Posted on May 29, 2016 by Brian Neal

 

One of the afternoon games on the Sunday slate of Week 1 pits the Miami Dolphins against the Seattle Seahawks. While it’s still May, it’s never too early to get ready for the upcoming 2016 NFL season. Who has the best odds of coming away with a 1-0 record from this matchup? A preview and prediction are below.

Game Day: Sunday, Sept. 11

Game Time: 4:25 p.m. ET

Location: Dallas, Texas

Betting Line: -5.5 DAL; 49.5 O/U (Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook)

Giants Key Losses:

  • DE Robert Ayers (free agent)
  • OT Will Beatty (released)
  • OT Geoff Schwartz (released)
  • WR Rueben Randle (free agent)
  • LB Jon Beason (retired)

Giants Key Additions:

  • DE Olivier Vernon (free agent)
  • CB Janoris Jenkins (free agent)
  • DT Damon Harrison (free agent)
  • LB Keenan Robinson (free agent)
  • CB Eli Apple (drafted)
  • WR Sterling Shepard (drafted)

Cowboys Key Losses:

  • C Mackenzy Bernadeau (free agent)

Cowboys Key Additions:

  • DE/DT Cedric Thornton (free agent)
  • RB Alfred Morris (free agent)
  • RB Ezekiel Elliott (drafted)
  • LB Jaylon Smith (drafted)
  • DE Charles Tapper (drafted)
  • QB Dak Prescott (drafted)

These two NFC East teams were on different paths this offseason. Of course, the Cowboys are a bit hindered do to their cap situation; however, they did improve some while retaining essentially all of the key pieces to their team. Meanwhile, the Giants loaded up on defense with a few star players.

New York apparently was well aware of their ineptness defensively — especially with the pass rush. That’s why their first big move of the offseason was to find a pass rusher, and they found one of the NFL’s best in Olivier Vernon, signing him away from the Miami Dolphins. It took Vernon a year to acclimate to the NFL, but in his second season, he exploded for 11.5 sacks. In the past three seasons, he’s racked up 25.5 sacks, and hasn’t missed a game in his career. That’s phenomenal news for a Giants team that has had some injury issues mixed between guys like Osi Umenyioura, Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul over the past few seasons. In fact, all they have left is a seven-fingered JPP, in terms of star pass-rushing talent — something the Giants aren’t used to.

But the Giants didn’t stop there, signing Jenkins and Harrison. Jenkins has shown in his first few years in the league that he’s a ball hawk, with great instincts. He joins a fantastic group of corners, and it’ll be interesting to see how the Giants use him, Apple and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Harrison is a bully of a nose tackle, and he’s going to create plenty of havoc on the interior, allowing everyone else’s jobs to be easier.

Offensively, the Giants have several position groups to figure out, including wide receiver, running back and the front five along the line.

At receiver, we all know Odell Beckham Jr. will be the No. 1, but with Randle out and Victor Cruz such a question mark, the rookie, Shepard, could be the next in line to start across the way from Beckham. How quickly can he connect with Eli Manning is the concern here, though.

The running back position was a difficult one to gauge in 2015 regarding the Giants. There was plenty of mediocrity across the board, and nobody was really added to the mix other than a rookie selected in the fifth-round, who isn’t exactly expected to make a case to start. That said, it’s more than likely an open competition, considering nobody was able to separate themselves in 2015.

Lastly, the offensive line let two players go who had seen quite a few starts in recent years. Beatty never really lived up to his potential, but Schwartz was very good when healthy. Can the Giants piece together a consistent line without those guys? We shall see.

As previously mentioned, the Cowboys didn’t change much, and couldn’t really afford to either. Their biggest improvement this season, which seems to be becoming a bad habit, will be Tony Romo returning from injury. This is Dallas’ burden: the team is so good when Romo is healthy — but so bad when he’s not. And he’s not quite often.

What will be different this year is who will be backing up Romo. No longer are the old veterans like Matt Cassell or Brandon Weeden in town; instead, the Cowboys selected Prescott in the fourth round, who was one of the more exciting quarterbacks in college football the past couple of seasons. He’s a gifted passer and athlete with solid size at 6-foot-2, 226 pounds. Ideally, he’d be on the bench learning from Romo for the next 2-3 seasons, and then viewed as a potential successor. But, given No. 9’s propensity for missing time, Prescott will have to be ready and treat each week like he’s going to play. That’s just the reality of this situation, and maybe it’s a bit of a blessing for him because he does have a good team around him.

The Cowboys have one of, if not the best offensive line in the country. As well, they drafted Elliott fourth overall, and even have Morris on the team, who’s a proven, consistent starter. Those two guys are going to have the running game in full throttle. Jason Witten still mans the tight end spot, and Dez Bryant is still their No. 1 wideout.

Defensively, Dallas struggled in 2015. The unit went from one of the best in 2014 to one of the worst in 2015, but a lot of that had to do with the loss of DeMarco Murray, as well as the injuries to Tony Romo. With a couple of stud running backs and Romo healthy (along with an improved backup situation in Prescott), the offense should be able to stay on the field longer, which really helped out this side of the ball two seasons ago when the Cowboys won 12 games.

This offseason was not filled with many moves on that side of the ball, though. A small move was made, taking Thornton away from another division rival, the Philadelphia Eagles. The biggest addition was Smith, but he’ll be sitting out the year after tearing up his knee in the College Football Playoffs. But Tapper, a fourth-round pick, should see some major playing time. The 6-foot-3, 271-pounder is a promising pass rusher, and he fills a need that the Cowboys have desperately needed since moving on from DeMarcus Ware. If they’re lucky, they’ll have struck gold in the middle rounds.

Prediction: The Cowboys are a different team when Romo is healthy and under center. Until proven otherwise, that’s who’ll be there come Week 1 of the 2016 season. That’s bad news for the Giants, but also a good challenge. The new pass rusher, nose tackle and corners are going to be put to the test, but it may not matter all that much — the Cowboys running game is going to be nasty good again this year. They’ll control the pace and come away with the win. Take the under, and Dallas should cover.

Final Score: Cowboys 27, Giants 21

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