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New York Giants: Three Players to Keep an Eye on vs. Dallas Cowboys in Week 1

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COMMENTARY | For the second season in a row, the New York Giants will begin the NFL season against their NFC East rivals, the Dallas Cowboys, on Sunday night at AT&T Stadium.

The opening game of the 2012 season saw the G-Men fall 24-17 to Dallas. Neither team wound up competing for the Lombardi Trophy, missing out on the postseason.

The NFC East is wide open as the 2013 NFL season approaches, and not much has changed as far as the Cowboys go. Tony Romo is still leading the offense and has aerial threats like Dez Bryant, Jason Witten and Miles Austin to shred defenses with.

Week 1 of the NFL season always presents the opportunity to see how much work a player put in during the offseason, but these three players are the guys you have to watch against the Cowboys:

Hakeem Nicks, WR

After playing in only 13 games last season and hardly making an impact for the Giants' offense, wide receiver Hakeem Nicks is definitely a player you'll want to focus on against Dallas.

Sunday night will mark Nicks' first official action since undergoing a surgical procedure on his right foot during the offseason, and New York isn't going to beat the Cowboys without Nicks making plays and drawing attention away from Victor Cruz.

New York's offense as a whole has been pretty uneventful during the preseason, but we did watch Nicks and Eli Manning connect for a touchdown against the New England Patriots in the final preseason game, much to the delight of Giants fans.

Nicks was quiet against last year's opener vs. Dallas, recording just four receptions for 38 yards. Thinking back to his 2010 and 2011 campaigns, we all know what the 6-foot-1-inch wideout is capable of.

We'll have to wait and see which Hakeem Nicks we see Sunday night.

Terrell Thomas, CB

To say that cornerback Terrell Thomas beat the odds would be an understatement.

Thomas made the Giants' 53-man roster after battling back from his third ACL operation--an injury that had many questioning the 28-year-old's NFL future. The 6-0 corner made his preseason debut against the Patriots, and although he got beat for a TD by Josh Boyce, New York fans know the caliber of Thomas' play.

In 2009 and 2010, Thomas recorded a combined 10 interceptions and forced five fumbles, and that 2010 season was highlighted by his 101 combined tackles.

Thomas currently finds himself way back on the depth chart, but he should see playing time on special teams and in nickel packages on defense.

If Thomas can stay healthy, it wouldn't be a surprise to see him surpass guys like Jayron Hosley and Aaron Ross on the depth chart at corner.

Dan Connor, MLB

Dan Connor is someone you'll want to focus on in Week 1 for multiple reasons.

For one, Connor played for the very same team he'll be lining up against in Week 1, meaning he knows the ins and outs of the Cowboys' offense and could provide New York with crucial information to game plan around.

Another reason to watch Connor is because he's played well all summer. When the preseason began, Mark Herzlich was the favorite to win the starting MLB job. But as the summer progressed, Connor continued to impress the coaching staff and won the starting job, according to the Giants' depth chart.

New York certainly had its struggles on defense last season, ranking 31st in the NFL in total defense, and will be up against an offense that ranked No. 6 in the league a season ago.

Linebacker play is what will make or break the 2013 NFL season for the Giants, and it all starts in the middle with Connor.

Pete Schauer is a native of the Jersey Shore where he's covered the New York Giants for multiple sports media outlets. You can follow him on Twitter @Pete_Schauer and find him on Google+.

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