Quick Take: Rivalry kicks off NFL’s 93rd season
Why this game is intriguing: No one played a more consequential regular-season game last year, with the Giants abruptly ending the Dallas Cowboys’ season in Week 17 before moonwalking to another Super Bowl title. The distinct paths of these two rivals were stunning. Now they meet again in a nationally televised divisional game, with both teams dying to make a smashing first impression. And hey, it means football is back!
What to watch: The Dallas Cowboys debut a new secondary featuring two of the top corners available this offseason: rookie Morris Claiborne and free agent Brandon Carr. They weren’t added with the sole purpose of stopping the Giants’ receivers, but they are exactly what Dallas needs to cover Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks and Co. As for the New York Giants, check out how much pressure they apply on quarterback Tony Romo. Of course, the G-Men always attack the passer, but will the added responsibility of having to stop the run-happy Cowboys slow them down?
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NEWARK, N.J. – There will be a lot of hoopla prior to tonight’s kickoff between the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants as the hosts celebrate their Super Bowl XLI victory one last time.
The Cowboys will have to see and hear all of it as the emotions grow.
“I think the important thing we emphasize in all situations is to be your best regardless of circumstances,” coach Jason Garrett said. “It’ll be a great challenge for us going to their place, 2011 Super Bowl champs at their stadium with their crowd, all that stuff that goes with playing this game in general let alone the Super Bowl champs. But what we have to focus on is playing and coaching to the best of our ability.”
Since 2001 when the league put the defending Super Bowl champ in the NFL Kickoff Game, the champs have not lost (8-0). The Giants beat Washington, 16-7, to open the 2008 season. That experience might help the Giants tonight.
“It is exciting and the fans get fired up and I think it’ll be a great atmosphere for the players,” Giants quarterback Eli Manning said. “We’ve got to enjoy that moment for a second but you’ve got to get yourself in game mode. There’s always butterflies and you’re nervous for the first game and excited, but that will be a quick moment and then it’s right back to what our assignments are, what are plays are and what we’re trying to execute.”
The Dallas Cowboys are the NFL’s first and only $2 billion franchise, Forbes Magazine announced today as it released its annual team value list.
Michael Ozanian, Forbes’ executive editor, said the Cowboys’ value, which the magazine tabs at $2.1 billion, is "a conservative estimate."
Ozanian said the magazine took into account the Cowboys’ $80 million in sponsorship income, their state-of-the art stadium and the fact that they are the only team in the NFL that distributes its own merchandise to retailers.
Jerry Jones bought the Cowboys in 1989 for $140 million. That’s roughly a 715 percent increase to today’s value, factoring in inflation.
While the Cowboys stood atop the list for the sixth consecutive year, the New England Patriots (worth $1.63 billion) passed the Washington Redskins ($1.6 billion) for the second spot.
The New York Giants, valued at $1.46 billion, landed in fourth while the Houston Texas rounded out the top five at $1.3 billion.
Despite playing in the same stadium, the magazine estimated the net worth of the New York Jets at about $200 million less than the Giants.
"We have the Giants bringing in $27 million more in revenue, plus they’re getting the Super Bowl bump on ticket prices," Ozanian said.
Despite the threat of concussion litigation that could eventually cost the NFL billions of dollars, the magazine doesn’t have a single franchise losing value from last season.
"There wasn’t any loss of value reflected in the recent Cleveland Browns sale," Ozanian said. "The investment bankers we spoke to told us that prices haven’t dropped in terms of what people are offering for small or large shares of teams."
Forbes stated that 20 NFL teams are worth more than $1 billion, the most of any league. That number is up from 15 teams last year.
The Cincinnati Bengals, worth $871 million compared to $875 million last season, are the only team that lost value.
Forbes projects only two teams had operating losses last year — the Pittsburgh Steelers ($1.1 billion), due to a higher payroll, and the Oakland Raiders ($785 million), thanks to having the lowest revenues in the league.
The magazine concluded that the two teams that had the biggest jump in value were the Minnesota Vikings ($975 million) and the San Francisco 49ers ($1.17 billion), whose values jumped 22 and 19 percent, respectively, as a result of their new stadiums being built.
The Cowboys’ $2.1 billion value matches that of the Los Angeles Dodgers purchase by Guggenheim Partners. Forbes says only Manchester United is worth more. The magazine said the soccer team was worth $2.23 billion, but the team’s recent offering on the New York Stock Exchanged valued it at $2.9 billion.
One thing you can count on when it comes to the New York Post: its cover tends to speak for itself. Here it is for the NFL kickoff today between the Giants and the Cowboys.
RELATED: Dallas Cowboys owner – Giants have ‘taken the bacon from us’
Maybe Jerry Jones thinks the Cowboys can only “beat the Giants’ ass” in Dallas.
A day before the two NFL East rivals meet in the season opener at MetLife Stadium, the Cowboys owner backed off his confident boast to fans that they should "watch us beat the New York Giants’ ass" in Dallas.
Jones responded to Giants linebacker Mathias Kiwunuka, who told WFAN last week that it “must be tough to be on the outside looking in at all these championships lately."
"It just reminds me that he’s right," Jones said Tuesday on KRLD-FM. "They have taken the bacon from us the last few years and certainly last year.”
The Giants beat the Cowboys in the regular season finale last season in a game that decided the NFC East champion on their way to their second Super Bowl title in five years.
"They played the regular season at 9-7. We do know that given a couple of completions, we could have been in those same shoes. I don’t know of anybody that was playing better than the Giants at the end of the year,” Jones said.
“So there is no doubt that we can, we could, we should have been focused on this opener and playing the New York Giants. I don’t back away from that emphasis at all."
BART HUBBUCH | New York Post
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – In just another example how the 53-man roster is never final, the Cowboys made a late roster move this morning, just a few hours before the season opener.
The club signed rookie tailback Lance Dunbar to the active roster, likely meaning the undrafted rookie from North Texas will indeed play tonight against the Giants for his NFL debut.
To make room for Dunbar, the Dallas Cowboys released tight end Colin Cochart, who was just claimed off waivers from the Bengals last week. Cutting Cochart doesn’t exactly indicate that Jason Witten will play Wednesday.
The Cowboys are sticking with “game-time decision” for Witten, who visited his doctor for the lacerated spleen injury on Tuesday. Witten flew up after the team but is now in New York with his teammates.
Dunbar, who missed the first two preseason games with a hamstring injury, had an electrifying end to the preseason with a 105 rushing yards, including a 59-yard touchdown run against the Dolphins.
He impressed the Cowboys with his speed and quickness all throughout the summer. Dunbar will likely play mostly on special teams, including kickoff return. However, Felix Jones is expected to be the primary return specialist, but Dunbar could get also be back as a side returner.
When the Cowboys trimmed the roster down to 53 last week, Dunbar and his college teammate Jamize Olawale, survived the first big cut, although the roster remained at 54. In the end, the Cowboys cut both Dunbar and Olawale and re-signed them to the practice squad, which now has seven players.
There’s no questioning Jason Witten’s toughness. Along with playing through a broken jaw and a broken rib, the Dallas Cowboys tight end has ran halfway down the field during a game without a helmet on.
So it probably doesn’t surprise anyone in the Cowboys organization that Witten, who is recovering from a lacerated spleen, wants to play Wednesday night against the New York Giants so badly that he’s willing to sign a waiver to do so.
According to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen, Witten has informed the team he is willing to sign a medical waiver that would not hold the Cowboys or team doctors liable in case he re-injured his spleen Wednesday night.
Mortensen added that the Cowboys will not accept any waiver as a path to Witten playing in the game.
Witten, who hasn’t missed a game since his rookie season in 2003, is listed as doubtful on the official injury report.
Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones said Tuesday that the team was waiting for the results of a CAT scan. However, even without those results, Jones said Witten had already been cleared to play against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 2.
“I don’t want to be overly optimistic but if you went by the way he’s worked, the work he’s got in, how he feels, then you’d give him a go [against the Giants],” Jones said on 105.3 The Fan’s New School show. “Until you had things such as CAT Scans, which we have and we should use them, players I’m sure played with this degree of spleen injury a lot because all of the signs were on go. I think we’ll look at that, we’ll look for the improvement and then we’ll go by the doctor’s opinion.”
Here is a look at how both teams match up:
When the Cowboys run
What would have happened if DeMarco Murray hadn’t fractured his right ankle against the Giants on Dec. 11? Would the story of the 2011 season have had a different ending? It might have. Murray gained 25 yards on five carries in his only game against the Cowboys’ NFC East rival. Before then, he proved to be a difference-maker. This year, Murray will be running behind a reworked offensive line a new fullback, Lawrence Vickers. The Giants, who gave up 121.3 rushing yards per game last season, will try to corral him.
When the Cowboys pass
In 2011 Tony Romo may have had his best season yet. He amassed 31 touchdowns and only 10 interceptions while posting a quarterback rating of 102.5. He did so while being sacked 36 times – the most in his career. At times, Romo turned bad situations into good ones. He may have to so against Wednesday. Miles Austin (hamstring) and Dez Bryant (knee) are returning from injuries. And tight end Jason Witten, his favorite target, is doubtful as he recovers from a lacerated spleen. The Giants’ suspect secondary, which contributed to the fourth-worst pass defense in 2011 and lost cornerback Aaron Ross to Jacksonville in the off-season, may get a break.
When the Giants run
The Cowboys no longer have to worry about Brandon Jacobs. He and his 264-pound frame are gone, off to San Francisco. That leaves Ahmad Bradshaw as the leading man for a rushing offense that finished dead last in the NFL last season but improved in the playoffs during the Giants’ march to the Super Bowl. Bradshaw will try to build on that momentum with rookie David Wilson, who is smaller and quicker than Jacobs. The Dallas Cowboys defense, which was seventh against the run in 2011 and gave up only 99.1 yards per game on the ground, will have to adjust. That shouldn’t be a problem for a unit that has improved.
When the Giants pass
Eli Manning torched the Cowboys last season. In two games against Dallas, he threw for 746 yards and five touchdowns. The Cowboys have invested plenty of time and money into developing a defense that can stop Manning and his two most fearsome targets – receivers Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks. Rookie Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr are expected to plug the holes in the secondary and give Manning fits.
Dan Bailey will try to build on his impressive rookie season, during which he made 32 of 37 field-goal attempts, including four game-winners. Bailey’s strong campaign overshadowed the fact that the Cowboys’ other special teams units underperformed. But there is hope Felix Jones will spark improvement as he will be designated as the main kick returner for the first time since 2009. On the other side, the Giants will rely on kicker Lawrence Tynes and punter Steve Weatherford, who finished 13th in the NFL last season with a net average of 39.2 yards.
It’s the season opener in primetime. It’s a date with the defending Super Bowl champion. And it’s a rematch of in the Jan. 1 winner-take-all showdown that the Cowboys lost to end their 2011 campaign. Will Dallas be motivated?
The answer to that question is obvious. The Cowboys want to win this game. But recent history is not on their side. The Giants have won five of the last six encounters with the Cowboys. They know what it takes to beat Dallas because they have done it again and again.
Less than nine months after the New York Giants defeated the Cowboys in a winner-take-all game to determine the NFC East title, the two division rivals meet again at the same place. A lot has changed since the previous encounter.
The Giants went on to win the Super Bowl while the Cowboys entered the off-season with a plan to revamp the secondary that was bombarded by Eli Manning. Here is a look at the keys to victory for the Cowboys.
The Giants’ pass rush is fierce. In the final eight games they played, including four postseason contests, they accumulated 26 sacks. Jason Pierre-Paul, Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck can make any offensive line look weak. The Cowboys’ front must stand strong for Romo to do his job. If it does, then Romo may flourish. In his career, Romo has produced a better quarterback rating – 97.9 – against the Giants than any other NFC East opponent he has faced.
Eli Manning has been a thorn in the Cowboys’ side for years. In his career against Dallas, Manning has amassed 33 touchdown passes and thrown only 18 interceptions. Last season, he picked apart the Cowboys’ secondary – producing a combined quarterback rating of 109.7 in two games against Dallas. He did so while avoiding pressure. In 120 minutes of football, the Cowboys managed to sack Manning only twice. Dallas has to increase that total if it wants to keep Manning and the Giants’ offense at bay.
Establish running game
Jason Garrett preaches balance. But his offense has rarely shown it. Against the Giants last season, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo dropped back 78 times, attempting 68 passes. The running backs, meanwhile, had only 37 carries. Dallas needs to make a concerted effort to give DeMarco Murray the ball. Last season, the Cowboys prevailed in each game he rushed 20 or more times.
Rob Ryan wants a defense that not only snuffs out plays but also makes them. Yet the Cowboys struggled to do all of the above last season. That was especially true against the Giants, when Dallas’ defense was skewered. The Cowboys struggled to stop the Giants, in part because they only forced one turnover against them in 120 minutes of football. They need to do better Wednesday.
RELATED: Matchup to watch – Dallas Cowboys LT Tyron Smith vs. New York Giants DE Jason Pierre-Paul
Tyron Smith is aware of the challenges he will face this season, his first as a left tackle in the NFL. Each week the Cowboys play, he will contend with the best pass rushers the league has to offer. On Wednesday, he will face Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora and Jason Pierre-Paul.
Among the Giants’ trio of fearsome defensive ends, Pierre-Paul is considered the greatest threat. During his sophomore campaign in 2011, he had a breakout season. He accumulated 16.5 sacks and was invited to the Pro Bowl for the first time in his career.
In one memorable performance against the Cowboys last December, he forced a fumble, recorded a safety and blocked a field goal.
Smith, who allowed 9.5 sacks last season and was Dallas’ top offensive lineman, will have a challenging first test at his new position.
IRVING — When Morris Claiborne exits the tunnel tonight at MetLife Stadium, with the night lights shining and a fanatical crowd celebrating their world championship team, the scene won’t be all that different from anything he has seen before.
He played in a national championship game at LSU.
He played in the SEC.
But what will be new is the job he, along with fellow cornerback Brandon Carr, will be asked to do — carry the load in helping the Dallas Cowboys’ defense stop Eli Manning.
That is the reason he is here.
To see to it that the Giants quarterback does not throw for 746 yards in two games against the Cowboys this season, as he did last year. To see to it that the Cowboys don’t settle for one interception in 80 pass attempts against them by Manning, as they did last year. To see to it that the secondary produces coverage sacks, as it did too little last year.
All that was part of the rookie’s job in college, also.
But now he is being asked to do it in the NFL, against the reigning Super Bowl champions, at their place, in a nationally televised night game in which they get their rings and fly their banner.
"I know it’s going to be way bigger. Way bigger than the national championship game," Claiborne said. "It’s the NFL."
But for a rookie whose first NFL game will be a road start against the Super Bowl champions in prime time, Claiborne has about the best background possible.
"He’s played the best level of competition for the last three years," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. "We got to the hotel every week, and there’s this SEC game of the week on. They’re unbelievable players, unbelievable environments. … He’s matured beyond his years because he’s played against that tough competition, really the elite players in college football."
"I know they’re coming," Claiborne said. "I’ve been preparing myself for this moment."
So has Carr, his partner on the left side. The Cowboys invested a $50.1 million free-agent contract in him even before they traded up from No. 15 to No. 6 to draft Claiborne, the top defensive player in the draft.
"It’s our first chance to show the world who we are," Carr said of the Cowboys’ defense, which did not give up a touchdown in preseason with the starters. "To show the world all the hard work we put in and what we have to show for it."
What Carr has to show for it so far is two preseason interceptions. He picked off Philip Rivers in San Diego twice in one game. Claiborne did not get as many chances, playing in only two preseason games after recovering from off-season wrist surgery and a knee that slowed him down in training camp.
But the Giants have seen enough.
"I saw Carr make a couple of interceptions," said Manning, who passed the Giants to two touchdowns in the last 5 minutes to win at Cowboys Stadium last year. "I think they feel good about playing man-to-man and that kind of thing. They’ll probably play a little more man, be more aggressive, but I thought they were pretty vanilla in preseason."
The Cowboys must expect to be in a situation where Manning will have the ball with a chance to tie the game, get a lead or extend a lead. But that’s why Claiborne and Carr are here.
For better pass defense. To stop Manning.
Every NFL fan plays the waiting game.
He waits for the next game. The next season. The next chance.
The next championship?
Some NFL fans don’t even have their first.
And yet here, they wait for their sixth. Dallas Cowboys fans have been stuck on five championships for almost 20 years.
It has been since January 1996 that the Cowboys won a Super Bowl. That’s by far the longest drought in franchise history. Not only between Super Bowl titles but between Super Bowl appearances.
From the birth of the Super Bowl in 1967 until 1996, the Cowboys played in eight — 26.7 percent.
From ’72 to ’96, the Cowboys were in 30.8 percent of the Super Bowls played.
Now, since the New York Giants’ win over the New England Patriots last February in Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis, the Cowboys have appeared in 17.4 percent of the ultimate games.
The waiting game continues for Cowboys fans.
"If you’re a real fan, it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been in and out of the Super Bowl," said Stephanie Spencer, a 31-year-old nursing student from Moor Park, Calif., watching the Cowboys in training camp. "It matters that that’s your team, and you’re always there, anyhow. If you’re a true fan, you’re going to be there, anyway."
Not the longest wait ever.
Dallas Mavericks fans waited 31 years for their first NBA championship.
Baseball’s Phillies once went 79 years between championships.
So, hey, it could be worse.
But nobody wants it to be.
"The Dallas Cowboy fan base, it’s been awhile — they’ve stood by this team through a lot of good times and through a lot of bad," quarterback Tony Romo said. "I’ve been around now for 10 years with the Cowboys, so I get a chance to feel how passionate our fans are, and I love the fact that I get a chance to play for a great organization, a great owner and a great fan base. It excites me to know that one day we’ll have a chance and the ability, if we just keep continuing to get better and improve, to bring that back."
The Cowboys had a pretty good chance just five years ago to get to the Super Bowl. They were the No. 1 seed in the conference heading to the playoffs. But a first-round home loss to the Giants ended a 13-3 season, and the Cowboys have been back to the playoffs only once since then.
Romo was the quarterback for both those seasons.
"You’ve got to make hay while you’ve got great players like that," Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said. "While you have great players like DeMarcus Ware. I think we’re close. Obviously, we’ve got to take the next step. I think with Jason Garrett’s leadership and the things we’re doing as a team, the fans should be excited, and we’ve got as good a chance as anybody."
What Cowboys fans have been waiting for.
The next season. The next game. The next chance.
Regular readers already know that The Boys Are Back blog features the ALMOST WORLD FAMOUS predictions from The GREAT Robbini. His new crystal ball has been dragged out of the closet … dusted … and polished. The GREAT Robbini is psyched about the 2012 Dallas Cowboys vibe … and ready to share his prognostications that we all count on from week-to-week.
Without further delay, it’s time for The GREAT Robbini’s predictions. I’m sure you’ll agree … a lot of these will come true. OK, here we go …
The GREAT Robbini – Week #1 predictions:
After an early New York Giants lead, Dallas Cowboys handle the champs – Make statement
This years Dallas Cowboys defense makes the difference. Coming up clutch in the opener that couldn’t look less like last years fiasco in New York.
- 4 sacks on Eli Manning (2 by DeMarcus Ware)
- 3 takeaways by the Dallas Defense
- Sean Lee leads tackles
- At least 1 takeaway per half
- New York Giants punt 6 times
- New York Giants with 2 offensive injuries
The Dallas offense, with some major work to do find a way to strike in face of New York’s menacing D front, produce:
- 150 yards rushing
- 2 Tony Romo TD’s, 300 yards passing
- 1 Dez Bryant TD
- 1 Cole Beasley TD
- Dan Bailey perfect game
- 90 yards penalties
- 3 injured Dallas Cowboy players
The GREAT Robbini