This one looks to be a shootout. First and foremost, there are two top quarterbacks. In last year’s opener, Tony Romo threw for over 300 yards, tearing apart a once-strong New York Giants defense. Eli Manning struggled against the Dallas Cowboys defense last year, but he has a history of putting up big games against them.
With Hakeem Nicks fully healthy again for the Giants, Manning could put up some big numbers.
Not only are both quarterbacks gifted, but each defense has some worries about its usually dominant front four. Dallas has just switched over to a 4-3 front and there are certain to be some growing pains. DeMarcus Ware is a monster, but some worry he will be less effective in a 4-3 defensive end role. Of course, Ware is not worried, and with all that talent, maybe it’s the Giants that should be.
On the Giants, side Jason Pierre-Paul may or may not play. It sounds more and more like he will miss the game, and with him down, the Giants are short of their best defensive player. With a thin secondary, things could fall apart fast. Prince Amukamara will have to play well to slow down Dez Bryant and he has the talent to do so.
But even if Amukamara plays well, the Giants still have no answer for Jason Witten, who should destroy a thin secondary and inexperienced linebacking core.
The Giants’ saving grace may be that the Cowboys do not a top player in their secondary after Brandon Carr. Carr will have to choose between Victor Cruz and Nicks. Whoever he leaves should be free to make plays all over the field.
While these offenses do have a lot going for them, both teams have two good pass rushers (Anthony Spencer and Ware for Dallas, and Mathias Kiwanuka and Justin Tuck for the Giants), and a big-time corner (Carr and Amukamara respectively). If each team’s big-time players on defense show up, it will be a huge boost for their team.
In the end, the Giants have the edge. I see the transition period of a 4-3 hurting Dallas and a finally healthy Nicks making a big difference for Big Blue. Still, it will be close, and if Ware or Spencer has a big game, Dallas can surely win.
Prediction: 31-27 Giants.