistically. Both at 5.9 yards per play, both at 39% 3rd down conversion, 5.5 vs. 5.6 yards given up per play defensively...the list goes on.
Which is all to say that I like the matchups enough, and the home field advantage enough to pick the Giants to win, but not enough to cover the current 4 point line. New York 27 - Dallas 24
Mike: Don't get me wrong, I'm super stoked for football to be back, but this whole first game on a Wednesday night thing is kind of weird, right? I mean, Wednesday nights are usually reserved for the pathetics such as myself who like to sit down and watch the MAC or Sun Belt game of the week because every day is a good day for football. I get that you're the President of the United States and all, but really, you couldn't have picked any other day to speak? Had to go with the proposed first day of the NFL season and relegate the opening game to the likes of a Northern Illinois/Toledo matchup? But I digress.
We've got the Dallas Cowboys heading up to (not) New York to play the World Champion Giants. I honestly don't know how to live in this new world where Eli is the better, more successful Manning brother. It's a strange, strange place. When looking at this game, the easy pick would be to go with the G-Men, if for no other reason than I think the Super Bowl champ has won the opening game of the season since they started putting the champ in the first game in 2004. A few things stick out to me in this game:
- Injuries. People have been talking about Jason Witten most likely missing week 1 with a lacerated spleen. But I think the Giants are going to be in some trouble as well, with CB Terrell Thomas out for the season (when don't the Giants have at least one CB out for the season?), and CB Prince Amukamara out with a high ankle sprain. And if a sketchy secondary isn't enough, they're probably going to be without their left tackle as well. That sound you hear is DeMarcus Ware licking his chops.
- Last year's narrative. I think it's easy to take the results of last year and have them bleed into how things play out this year. The Giants beat Dallas twice in the last month of the season to win the division. The last game of the season saw Eli get the better of Romo, the latter committing two turnovers in the game. I'm not looking into any of that too much. The Giants were a 9-7 team that were fortunate to even make the playoffs, and the Cowboys were still a respectable 8-8 at the end of the year. With Dallas a relatively healthy team (Witten's spleen is the one big question mark for them this year), there's no reason why they can't contend for the NFC East crown.
- Tony Romo. I'm expecting a big year from Romo in 2012. It's just kind of a gut feeling I have, but also has to do with his numbers from last year. He threw for almost 4,200 yards, completed over 66% of his passes, and had better than a 3:1 TD-to-INT ratio, and was 4th in the NFL in passer rating. I know, I know, he's a frustrating guy to have to root for, and his late game/late season gaffes are well known to all, but I still think he has some elite level skills and I expect them to be in play in this week's game and the entire season.
I'd love to be able to talk myself into picking the Giants here, but I just can't shake the idea that the Cowboys are prime for an upset to kick things off. Don't worry Giants fans, you can just blame it on the game being on a Wednesday. Send your hate mail to the White House. Actually, don't, that will probably get you put on the no fly list. Cowboys 28, Giants 20
John: I like this game as an opener. While I am not a fan of either team in particular, I like the idea of starting the season with the Super Bowl Champions opening up against their biggest rival in the middle of the week for…Wednesday Night Football. Wednesday? Yes, as Mike pointed out we can blame Barack Obama for that one since he's having his speech on Thursday. I don't care too much about what day the game is. I'm just glad football is back.
It's a tough game to pick. My instinct is to pick the home team because as Bret pointed out the home teams are 8-0 when they open the season at home after winning the Super Bowl in the first game of the season. That's a stat that doesn't lie. Of course like we always see in the NFL anything can happen and obviously in the case of these two teams they are very evenly matched.
My concerns with the Cowboys are that I think they're too banged up to win this game. Jason Witten is banged up with that spleen injury. Miles Austin should play, but is he healthy with that leg injury? I think where Dallas can be successful is in the running game. Demarco Murray can get some yards against the Giants run defense, which was very average last year. If Murray has a big game early then I think the Cowboys can win.
I think I'm going with the Giants to win a very close game. The reason I'm picking the Giants to win is because I think the Cowboys defense has some new parts to it in corner Brandon Carr and rookie corner Morris Claiborne, who may take a few weeks before he really makes an impact on games. I think the Victor Cruz/Hakeem Nicks duo for the Giants will have a big game. I also think they'll be able to run RB Ahmad Bradshaw along with rookie RB David Wilson. Then when you talk about QB Eli Manning, who is coming off the best year of his career, he's had a lot of success over the Cowboys over the years.
I'm expecting a shootout type game. Each team will top 30 points, but the Giants will win and cover the 4 point spread. Giants 38-31
John: That's all for this one. Bret and I have the Giants. Mike has the Cowboys. It should be interesting.
We won't be writing that much for the other 15 games of the week. I think we're all excited for the opener, so we went all out in the preview of this game. Look for our predictions of the rest of week one to happen on Friday morning around 10am Eastern Time. That's the goal at least.
Thanks for reading. We'll see ya again on Friday for the rest of week one.
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