Wednesday, September 5, 2012
Wednesday Word: Cowboys-Giants
By Dan Graziano
We do "Final Word" on Fridays, when we offer our famous "five nuggets of knowledge" about the division's games that week. I'm going to do that Friday, have no fear, but by then only two of the NFC East's four teams will have yet to play their Week 1 games. So, with the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Giants set to kick off the NFL season Wednesday night in New Jersey, I thought I'd offer five nuggets of knowledge about tonight's game, with the help of ESPN Stats & Information:
The worth of Witten. Over the past three years, according to Stats & Info's "next level" numbers, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo has completed 73.5 percent of his passes to tight end Jason Witten. During that same time period, the only higher percentage among quarterback-tight end combos was the 75.3 percent that Peyton Manning completed to Dallas Clark in Indianapolis. Witten is doubtful for tonight's game with a spleen injury.
Eli Manning has feasted on Cowboys defenses, throwing 31 touchdown passes in 15 career games against Dallas.
Breaking the Boys. Giants quarterback Eli Manning has 31 career touchdown passes in 15 career regular-season games against the Cowboys. That's his highest total against any opponent, and only three quarterbacks in NFL history have thrown more touchdown passes against the Cowboys: Jim Hart (35 in 24 games), Phil Simms (34 in 23) and Sonny Jurgensen (33 in 22).
Wednesday wonder. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, there has not been an NFL game played on a Wednesday since Sept. 22, 1948, when the Rams beat the Lions 44-7. The NFL's kickoff game has been held on Thursday nights in recent years, but this year's was moved to Wednesday so as not to conflict with President Barack Obama's acceptance speech Thursday night at the Democratic National Convention. On a personal note, after tonight, I will have covered an NFL game on every day of the week other than Friday. Yes, I was at the Tuesday night game between the Vikings and the Eagles in Philadelphia two years ago.
Beginner's luck? The Cowboys and the Giants have played five times in season openers, and the Cowboys are 5-0 in those games (by a combined score of 194-72, by the way!). The last time they met in a season opener was 2007. The Cowboys won that game 45-35 and went on to finish 13-3 and win the NFC East. But they would lose a home playoff game that season to the 10-6 Giants, who went on to win the Super Bowl.
Keep 'em in coverage. Don't expect the Cowboys to blitz much tonight. Dallas sent five or more pass-rushers on just 34.5 percent of its opponents' pass plays in 2011, and their numbers when they did so ranked near the bottom of the league. While they've upgraded at cornerback with Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne, that doesn't necessarily mean they should be more aggressive in this game against Manning. The Giants quarterback threw 18 touchdown passes last year when teams sent five or more pass-rushers at him -- the most of any quarterback in the league against the blitz.