In the NFL season opener, the Dallas Cowboys walked away with a huge victory against their division rivals the New York Giants. The Cowboys won the game 24-17, but it was an extremely close game. We saw a classic NFC East slug fest for the first 30 minutes of the game, but the game opened up in the second half.
The Cowboys were the team that made the big plays this time, coming up in key moments of the game. I think the Cowboys' performance solidifies that they contend for the NFC East title, possibly a Super Bowl, but what about the New York Giants?
How Do The Giants Compare To Last Year's Team?
Even though they lost the game, the Giants are a better football team on paper than they were last year. Even though he fumbled, rookie running back David Wilson is clearly a better athlete than Brandon Jacobs. Rueben Randle didn't play much or receive a catch, but he has the skill set to become a dangerous weapon for Eli Manning.
The offensive line for the Giants will be an issue for them all season long. They did a pretty good job against the Cowboys last night, but when there were breakdowns, Manning took some vicious shots.
I don't know if their offensive line is better than it was last year. Age and a lack of depth are starting to become serious questions for the Giants on the offensive line.
Free agent addition Martellus Bennett made some plays early in the game, but had a huge drop on third down. The self dubbed "black unicorn" made a leaping touchdown catch towards the end of the game, once again highlighting his athletic ability. It wouldn't surprise me to see Bennett finally play to his talent level in New York, but then again, it also wouldn't surprise me to see him flame out there.
As for the defense, the Giants may have some of the same issues again this year that they had last year. They lost their backup cornerback Michael Coe to a "tweaked" hamstring injury during the middle of the game last night. Coe's replacement, Justin Tryon was repeatedly a target of Tony Romo and the Dallas passing attack. Prince Amukamara is already nursing a high ankle sprain, so the Giants are paper thin at cornerback right now.
Their safety play was suspect, once again. If their secondary doesn't improve, you will see guys like Kevin Ogletree take advantage of the mismatches all year long.
The one area the Giants actually look improved at is their linebacker play. Keith Rivers looks like a good addition, but Michael Boley intercepted Tony Romo and could become a key player for them this season.
On the defensive line, Jason Pierre-Paul looks like the best pass rusher in the game, but that wasn't really a big surprise heading into the game. The guy that I think is in for a huge year is defensive tackle Linval Joseph. He is a force in the running game, but he can also be disruptive and get after the quarterback.
Is Victor Cruz A One-Year-Wonder?
Cruz had never had more than one drop in game before Wednesday night, but he managed to have the butterfingers and drop three passes, all of which would have led to potential big plays.
While he did manage to catch six passes for 58 yards, Cruz was basically a non-factor in the game. The Cowboys may have gotten away with a pass interference call on Cruz in the end zone, but we didn't see the dynamic player on Wednesday night that we witnessed have a breakout season in 2011.
Is Cruz a one-year-wonder that will come back to reality? I don't think so, I believe that Cruz will still have a huge year because he is a dangerous route runner with top notch speed. He was consistently getting open underneath, but the Cowboys made sure Cruz didn't beat them deep and they bracketed him in coverage a few times.
I think there are plenty more salsa dances coming from #80.
Chances Of Repeating
The last team to repeat was the New England Patriots in 2004 and 2005. It's extremely difficult to repeat Super Bowl success in the NFL.
Do the Giants have a shot at repeating? Yes, they sure do because they have an outstanding pass rush and a great quarterback. It's obvious that the Giants have found the Super Bowl formula, winning recently in 2008 and 2012, but those teams got hot at the right time.
Super Bowl winners get hot towards the end of the season. While it's important to start off on the right foot, it's all about how you enter the playoffs.
Cowboys' fans should know from experience, that not performing well in December and January is one of the easiest ways to see your team bounced early from the playoffs.
As for the Giants, they are still battling a lot of injuries on both sides of the football. If they get healthy and do a better job of protecting Eli Manning, they have a real shot at repeating. I don't think they will do it, but that doesn't mean it isn't possible.