Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 9/5/12

Football season is officially (almost) underway!

With the kickoff of the first game comes the kickoff of the first story-lines. Every team has them, and this year is no exception.

The first story-line is the game itself - the first of 17 Thursday night games this season, all on NFL Network except this one. 

Only one problem - it isn’t being played on Thursday, because the President is giving a speech!

Every group is going to cover the game as Eli Manning versus Tony Romo in a shootout, and a rematch of last year’s regular season finale, etc.

But the real story in this game is the defenses and running games.

These two teams are built to pass early and often, but their run games aren’t to be ignored. Since both teams have also built their defenses to slow down the passing game by putting the quarterback on the ground, the run game will shine. Look for a low-scoring slugfest full of punts and big gains by running backs.

For the Giants, the game plan is to target Morris Claiborne early and often. They will see that he is a rookie, and should be easy to pick on in his first game.

It may not be as easy as they think. Aside from the low “leaked” Wonderlic score (how many would bet against Jerry releasing that to try and get Claiborne at 16?), all signs point to Claiborne being incredibly smart. He has an issue with verbal learning, but according to his old teammates at LSU, he is an incredibly quick visual learner. 

With a full offseason to get up to speed and a talent level to match his learning ability, he could very well play like a veteran. Expect at least one interception and multiple pass deflections.

The Cowboys don’t have Jay Ratliff, so the Giants' run game could get off to a strong start by smashing the ball up the middle, depending on the play of Sean Lissemore. The Giants are without Brandon Jacobs, who went looking for better money with the 49ers after earning two rings with the Giants. 

Their best bet is Andre Brown, who comes in at 6-0 and 227 pounds, now in his third year in the league. It remains to be seen how effective he is, since he has spent these three years bouncing around on waivers and on practice squads.

The Cowboys should know that it will be difficult to throw. Their best bet (and the game plan in the finale last year) is to run the ball early and often to put those monster pass rushers on their heels. 

That will open up room for Romo to breathe with play-action passes. They need the defense to hold up for at least the first quarter to put that plan into action, something that didn’t happen last time these teams played.

Without Jason Witten, or at least with Witten limited, someone else is going to have to step up. 

John Phillips is a good tight end, but he doesn’t have the ability to get open as often. On passing downs and in two tight end formations, expect athletic young rookie James Hanna to be Romo’s target.

In the end, the Cowboys have a more balanced running game. DeMarco Murray is not afraid to run through would-be tacklers, and has the speed and elusiveness to break into the secondary where running over defenders is easier. Combine that with the explosive Felix Jones, back in his best role as third down/change-of-pace back, and the Cowboys have the tools to win a defensive game.

Look for the Cowboys to win 27-24, with late fireworks as the passing games finally figure out the opposing defenses under the leadership of their quarterbacks.



MORE FROM YARDBARKER:
2017 NFL Mock Draft
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Report: A 2015 investigation led to Kevin Wilson’s departure from Indiana

Houston denies report that Art Briles is candidate for coaching position

Draymond Green defends himself again after kicking Harden

WATCH: Video of Pirates Jung Ho Kang car crash that led to arrest

Rob Gronkowski placed on IR, ending his season

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Everything you need to know for CFB Championship Week

Steve Kerr admits using marijuana to treat chronic back pain

WATCH: Huskies, Buffaloes go back-to-back with amazing plays

Rolando McClain suspended indefinitely by NFL

Helfrich, Kelly spoke about possibility of Kelly returning to Oregon

Paul Maurice: Game plans won’t work trying to stop McDavid

Best of Yardbarker: CFB Championship Week chaos

Five teams on upset alert in NFL Week 13

Sporting life: Gifts for real fans (that aren't ugly NFL sweaters)

New faces help Spurs continue unparalleled success

The Pirates prepare for rarely chartered waters in dealing Andrew McCutchen

The 10 best sports docs available for streaming

Box Score 12/2: High-kicking it into the weekend

Jeff Fisher is the unkillable cockroach of NFL head coaches

Four teams to keep an eye on at the 2017 Winter Meetings

Eugene Monroe opens up about NFL’s drug policy

Ideal MLB offseason blueprint for every team

Eight NFL teams facing must-win games in Week 13

NFL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Sporting life: Gifts for real fans (that aren't ugly NFL Christmas sweaters)

New faces help Spurs continue unparalleled success

The Pirates prepare for rarely chartered waters in dealing Andrew McCutchen

The 10 best sports docs available for streaming

Everything you need to know for CFB Championship Week

Jeff Fisher is the unkillable cockroach of NFL head coaches

Four teams to keep an eye on at the 2017 Winter Meetings

Porzingis reshapes Knicks by elevating his game

TailGreater: Your championship week playlist is set

Clarification: Why the rules near the crease need to be fixed

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker