The long awaited NFL season kicked off last night with a divisional matchup with several fantasy implications. Here are eight things I think I think (big Peter King fan here) about the Cowboys 24-17 victory over the Giants in New York:
1) Tony Romo looked like Eli Manning in a Super Bowl. KILL KILL KILL! Romo audibled for big plays not once but twice on pivotal possessions. Romo identified the blitz and correctly predicted the Giants would drop back to a Cover 1. He took advantage of man coverage and an over aggressive Corey Webster, tossing a perfect 40 yard pass to Kevin Ogletree on a stop and go that had the Giant’s best corner turned around. The consensus around Dallas is that the Cowboys are not losing because of Romo, so if the O-Line can keep him protected, which is a big if, this will be a huge year for Romo. They looked good enough against a usually dominant Giants rush, allowing two sacks, but much of this has to be credited to Romo’s mobility than the young O-Line.
2) Rumor has it Jason Witten had to sign a medical waiver to play in the game due to his injured spleen. Talk about dedication. Unfortunately for fantasy owners, Wednesday night is a sign of things to come. Witten is one of the best overall tight ends, and it his blocking ability that the Cowboys need the most. I don’t see him breaking 60 catches / 800 yards this year.
3) Victor Cruz will be fine. We’ll chalk up the three drops to opening day jitters and trying to do too much, but his explosiveness is still very much a part of the Giants offense. Cruz’s trademark is his catch and cut – Cruz was second only to Wes Welker among WR’s last year with 595 yards after catch (YAC). That being said, the Cowboys secondary was very disciplined in not overplaying the slippery Cruz, and I expect other defenses to do the same. Cruz is a dangerous player but I expect his 2012 totals to drop down to 80 catches / 1,300 yards / 8 TD’s this year. Still excellent WR1 numbers, but he set the bar high in his rookie campaign with 82/1536/9.
4) Demarco Murray will be in the Hall of Fame. Barring injury setbacks as any of these predictions may succumb to, Murray has all the tools to succeed in Dallas. Though it took him awhile to get going, his vision and cutting ability was a pleasure to watch. Many feared he would lose carries to Felix Jones this year, but Jones had a total of ZERO offensive touches (he did contribute with three returns, but left part way through the game for unknown reasons).
5) Dez Bryant is a beast. His quickness off the line combined by his size and hands makes his slant routes very hard to defend, but you have to respect his speed as well. Like almost the entire Cowboys team, if he stays healthy, expect WR1 numbers in the area of 80 / 1,200 yards / 10 TD’s. Bryant owners no doubt had a scare when he collided with Murray when blocking for one of the latter’s explosive run, but he got up slowly and continued the game.
6) Kevin Ogletree had an incredible game but is a borderline WR2 at best. The hottest waiver wire pickup so far this week had 31.4 fantasy points in standard PPR formats – and I don’t see any waiver wire player surpassing that. Romo had “the game of his career” as Cris Collingsworth said on Wednesday, but he did underthrow Ogletree in the endzone which would have resulted in a ridiculous 3 TD night. Ogletree was not flashy, all he did was run precise routes and caught everything thrown his way from a hot QB. What else can you ask for?
7) Hakeem Nicks looked slow, but he will bounce back. Nicks was obviously hobbled during the game but still played 53 of 54 offensive snaps. In a post game interview, Nicks said “I felt it at times on certain routes but it wasn’t anything that prevented me from playing in the game or coming out of the game… It was maintainable. It wasn’t excruciating pain or extremely bad. I maintained it, fought through it, and finished the game.” This is a good sign for Nicks owners. For now, think about benching him for Week 2 vs Tampa Bay, but start him as usual in Week 3 when he should be back to 100%. The Giants will need him then as they’re paying a visit to the promising Panthers.
8) David Wilson was emotional on the sidelines after getting benched immediately after fumbling on only his second career carry. He’s been plagued by this issue throughout college, fumbling once every 41.4 carries in his final year at Virginia Tech. Giants fans are hoping he can turn it around a la Tiki Barber. Between 2002-2004, Barber fumbled 17 times, losing 12 of the them. After working with his coach on holding the ball more vertically, Barber only fumbled six times in the next two years, losing three. The coach at the time? You guessed it, Tom Coughlin.