Before we actually start talking about tonight’s season opener between the Cowboys and Giants, let’s reset things — just to be clear as to where the Cowboys really are and to be entirely honest in our assessments and expectations.
First, tonight’s game is between the defending Super Bowl champions and a mediocre also-ran on the champions’ home field. Since 1997 (that was a LONG time ago), the Cowboys are 120-120. During those 15 years, Dallas has ten or more wins only four times, never in back to back seasons. Over the past four years, the Giants have owned the Cowboys, taking seven of nine contests. Plus, since 2004, the Super Bowl winners have always opened the following season at home on the first night. The defending champs are 8-0 in those games. Undefeated. There’s not one thing anybody can find in recent history that would suggest the Cowboys have even a sniff of a chance tonight.
But what about DeMarco Murray? Yes, he’s healthy. Maybe he’ll be healthy for the whole season. Murray raised a bunch of eyebrows last year with his punishing style and aggressive running. He has a nose for contact and a hunger for the first down marker. He runs angry. And it’s really fun and breathtakingly exciting to watch. But… haven’t we seen this movie before? Yes, we have. It was called “Marion Barber.” If I have the plot correct, the Cowboys will feature Murray on every offensive series this season. He’ll rack up a thousand yards and double-digit TDs, and then rapidly wear down because of the physical nature of his running style. Murray signs with the Bears in 2014. Besides, who’s blocking for Murray? Phil Costa is the only starting Dallas offensive lineman returning to the same position he held last year. We’re talking about Phil Costa; not Rayfield Wright. And I’m comparing it to last year’s O-Line; not 1993’s.
What about Claiborne and Carr? Yes, the Cowboys probably boast now the best starting tandem of cornerbacks in the division. Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr are serious upgrades over Newman and the pitiful fill-ins they were rotating on the other side. But Jay Ratliff will miss tonight’s game up front. That means the Giants can triple-and-quadruple-team DeMarcus Ware. And they will. Nobody else in the Dallas front seven has ever proven they can get to Manning. Ever. Eli still eats up that secondary.
What about Rob Ryan’s defense? Yes, the Dallas defense should be a little better in this, Ryan’s second year as Cowboys defensive coordinator. But what does that really mean? Seriously, Ryan’s never been a very good defensive coordinator. Never. In his eight seasons as an NFL defensive coordinator, his units have ranked in the bottom six of the league in total defense four times! And Rob Ryan has never coached a defense in the playoffs. Never. Not once. He’s had no success anywhere as a defensive coordinator in the NFL. His hiring in Dallas was a classic Jerry Wayne publicity stunt meant to attract attention. It certainly has done that. And it’s been an embarassment to the franchise.
Don’t forget, too, that Jason Witten probably won’t play tonight. He wasn’t on the team plane when they flew from DFW to NY yesterday afternoon. He’s with the team now; he got there sometime late this morning. But even if he signs a stack of waivers and reams of medical release forms and insurance disclaimers, I don’t think the Cowboys will let him play tonight. Along with Ratliff’s absence, Witten’s injury gives them another convenient excuse to use when they lose.
Romo has two turnovers. Eli throws for two TDs. The Giants win by two scores.