Dez Bryant is the toughest wide receiver the Giants will face this year.
JOHN SCHMEELK: Fact -Dez Bryant has the rare combination of size, speed, strength and competitiveness that few possess. He is excellent in the red zone, as evidenced by his 16 touchdowns last year. Julio Jones is right there with Bryant, and I almost gave him the nod, but Dez is a VERY small step above. Later in the season, the Giants will see Mike Evans, who could one day get in their category but he is not there yet. Brandin Cooks is likewise too young and unproven to be in that group. Brandon Marshall is still excellent, but he is on the wrong side of 30.
DAN SALOMONE: Fact -The numbers speak for themselves. The 2014 touchdown leader and All-Pro receiver can do it all and does. His size and speed make it one of the toughest challenges for any team. And the Giants have to do it at least twice each year.
LANCE MEDOW: Fact -Based on stats and track record, Dez Bryant is clearly the toughest wide receiver the Giants will face this season. In each of the last three seasons, he's posted at least 88 receptions, 1,200 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns. Between his size, strength, speed and leaping ability, Bryant is one of the most versatile receivers in the NFL. The Falcons' Julio Jones is a close second given his similar traits, but Bryant has the stronger resume and the Giants have to deal with him twice this season. After those two, New York will face a talented group of up-and-coming young receivers including Sammy Watkins, Jordan Matthews, Brandin Cooks and Mike Evans. They all have a ton of upside but the sample size is extremely small with all four entering just their second season in the league.
If the Giants hold the Cowboys to fewer than 100 yards on the ground, they will win the game.
JOHN SCHMEELK: Fact -Despite the fact the Cowboys lost DeMarco Murray, they still want to run the football behind an excellent offensive line.
**If the Cowboys finish with less than 100 yards rushing (they averaged 147.1 yards on the ground last year), it means the Giants have dominated the line of scrimmage and could potentially force Tony Romo into some mistakes on disadvantageous downs and distances. Even if the Giants get a lead early, Dallas will still run the football. A study was done on their play-calling last year, and their run percentage did not change much, if at all, when they were ahead or behind. They will stay committed to the run.
DAN SALOMONE: Fiction -Like all rivalry games, it seems like anything can happen when these two teams meet. So stats like the Cowboys being 13-25 over the last five seasons when they don't rush for 100 yards can be thrown out the window. Normally you'd take those odds, but then again, you have Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr. on one side, and Tony Romo and Dez Bryant on the other.
LANCE MEDOW: Fact -Last season, the Cowboys ranked second in the NFL with 147 rushing yards per game. When Dallas ran for at least 100 yards, its record: 12-2; less than 100 yards: 0-2. The numbers tell it all. In 2014, the Cowboys offense was well-balanced. Tony Romo and company ran the ball 508 times and had 476 pass attempts. That nearly even divide was thanks to one of the best rushing attacks in the league. It helped Dallas lead the NFL in time of possession (32:51) and also finish second in third down efficiency (47%). Last season, the Cardinals and Eagles were the two teams that held the Cowboys to under 100 rushing yards. By limiting the running game, Arizona and Philadelphia took away Dallas' main strengths. Both the Cardinals and Eagles won the battle in time of possession and forced the Cowboys to face unfavorable third downs, which set up turnovers. Dallas was just 7-23 on third down in both games combined and had five turnovers. Despite losing DeMarco Murray, the Cowboys still showcase one of the best offensive lines in the league, so I don't see them changing their script too much. If the Giants hold the Cowboys to fewer than 100 yards rushing, the game should play into their hands.
Odell Beckham Jr. will score the first touchdown of the Giants' season.**
JOHN SCHMEELK: Fact -Especially with Victor Cruz nursing a calf injury, I expect the Cowboys to throw all sorts of attention Beckham's way. They will do everything they can to stop Beckham from scoring against them, which he did four times last year. It isn't going to matter. The Cowboys are missing their top corner in Orlando Scandrick, and don't have safeties that excel in deep coverage. Beckham will score, and he will score early.
DAN SALOMONE: Fiction -It's definitely going to be a fake punt that Brad Wing runs 50 yards into the end zone. Definitely. Beckham will be second.
LANCE MEDOW: Fact -Last season, Odell Beckham scored four touchdowns against the Cowboys and in each contest he was the first Giant to reach the endzone. With Victor Cruz still nursing a calf injury, Beckham will continue to be Eli Manning's top target and even though the Giants are seeking more balance on offense this season if there's one area to attack the Dallas defense, it's through the air. Their top corner, Orlando Scandrickk is out for the season with a torn ACL and his replacement, on the outside, Morris Claiborne, is coming off the same injury Cruz suffered last season (torn patellar tendon). The Cowboys will likely devote some extra personnel to Beckham, but it will be no different than the adjustments they made from game one to game two last season.
Both Eli Manning and Tony Romo will throw at least three touchdowns in Week 1.
JOHN SCHMEELK: Fiction -Both teams will score at least three offensive touchdowns but I think a few will come on the ground. We already discussed the Cowboys penchant for running the ball, but the Giants want to be a much better running and balanced team this year as well. Andre Williams should be a good back inside the five, and the Giants know the best way to be a good red zone team is by running the football.
DAN SALOMONE: Fact -They did so in their two meetings in 2014. Manning threw for 586 yards and six touchdowns while Romo went for 554 yards and seven scores. These have been high-scoring affairs in recent years, and once the pregame ceremonies clear on kickoff weekend, we could see another.
LANCE MEDOW: Fiction -On paper, this matchup looks like it could be a high scoring affair given the strengths of both offenses but that doesn't mean it's going to be an offensive clinic through the air. The Cowboys had the second best rushing attack in the NFL in 2014 and despite DeMarco Murray leaving in free agency to sign with the Eagles, I still expect them to place an emphasis on the run especially with the offensive line still intact. One of the main offseason goals for the Giants was to improve their running game (ranked 23rd in 2014)) and I think they'll look to have more balance in the opener especially in the red zone with the offensive line and three running backs all healthy and ready to go. Last season, Eli Manning and Tony Romo threw for at least three touchdowns in each game. I'll think they'll both come close but with the running game showcased on each side that could eat into the quarterbacks' numbers.