Daily Archives: September 10th, 2011

The biggest matchup in the DAL-NYJ game is …

NEWARK, N.J. — Dez Bryant has seen him on film and heard about his exploits. Now the Cowboys’ second-year receiver is ready to face Darrelle Revis, the New York Jets superstar who is considered one of the elite cornerbacks in the NFL.

Revis, who is recovering from a hip injury, yielded just 19 receptions last season as quarterbacks targeted him only 56 times. Even though he didn’t make an interception, Revis was invited to the Pro Bowl for the third time in his four-year career.

“To tell the truth, I’m not the type of guy to single anybody out – no DB, nothing like that,” said Bryant. “But it’s hard not to because he’s great.”

Bryant will play in his first regular-season game since last December, when he fractured his right fibula. As a rookie, he made 45 receptions for 561 yards and six touchdowns, showing the capability to make big plays.

The Jets assign their cornerbacks to track multiple receivers and on Sunday Revis will try to eliminate one of Tony Romo’s favorite options as the quarterback plays in his first regular-season game since suffering a broken left collarbone last October. If Revis succeeds, then it could be a long night for Romo, Bryant and the Cowboys.

Despite 2010 record, Cowboys still a prime-time team

One of these teams is not like the others. One of these teams doesn’t belong in NBC’s NFL opening-week universe. Not if you think you can judge a team by its accomplishments on the field.

Thursday night, the NFL opened its season on NBC with the defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers playing the New Orleans Saints, champions once removed and a wild-card playoff team last season.

Come Sunday night, the New York Jets, who fell one game short of reaching the Super Bowl the last two seasons, will host the Cowboys in the primest of weekly prime-time NFL slots.

The Cowboys, you may recall, were 6-10 last season. They haven’t sniffed a championship since they won Super Bowl XXX after the 1995 season.

So what gives? That’s the question I asked the longest-serving member of the NFL broadcast committee.

“It is an honor that we were selected to play in the game,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said. “It says everything about the breadth and depth of our fan base.”

Despite his place on the broadcast committee and his position as chairman of NFL Network, Jones said he has nothing to do with the league’s dealing out games to its network partners.

The networks pay top dollar for the games and deserve to get the ones they believe will capture the most eyeballs, he said on the day ESPN agreed to an eight-year contract extension that will pay the NFL $1.9 billion a season or $15.2 billion for the package. That’s a 73 percent increase in ESPN’s rights fees in these tough economic times.

For now, the games the networks demand include the Cowboys, a team most football fans love or hate and don’t like to miss. That’s why the Cowboys have three Sunday Night Football games scheduled this season. Add one Monday Night Football game on ESPN and a Saturday night date on NFL Network and their prime-time dance card is filled, unless of course NBC gets a fourth game flexed in late in the season.

Jones, who does know a thing or two about the inner workings of the league, said it “was a very deliberate decision by the NFL to have us there in New York” on Sept. 11, a day “the game pales in significance to historical events.”

If you are a stats geek consider this: The most watched Sunday Night Football game since NBC took over the package from ESPN in 2006 was last season’s Cowboys-Eagles game on Dec. 12. Nielsen counted 25.73 million people who tuned in to watch the 4-8 Cowboys lose to Philadelphia.

And, if you must know, the Cowboys’ season-opening loss to the Redskins last year ranks third at 25.3 million viewers. The opening of Cowboys Stadium in 2009 against the New York Giants is No. 4 at 24.8 million. Only Brett Favre’s return to the Packers’ Lambeau Field with the Vikings last season keeps the Cowboys from the win-place-show in the rankings.

What would it take for the Cowboys to drop out of “favored team” status? I asked several network sports executives, but none wanted to be quoted on the subject. The consensus was a run of 1-15, 2-14 or 3-13 seasons. But then, said one glass-is-half-full exec, “We could load up on Cowboys games at the beginning of the season in hopes it would be the year they turned things

DAL-NYJ breakdown: Think you know which team holds the edge?

Vernon Bryant / Staff Photographer
Jason Garrett looks to leave his mark in his first full season as Cowboys head coach
NEWARK, N.J. — The Cowboys face the New York Jets in their season opener on Sunday at MetLife Stadium. Here is a look at how both teams match up:

When the Cowboys run

After the first eight games of the 2010 season, when they owned a 1-7 record, the Cowboys generated 605 rushing yards – a sum that was exceeded by all but one team. But when Jason Garrett presided over the team as head coach in the final half of the season, they accumulated 1,181 rushing yards, the fifth-highest total in the league. The Jets’ run defense, meanwhile, was consistently strong throughout the year. They yielded 90.9 rushing yards per game. Only two teams were stingier.
Edge: Jets

When the Cowboys pass
Tony Romo regains the controls of an offense he hasn’t guided since last October. In the five games he played in before breaking his left collarbone in Week 7, Romo had achieved a 93.6 quarterback rating – the fourth-best mark in the NFL at the time. Relying on dependable tight end Jason Witten as well as big-play receivers Dez Bryant and Miles Austin, Romo will try to revert back to his old form against a blitzing Jets defense that produced 40 sacks and gave up the sixth-fewest passing yards in the NFL last season.
Edge: Cowboys

When the Jets run
Only the Kansas City Chiefs ran the ball more often than the Jets last season. Over 17 weeks, New York pounded away at the opposition with Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson. The Jets did so by running right on 239 occasions – attacking that side more than any other team in 2010. The Cowboys will try to slow them, but if their performance during the preseason is any indication they will have little success. With their first-team defense playing the first two quarters of the Cowboys’ 23-17 victory over Minnesota, the Cowboys surrendered 89 rushing yards before halftime. They will have to do better against a Jets team determined to run.
Edge: Jets

When the Jets pass
Mark Sanchez is the quarterback for the Jets. But he doesn’t drive the offense. He’s there to manage it. Sanchez, whose passer rating was 27th- best in the NFL last season, supplements the team’s prolific running game. But this season he may be asked to do more with big-play receiver Plaxico Burress joining the team after serving a 20-month prison sentence. Burress and Santonio Holmes should expand the dimensions of the offense and challenge a Cowboys secondary that surrendered 57 passes of 20 yards or more – the fourth-highest total last season.
Edge: Jets

Special teams

Dan Bailey, an undrafted rookie, will make his debut as the field-goal specialist for the Cowboys while David Buehler will handle kickoffs. Last season, Buehler produced 22 touchbacks – the fifth-highest total in the league. He should accumulate even more this season after the starting point for kickoffs was moved to the 35-yard line. Buehler will stand opposite of Cowboys castoff Nick Folk, who was released by the Cowboys in December 2009 and made 76.9 percent of his field goals last year with the Jets. After adding Folk last year, the Jets are breaking in a new punter, T.J. Conley, this season. The Cowboys, meanwhile, will rely on 2010 Pro Bowler Mat McBriar to pin the Jets deep in their own territory.

Edge: Cowboys

On the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11, the New York Jets will have the support of millions. And the Cowboys seem to know that. In an emotionally-charged environment, the Cowboys will try to break in a new defense and set the tone for the season. But the crowd and atmosphere may be too much to overcome.
Edge: Jets

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