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.
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