1: Can the Dallas Cowboys get to Giants" data-canon="New York Jets" data-type="SPORTS_OBJECT_TEAM" id="shortcode0"> quarterback Eli Manning in Wednesday night’s NFL opener? They have only sacked him four times in the last six games. One sack for every 58 pass plays is not a good situation. Either Sean Locklear or Will Beatty will be up against Dallas pass rusher DeMarcus Ware, and that will be a big test for either guy.
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2: Don’t get hung up on certain stats. Winning the season opener is important, but it isn’t a disaster if your team loses. The Giants lost their openers last year and in 2007 and went on to win the Super Bowl both seasons. In the overall picture 82 percent of Super Bowl champs win on opening day. Which way do you want to look at these numbers?
3: Is Cleveland building a team for a new regime? The Browns have 15 rookies on the roster plus a different starting quarterback on opening day for the sixth straight year. The latter isn’t all that uncommon, though. Seven teams start a new quarterback for the third straight year.
4: Try to pick the 12 teams that will make the playoffs this year. If you follow trends it won’t be easy because for 16 years in a row five teams not in the playoffs the year before have made it. It’s been nine years in a row that a last-place team the year before made the playoffs. And, it’s six straight years that a 10-loss team the year before made the playoffs.
5: Still trying to decide on your first-week picks? In the last five years teams playing their home openers went 51-29 for a .637 winning percentage. For the season home teams won 56.6 percent of the time. Not much difference, but 7 percent could be enough to sway you on some undecided games.
6: This is looking like a shaky year for left tackles in the NFL and that could mean more quarterback injuries. Granted, there are 17 starting left tackles that are former first-round picks and most of them are more than adequate. That leaves 15 teams with guys that are rookies or were street free agents, college free agents or late-round picks. I asked a former offensive line coach to look at all 32 starting left tackles and answer the question: How many of these guys can block a good pass rusher by themselves on a consistent basis? He felt fewer than half of the starters could handle things alone. Consider unproven rookies Matt Kalil (Vikings), Cordy Glenn (Bills) and Michael Harris (Chargers), and journeymen D’Anthony Batiste (Cardinals), King Dunlap (Eagles), Sean Locklear (Giants). Throw in guys who gave up more than nine sacks last year -- J’Marcus Webb, Marshall Newhouse, Tyron Smith, Eugene Monroe and D’Brickashaw Ferguson -- and quarterbacks better get rid of the ball quicker than they are accustomed.