(Long Island, NY) Some match-ups just work regardless of when they take place. Take the New York Giants and the Dallas Cowboys, for instance. Even when one (or both) of these teams is experiencing a rough season, they always get up for each other. Both playoff teams a year ago, they get a chance right away to get a leg up on the other with an opening night contest.
This is kickoff weekend for the 2007 NFL season, and one of the games that jump off the page is the 8:15 national game on Sunday Night Football. NBC has made a splash in their return to the NFL, and pick up right where they left off a year ago with the G-Men – ‘Boys battle.
Both teams were ‘one and done’ in last year’s wild card round. The Giants are being viewed as a team that may take a step back with the retirement of running back Tiki Barber, who has taken his game to the NBC pre-game studio. It will be hard to replace his production, but the distractions he brought to the locker room calling out the coaching staff will not be missed. His replacements, Brandon Jacobs and Rueben Droughns, are more than capable to pick up some of the lost yardage.
“We have some people we can rely on and certainly Brandon will start the game,” said Giants’ head coach Tom Coughlin, who also recognizes the importance of the first game.
“It’s an excellent challenge,” he said. “You are talking about a team that was in the playoffs, a team that had an opportunity to advance. You are talking about [in] the division. It doesn’t get any more exciting than that.”
Wade Phillips will be entering his first season as the Cowboys’ head coach after taking over for the retired Bill Parcells. He inherits a quarterback that may be ready to take that next step in Tony Romo, who made a name for himself after taking over during the 2006 season.
“He has been real consistent,” Phillips said. “I see all of the things that everybody saw the last half of the season to vote him into the Pro Bowl. So I don’t see him being any different than that.”
Romo acknowledged that there is excitement facing the Giants in Week One. “At the end of the day, this game is going to be a big game just because it is against the Giants, a division rival, and it’s going to kind of set the tone for your season hopefully,” he said. “I think all those things in one makes for a really big Sunday.”
One player expected to participate is Michael Strahan, who finally reported to the team after staying behind at his home in California while his teammates sweated through training camp and the preseason. The veteran defensive end, who is supposedly viewed as a team leader, contemplated retirement and said that the holdout had nothing to do with him being frustrated over the team not renegotiating his current contract. Regardless of the reason or reasons, he is practicing with the team and making an effort to prepare for the Cowboys.
“We’ll have to play it by ear,” said new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo in reference to Strahan being a major contributor early on after missing so many important sessions. “I am not going to put a number on it [how many plays Strahan may be able to go against Dallas].”
NBC calls it ‘Football Night in America.’ The Giants and the Cowboys in a gunfight at the OK Carroll for first dibs on supremacy in the competitive NFC East. Will ‘America’s Team’ prevail? There are few guys wearing blue helmets that may have a thing or two to say about that.