The Dallas Cowboys will open up their season on Sunday night against the New York Jets, a game that’s sure to be emotionally charged for reasons that have nothing to do with football. Sunday marks the tenth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, a milestone that won’t be lost on anyone at MetLife Stadium this weekend.
Fans in attendance will receive American flags upon entering the stadium, and children of first responders will serve as honorary team captains. Lady Antebellum will sing the national anthem, and Robert DeNiro will narrate a halftime tribute to family members of victims of the attacks. We’d guess there are going to be some less-than-dry-eyes in the house.
Considering the magnitude of the anniversary, it’s kind of hard to treat football as that serious of a matter, but this is, after all, a football game--so we should probably take a look at the game itself as well, no?
As for football storylines, the Jets and Cowboys are in very different places coming into the opener. New York is coming off of their second consecutive AFC Championship game appearance, while Dallas is hoping to bounce back from a miserable 6-10 year.
The Cowboys are barely recognizable from last year to this, at least on the offensive side of the ball. Veterans like Andre Gurode, Marion Barber, and Roy Williams are gone, replaced by younger, and cheaper options. The offensive line will feature at least one rookie (LG Bill Nagy) and a second-year guy (C Phil Costa) against the Jets’ vaunted defense. If first round pick RT Tyron Smith is unable to go with a knee injury, third-year journeyman Jermey Parnell would make the first start of his career.
This group will be charged with protecting Romo against one of the top defenses in the league.
The defensive side of the ball for the Cowboys looks much the same as it did a season ago, personnel-wise at least. New defensive coordinator Rob Ryan has installed his own version of the 3-4, a potentially exciting system that didn’t do much to impress in the preseason. The unit particularly struggled against the run over the four exhibition games, an unnerving fact considering that few teams in the league run the ball as well or as much as the Jets.
It’s looking more and more likely that cornerback Mike Jenkins will be available Sunday. Terence Newman is less likely, but he will travel with the team. Even at full health, this Cowboys team is loaded with questions--when you consider the injuries on top of that, Sunday should represent a potentially harsh litmus test of what Dallas is working with.
For those bettors out there, most sites have the Jets as 4.5 to 5 point favorites against Dallas.
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