The 2011 NFL season is set to begin this week, with the season being kicked off in Green Bay as the Packers play host to the Saints. One of the highlights of the Week 1 schedule comes on Sunday night, when the Dallas Cowboys head to MetLife Stadium to take on the New York Jets - on September 11.
Dallas is coming off of one of the more disappointing seasons in recent memory. With the Super Bowl being hosted in Dallas last year, expectations were set (unreasonably) high for the Cowboys to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl in their own stadium. That, however, would not be the case as the Cowboys finished a turbulent season 6-10, and saw Jason Garrett rise to the rank of interim head coach before being named head coach early in 2011.
There are plenty of storylines to track this season with the Cowboys, starting with the return of quarterback Tony Romo. Romo, who missed the final 10 games of the 2010 season, is entering the back end of his prime and is surrounded by arguably the best cast of offensive weapons he's had in his career with Miles Austin, Felix Jones, Dez Bryant and Jason Witten.
Much is expected out of starting running back Felix Jones as well. With Marion Barber now on the Chicago Bears, Jones is the clear cut starting running back in Dallas. Jerry Jones has lauded Felix's training camp as well, going as far as to say that Jones had the best camp as any player on the Cowboys.
On paper, the offense looks like it should be plenty explosive. On Sunday night, that offense will be tested by Rex Ryan's defense. The Jets held opponents to just 19 points per game in 2010, good for sixth in the NFL. The Jets also allowed the third fewest rushing yards and passing yards per game as well in 2010, making it difficult to move the ball on either facet in offense.
Defensively, new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan will get to scheme against his brother Rex's offense, which is anchored by their running game, which will likely feature Shonn Greene this year, with LaDanian Tomlinson serving as a complementary back. In 2010, the Jets ran for the fourth most yards in the league, which also helps mitigate quarterback Mark Sanchez' shortcomings.
Dallas' secondary will also be tasked with facing a familiar foe - Plaxico Burress. Burress signed with the Jets after being released from prison, and will join with Santonio Holmes as New York's two starting wideouts. The key to Dallas' success in Week 1 defensively will likely come down to preventing the Jets from connecting on a big play with either Burress or Holmes.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7:20 p.m. CDT, 8:20 p.m. locally in New Jersey. Televised coverage can be found on NBC.