Dallas comes into the first ever football game at Cowboys Stadium a three point favorite over the visiting Titans, which would be reassuring were I dumb enough to bet on preseason football. The final outcome won't matter all that much though, as long as the Cowboys--well, some of the Cowboys--post better showings than they did in Oakland.
Dallas' starters will look to impress against the reigning AFC South champions, who--whether they'll admit it or not--was something of a sexy Super Bowl pick around November of last year. Tennessee's only major loss of the offseason was Albert Haynesworth, who sold his soul--though at that price, who can blame him?--and went to Washington.
Even without Haynesworth, Tennessee's defensive front and linebacking corps will pose a test for Dallas' triage of running backs. Jeff Fisher is the longest tenured coach in the NFL for a reason. His guys play old-school, hit-you-in-the-mouth football from whistle to whistle. This will be a test for the offensive linemen down on the depth charts. O-line coach Houston Houck has said depth in the unit isn't an issue. No one else seems quite so convinced.
Despite the absence of Ryan Mouton, a rookie out of Hawaii who will sit out with a high ankle sprain, Tennessee's secondary is a solid unit as well. Their 20 interceptions in 2008 were good enough for 7th in the league.
The Titans' greatest question coming into 2009, besides perhaps that of the Albert Haynesworth-sized hole in their front four, will be the health of Kerry Collins. Collins is the starter, but Fisher has been vocal in stating that Vince Young is their "quarterback of the future."
Dallas will see a lot of the latter, and the former Longhorn will likely be fired up, playing in his home state.
Tony Romo and the starters on offense will look to build on a solid, though brief, performance in Oakland. Second-stringer Jon Kitna will have to prove that he can make fewer mistakes, while third-string former-Aggie Stephen McGee must prove that he's not scared to death of making a mistake at all; which was a goal stated by the rookie after last week's loss.
Tennessee doesn't host a stable of deep threats at receiver, which will aid in Dallas' defensive backfield's attempts to improve on what was, at times, a downright ugly performance last week, particularly concerning the backups. The secondary is a young group, which might partially explain the unimpressive effort last Thursday. They must show that can grow and adapt on a weekly basis.
Tennessee might be the deepest team in the league, meaning, basically, that there isn't a huge drop-off at most any posititon from first string to second string and so forth. If Dallas' younger players can show growth against last year's surprise-team of the AFC, take it as a fairly big positive.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7:00 PM CST.