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Butt-kickin' Cowboys-Giants rivalry set to open NFL season


The Dallas Cowboys can't beat the New York Giants anymore, or so it seems. And it drives the Cowboys and their fans crazy.

No one more than Jerry Jones.

The Cowboys' owner/GM has promised his team will "beat the Giants' ass" when they visit Cowboys Stadium on Oct. 28.

No wonder he feels that way, countered New York linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka: "The Giants have been whooping his ass for a long time."

Five times in the past six games, to be precise. Including both matchups last year, which decided the NFC East division title and a playoff berth. The Giants went on to win Super Bowl XLVI.

The butt-bootin' arch-rivals knock heads again Wednesday night at MetLife Stadium in the game that kicks off the 93rd National Football League season (8:30 p.m. EDT, NBC).

Why on a Wednesday, instead of the now traditional Thursday?

Because Barack Obama gives his acceptance speech Thursday night at the Democratic Convention. And, well, the NFL wouldn't want to embarrass the sitting U.S. President by stealing most of his TV audience, now would it.

In Dallas' historical favour, the Cowboys never have lost to the Giants in a season opener (4-0), and they lead the regular-season series, 56-41-2.

The ass-kicking quotient, then, is all relative. It's just a matter of how far back you go.

Here are the top five things to look for in the 100th regular-season meeting when America's Team visits America's championship team:

1. Will each team's key receiver play?

The Giants' most dangerous wideout, Hakeem Nicks, did not practise on Labour Day weekend, as he still has soreness in his surgically repaired right foot.

Yet Nicks has "no doubt" he'll play, he said Monday. And his head coach, Tom Coughlin, agreed.

"I know it's for the better," Nicks said of not practising this week. "We don't want any setbacks. It's a big game, opening game of the season."

Nicks broke the foot May 24 in spring workouts. He wasn't cleared to practise again until Aug. 20, and played only briefly in last week's preseason finale against New England.

Meantime, the Cowboys' seven-time Pro Bowl tight end, Jason Witten, is still recovering from a lacerated spleen he suffered in the preseason opener. He participated on a limited basis in practices on the long weekend.

Witten was to have had a CT scan on his spleen Tuesday, but otherwise was planning to make the trip to East Rutherford, N.J.

"If I get cleared, we're playing," Witten said Sunday. "This is what you play for."

2. Is the Cowboys' new defence for real?

Jones and head coach Jason Garrett were tired of watching opposing teams' wide receivers -- especially the Giants' -- embarrass the Cowboys' secondary.

So they signed arguably the best corner available in free agency, Brandon Carr, and traded up to snag the best corner available in the draft, Morris Claiborne.

And the Dallas pass rush looked more ferocious and effective in the preseason.

Both are intended to make Giants QB Eli Manning's job more difficult.

3. Will Tony Romo have any time to throw?

The Cowboys' offensive line was dreadful in protecting Romo against first-team defences in the preseason. In this game, the OL is up against the best pass rushers in the league, especially ends Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora.

4. The rookies.

Several could have an impact.

We already mentioned Claiborne. He's an LSU grad, and probably will line up at times against his former college roommate, Giants WR Rueben Randle.

Randle was impressive in camp, and might not only be wearing Mario Manningham's old number 82, but taking his No. 3 WR spot, too.

In the Giants backfield, David Wilson from Virginia Tech is the second-string RB. He is shifty and tough, and the other day said he has big goals: to average five yards per carry, score 10 TDs, not allow a sack in pass-pro, have a play of at least 20 yards in every game, notch at least six 100-yard games, and never fumble.

OK, then.

The Cowboys' second pick, third-rounder DE Tyrone Crawford from Windsor, Ont., was "training camp's biggest revelation," according to the Blogging The Boys website. Crawford, who wears No. 70, appears to have already worked himself into the pass-rush rotation.

5. The ex-Cowboy Giant.

In July, new Giants tight end Martellus Bennett said he had "ill feelings" about the way he was treated for four years in Dallas.

The gregarious, microphone-loving Bennett then laid this wreath at the rivalry's 2012 off-season monument: "I just want to kick those guy's asses."

Join the club.