For the past two seasons, the New York Giants have gotten the best of the Dallas Cowboys. The Giants have won three of the past four games between the NFC East division rivals and finished one game ahead of Dallas in both seasons. Now, with the two teams facing off in the first Sunday Night Football game of 2013, Dallas hopes to finally turn the tables.
Leading the way for the Giants is quarterback Eli Manning, just two years removed from knocking Dallas out of playoff contention on his way to winning the Super Bowl. Despite that big year, Dallas opened 2012 with a big win over the Giants. In 2013, Dallas hopes to open the season with another solid defensive performance against the Giants signal caller. In his two games against the Cowboys in 2012, Manning only threw for 405 total yards, one touchdown and one interception.
Despite Manning’s poor performance, the Giants split the season series with the Cowboys, the win coming thanks to two fourth quarter field goals and a solid defensive performance that saw the Giants defense sack Tony Romo four times while recovering six turnovers, including four interceptions.
“I’m sure the fans had the same feeling I did,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said after the loss. “I was frustrated, mad. I knew that we had dug ourselves a hole that was going to take a super effort to get out of. But I understand the frustration. I do.”
The Giants will have to stop Dallas with some new faces on the defensive side of the ball. The linebacker corps incorporates a rebuilt unit that includes an un-drafted free agent in Spencer Paysinger and a former Dallas Cowboys player in Dan Connor. They also have a new safety in Ryan Mundy, who replaces 2012 interceptions’ leader Stevie Brown.
This is part of an effort to improve a defense that finished 31st in the NFL in 2012, making it look like the big performance against the Cowboys might have been an anomaly.
Eli Manning also has some changes in his weapons as well. The Giants let 1,000 yard rusher Ahmad Bradshaw walk when David Wilson and Andre Brown stepped up and proved they could carry the load. Unfortunately, Brown broke his leg last week and Wilson will have to carry the entire load for the Giants for the first half of the season. Wilson finished 2012 with 358 yards and four touchdowns, but the Giants will miss the work of Brown, who scored eight touchdowns last season.
Manning will be happy to welcome back Hakeem Nicks to full strength after various injuries limited him to his worst statistical season since his rookie campaign. Missing is third receiver Domenik Hixon and tight end Martellus Bennett, replaced by Rueben Randle and free agent pickup Brandon Myers, who impressed last season with the Oakland Raiders.
The key to this game for the Cowboys is to limit mistakes on the offense while slowing down Eli Manning and the Giants passing attack with their new 4-3 defensive scheme. Dallas proved in 2012 that they can stop Eli Manning, but now it is time to see if the Giants defensive changes will open things up for Tony Romo and the Cowboys’ offense.
The Dallas Cowboys will play host to the New York Giants on Sunday at 8:30 p.m. Eastern.
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