Suffice it to say, Eli Manning is happy to see the Cowboys on the Week 1 docket. A traditional Cowboy-killer, Eli’s worst game in his last six against Dallas was a 241-yard, 2-TD outing in Week 13 of 2009. In each of the five games since, Manning has posted at least 300 yards and 2 TDs. The Cowboys went to great lengths to improve their pass defense this year – signing CB Brandon Carr to a mega-contract and drafting CB Morris Claiborne high in the first round – but it’s safe to anoint Eli as a top-5 QB play this week based on historical dominance alone. As you might imagine, Hakeem Nicks has decimated the Cowboys as well. In his last four games against the Cowboys, Nicks has averaged 107 yards and has scored 3 TDs. Nicks has vowed to play on Wednesday despite missing the vast majority of training camp with a foot injury. It’s fair to worry about how healthy he is, and about a potential matchup against Carr, but this is a promising enough matchup to roll with Nicks if you usually would. Victor Cruz is also in play; he had 12 grabs for 252 yards and a TD in the pair of matchups with Dallas last year. Cruz often kicks inside to the slot when the Giants go 3-wide (which is most of the time), so it will be tough for the Cowboys to match him up with either Carr or Claiborne. If Nicks is in any way limited by his injury or by Carr, Cruz could be in line for a big night as the primary object of Eli’s affection.
The Cowboys managed to field a top-10 run defense last year, but the Giants had their number on the ground as well. In the first matchup, Brandon Jacobs ran for 101 yards and 2 TDs, and in the second Ahmad Bradshaw racked up 69 all-purpose yards with 2 TDs of his own. Rookie David Wilson looked very good in the preseason, but until Bradshaw gets hurt he’s on the short side of this backfield committee. As the starter and goal line option, Bradshaw is a solid RB2 this week. Wilson is merely a high-upside flex play until we get a more concrete picture of what his role is going to be.
Tony Romo has done his best to keep up with Manning – he averaged over 300 yards and 3 TDs in last year’s two matchups and has 23 total TDs in his last eight games against the G-Men – and is a solid QB1 this week against a beleaguered Giants secondary that will be missing starting CB Prince Amukamara in this one. Dez Bryant has scored 4 TDs in four career matchups against the Giants, and appears to be the healthy after returning to full practice late last week. He’ll probably draw a tough matchup against top corner cover Corey Webster, but he’s still a very solid play as Romo’s most dangerous (and healthy) target. Miles Austin is a tougher call. Austin is expected to play despite missing most of the preseason with his 374th strained hamstring in the last 12 months. In previous matchups with the Cowboys, Bryant has done much more with a roughly equal target distribution (23 for Austin, 22 for Bryant in the last four matchups). Austin has scored twice in his last four against the G-Men, but he hasn’t topped 4 catches or 68 yards in any of them. Given the uncertain status of Austin’s fragile hammies, he’s little more than a flex option this week.
Felix Jones was the focal point in both matchups last year, as he rolled up 137 combo yards after DeMarco Murray got hurt in the first quarter of the Week 14 matchup, then had another 7 receptions and 77 combo yards in the Week 17 finale. All of the focus shifts to a now-healthy Murray in this one, and if history is any indicator, he’ll be very active as both a runner and as a receiver out of the backfield.