DALLAS COWBOYS @ NEW YORK GIANTS
If you’re Morris Claiborne, who would you rather cover: the stocky, aggressive, body-controlled monster of Hakeem Nicks, or the smooth, fleet-of-foot, speedy Victor Cruz? The Cowboys new secondary headlined by the former LSU star and former Chief standout Brandon Carr will be tested early and often this opening day. The Giants rushing attack was the worst in the league last year, and though far more stylized with the removal of Brandon Jacobs and addition of David Wilson, is still by far their weakest component. Ahmad Bradshaw has faced foot problems galore, and is likely to be spelled several series by the rookie Wilson, but not enough for him to see more than 8-10 carries. Though Tom Coughlin might try to feature the Bradshaw/Wilson tandem early, it will likely be so he can use a lot play-action passes from Eli Manning as the Giants look to spread the field and test this new defensive backfield’s mettle. Expect 35-40 passing attempts from Manning tonight, which means solid numbers for Cruz and Nicks, but also decent numbers from one of TEs Bear Pascoe and Martellus Bennett. I wouldn’t start either tonight, though Bennett could be the long term gem. Even with the Cowboys missing NT Jay Ratliff, I expect Ahmad Bradshaw is likely to have more value tonight in PPR formats. He’ll get 15 carries and five receptions. On the flip side, the last three seasons has seen Tony Romo complete 68.8% of his passes against the Giants, with 11TDs versus just four interceptions, including last year’s regular season tally of 610 passing yards and six TDs with just one pick. The Giants also bring a banged up secondary into Wednesday’s contest, mssing second year CB Prince Amukamara. Expect Kevin Gilbride’s offense to exploit the best matchups, particularly since he’s without his primary tight end, Jason Witten. John Phillips takes over for Witten in the middle, and though he scored his sole touchdown last year against the Giants, don’t expect much in the way of output except maybe a red zone target. DeMarco Murray faced the Giants only once, and managed five carries for 25 yards. He’ll definitely see more carries than that Wednesday evening. The Giants were ranked 22nd last year in yielding opposing rushing yardage, giving up 121.3 per contest, and the best way to keep the Giants pass rush in check is a strong ground attack. He’s good for 100 yards tonight and a score. However, with both Dez Bryant and Miles Austin probable for the opener, expect Dallas to also test the Giants injured secondary. The game will be determined by who can survive their opponent’s pass rush, and the Giants, a team that led the NFL with 45 sacks registered by their defensive lineman, will keep Romo on the move all game. Without Witten in the middle of the field, Murray will make an excellent PPR play tonight for check-downs, of which there could be many. Fantasy wise, start both QBs with confidence, and both sets of receivers, except Miles Austin, whose ongoing hamstring issues have me benching him until we see how he’s doing in real action. It’s a close game on opening night, but the Giants force a key fumble from Romo during this game and renew their Super Bowl hopes with another high flying victory.
GIANTS 30, COWBOYS 27