By Paul Dottino
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If there is one thing you almost can guarantee about Sunday’s Giants-Cowboys opener it would be that the game will come with plenty of fireworks.
The Giants are 4-0 on the road against the Cowboys since owner Jerry Jones opened his new stadium. But those games have been decided by a combined 18 points – and who could forget out Dallas WR Dez Bryant came down with his hand on the end line, thwarting a last-second comeback last season?
Giants DE Justin Tuck would rather have an easier night, although he realizes it’s unlikely.
“I’ve never left from Jerry’s World feeling good about our performance on defense. Obviously you feel good about the win, but we don’t want to put the pressure on Eli (Manning) and those guys over have to score 30 points to win a game. I hope they only have to score 10.”
Both teams have juggled their offensive line throughout the preseason and both teams are dealing with injuries that may either limit or knock out key starters.
So here are three of the key matchups to watch:
1. Giants LT Will Beatty vs. Cowboys RDE DeMarcus Ware. The Cowboys have compiled just two sacks over the Giants’ past four visits to Dallas, but Ware remains a game-changer who can wreck your night on any given play, even if he’s playing end in the team’s new 4-3 instead of standing up as a linebacker in a 3-4. Beatty signed a big contract in the off-season after proving that he could protect the passer last year, when he was unofficially charged with just three sacks. Might the Cowboys sometimes flip Ware to the other side in order to match him up against first-round RT Justin Pugh? Giants coach Tom Coughlin said the Cowboys didn’t show this during the preseason, but one never knows.
2. Giants CB Prince Amukamara vs. Cowboys WR Dez Bryant. Bryant recently revealed how his miscue in last season’s failed comeback fueled his fire this summer. There would be no better way to jettison those demons than to have a huge game on national television against the Giants. It appears he’s poised for a breakout season, but so is Amukamara, who has been on the upswing since the second half of last year. Amukamara was the Giants’ defensive star of training camp, so much so that it would not be out of the question for the coaches to play the Dallas WRs straight up – with Amukamara at RCB and Corey Webster at LCB. Nevertheless, they are sure to shade some help toward Bryant.
3. Giants LB Jacquian Williams or CB Aaron Ross vs. Cowboys TE Jason Witten. Coughlin was quick to point out this week that Witten caught 18 passes – an NFL record for tight ends – in the Giants’ game at Dallas last season. Nobody could stop him. It’s anybody’s guess as to who will be assigned to contain this target, although Williams or Ross may be best suited to do so since the Giants likely will use a heavy dose of their sub package. The best strategy seems to be to tying up Witten at the line, preventing him from getting a clean release because he’s took good at finding open space once he gets into his routes.
PREDICTION: Giants 30, Cowboys 27
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