Matchup: Cowboys @ GiantsTuesday, September 04, 2012
Wednesday Night Opener
Dallas @ NY Giants
Dez Bryant has at least 70 yards and/or a touchdown in all of his four career meetings with the G-Men, and is the premier fantasy start on either side in Wednesday night's NFL opener. A safe bet for double-digit targets with Jason Witten (spleen) likely to be inactive and Miles Austin just now back from a four-week hamstring injury, Bryant is also facing a New York secondary that lost top RCB Terrell Thomas (ACL) for the year, and top backup Prince Amukamara (high ankle sprain) until Week 2 at the earliest. Filling in is 28-year-old journeyman Michael Coe, who's played in 27 career games without a single start. It's possible the Giants will shadow Bryant with top corner Corey Webster, although Webster plays the majority of his snaps at LCB, and Bryant runs most of his pass patterns down the opposite end of the field. Austin's return also may discourage the Giants from using Webster to follow Bryant around the formation. ... In regard to fantasy players returning from injury layoffs as lengthy as Austin's, I usually approach them on a "prove-it" basis. I want to see them last four quarters healthy before starting them. I think Austin is a dicey WR3.
In Tony Romo's last eight regular season matchups with the Giants, he's completed 164-of-241 passes (68%) for 2,004 yards (8.3 YPA), 21 touchdowns, and six interceptions with two additional rushing scores. He has a 10:1 TD-to-INT ratio in the last four. Romo is a quality mid-range to low-end QB1 start on Wednesday night. ... Dallas' tight ends and third-receiver committee should be avoided in Week 1 fantasy lineups, but keep an eye on Dwayne Harris. He's flashed playmaking ability in back-to-back preseasons and could emerge as a WR3 later on if he clearly passes Cole Beasley and Kevin Ogletree. ... The Giants' upfield-focused defensive scheme lends itself more to quarterback disruption than run stoppage and is exposable by running backs who don't waste steps behind the line of scrimmage. DeMarco Murray runs decisively and shouldn't struggle to exceed 20 all-purpose touches against the Giants. Murray should be locked into fantasy lineups.
Eli Manning's last six games against Dallas: 145-of-226 (64.2%) for 1,996 yards (8.83 YPA), 15 touchdowns, and seven interceptions. Historical stats favor Romo head to head, but Eli is a fine back-end QB1 in his own right Wednesday. ... Despite missing early-week practices with recurring foot soreness, Hakeem Nicks vows to play 60 snaps against Dallas and has the best matchup of New York's receivers. Nicks most often squares off with right corners, and the Cowboys' RCB is Morris Claiborne. While Claiborne possesses elite long-term talent, rookie cornerbacks struggle almost without fail early in their careers, and Claiborne is behind a bit after missing the entire offseason program due to wrist surgery, followed by a week-long training camp absence with a sprained right MCL. He only played 48 snaps this preseason. Claiborne is going to be good, but it's going to take some time. Nicks should have his way with the rookie this Wednesday night.
The sample size is small and Dallas upgraded its pass defense since, but Victor Cruz burned up the Cowboys for 12 catches, 252 yards and a score in their two 2011 meetings. With Domenik Hixon anointed New York's No. 3 receiver, Cruz will play most of his snaps in the slot against overrated, overpaid inside corner Orlando Scandrick. Scandrick won't be able to run with Cruz on option routes he takes vertical. Unless DC Rob Ryan makes a significant defensive adjustment, $50.1 million LCB Brandon Carr may go to waste covering Hixon on critical downs in this game. ... For a guy who's never cleared 300 yards and doesn't have a touchdown since 2008, Martellus Bennett is awfully overhyped. He's an in-line tight end lacking playmaking ability with a 10.0 career yards-per-reception average. Bennett might catch a red-zone touchdown against his old team, but he's a longshot to make noise otherwise. I can't imagine relying on Bennett as a fantasy starter.
Late Monday, I went back and re-watched the Giants' third preseason game. NFL teams typically treat their third exhibitions as regular season tuneups, leaving in starters for at least a half. Rookie David Wilson started with Ahmad Bradshaw nursing a hand injury from which he's now recovered. On 13 snaps, Wilson impressed with his balance and ability to create space for himself with lateral moves. While he was yanked for since-cut D.J. Ware on passing downs, Wilson was left in to pass block or "chip" a pass rusher on three occasions and didn't embarrass himself. Bradshaw will surely start against Dallas and remains the favorite to lead New York's backfield in touches, but I wouldn't be shocked if Wilson was more than a change-of-pace back Wednesday night. His versatility is improving steadily, and he's already just as effective a runner as the starter. Consider Bradshaw an RB2 and Wilson a risky flex option in this game. Just don't be surprised if those roles reverse by the season's midway point. The Giants won't be able to keep Wilson off the field.
Score Prediction: Giants 27, Cowboys 24