The Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants kick off week one in a few hours.
Here are five things to watch for, as the season gets underway:
1. September 11th
Today marks the 15th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on The World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The entire league did not play games in the immediate aftermath of those attacks. Today, there are special tributes planned around the league. In a nationally televised game between America’s Team and one of two New York-based teams, you can imagine the tribute at AT&T Stadium will be one of the most significant.
2. The National Anthem
Colin Kaepernick and a handful of other NFL players have created a very real dialogue in recent weeks, surrounding the playing of the National Anthem, the treatment of African Americans in this country, and what is the right way to protest. Regardless of where you fall on the spectrum of opinions regarding this argument, it will be interesting to see if any Cowboys or Giants players join the protest, or make some other kind of statement.
3. Dak’s debut
Can Dak Prescott really bring his preseason prowess to the real show? The rookie quarterback has been outstanding so far. But that preseason stuff is now in the rearview mirror. No more bland defenses. No more second and third stringers. Now #4 has to put on his big boy pants, and produce, if the Cowboys are going to start the season 1-0.
4. Zeke’s heavy load
How much do the Cowboys put on rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott’s shoulders? Well, considering that he’s already talking about Eric Dickerson’s rookie rushing record, you can bet he’s planning on getting a boatload of carries. How he handles that, and how he capitalizes on the lanes created for him by the Cowboys massive offensive line, will go a long way toward deciding how this season goes for Dallas.
5. Defense up to the task?
Can the Cowboys defense – heavily affected by drug related suspensions – get the job done well enough to help the Cowboys offense? Last season, they weren’t bad … for three quarters. It was a constant refrain. The defense would put together a solid performance for the opening three stanzas, and the Cowboys would be in the game all throughout. But a late-4th quarter breakdown would allow the opponent to tack on a game-changing score, and the Cowboys would lose another close game. This season, the Cowboys will need to maintain their defensive pressure and effectiveness for all four quarters.
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