The day has arrived. In a little more than 12 hours, the Cowboys and the Giants will play the first game of the 2012 NFL regular season. The Elias Sports Bureau says this will be the first NFL game played on a Wednesday since Sept. 22, 1948, when Tom Fears and the Rams beat the Lions 44-7. I say let's get it on. The offseason is, mercifully, over at long last and starting tonight we get to talk about real football games that count. How's that sound to go with your morning links?
With the Giants attempting to become the ninth team to win back-to-back Super Bowls and the first since the 2003-04 Patriots, ESPNNewYork.com took a look at three things to feel confident about and three things they're concerned about. The first three are pretty obvious -- pass rush, quarterback and coach. And the latter three -- offensive line, cornerback and run defense -- are really no surprise if you've been paying attention. The Giants know every team in this salary-cap era has weaknesses, and they believe they've built a team whose strengths can cover for theirs.
John Mara knows his franchise's history, and what disappointments have followed past Super Bowl titles. So while he'd love to buck the trend, he tells Steve Politi, he's not interested in hearing words like "repeat" or "dynasty."
David Sims has been an NFL afterthought for a long time. Phil Sheridan wonders if his story is just offbeat enough to make him the surprise answer to the Eagles' long-running problems at safety. Sims was picked up in a depth move Friday night after the 53-man roster was set, but the Eagles are an injury away from promoting someone unlikely to a starting safety spot, and Sims would do well to be ready.
There are a number of rookies that could make an impact for the Eagles in 2012. Of the ones listed here, I'd call Mychal Kendricks and Brandon Boykin the most likely to make an early splash. First-round pick Fletcher Cox is likely to be better later in the year than he is right now, and defensive tackle is a position at which it can take a couple of years to fully develop. They'll have a rotational role for Cox this year, but he might not be their star 2012 rookie.
We'd hoped to have news on Jason Witten's status Tuesday night, but none came. Witten is officially listed as doubtful for tonight's game with a lacerated spleen, and I have to think it'd be a surprise if he played. Nose tackle Jay Ratliff has already been ruled out, as he has a high ankle sprain. The Cowboys have 11 days between their first game and their second, and they could use it to get some of these key guys healthy again. But if Witten can't play, they're going to have a tough time against the Giants.
Despite some issues with game management last year, the Cowboys remain confident in Jason Garrett as their head coach. There's little doubt Garrett has set the tone for the organization and wields a great deal more power in personnel decisions than have many of the Cowboys' recent coaches. But fans want to see if he's improved his game-day abilities after his first full year on the job.
Brandon Banks barely made the Redskins' roster, and you have to think his remarkable speed is the reason the Redskins have kept him around. But he's going to have to start showing something as a wide receiver if he's to have a future in Washington. He believes he's much more capable of showing that something this year than he has been in the past.