New York Giants are the team to beat

The New York Giants will look to start the season off on the right foot against the Cowboys. Joe Camporeale/US Presswire

Adam Schefter answers reader questions in his mailbag twice a week. Got a query of your own? Submit it here.

Q: Who do you think will be the X factor in the Giants-Cowboys game on Wednesday? Do you think Jason Witten will play?

-- Christian (Rhode Island)

A: I don't think Witten will play, Christian. Last week, I had one person tell me the chances of him playing were "not good." Another said it was "extremely unlikely." This is not a knee or shoulder injury that a player plays through. This involves an internal organ, and it's not easy. Until doctors clear him, he won't be on the field. As for the X factors, they always involve turnovers. Both these teams are good enough and explosive enough that it often comes down to which holds on to the football. The team that does usually wins. Plus, the Giants being at home, with the emotion of playing in front of a crowd celebrating a Super Bowl, will be difficult for Dallas to overcome. There's a reason it has been nearly a decade since the road team has won the kickoff game.

Q: How do you think Peyton Manning will perform in Week 1? How much rust do you expect?

-- Jason (Nebraska)

A: I think Manning will get better as the season progresses, Jason, but I happen to think he's going to come out and play pretty well out of the gate. He has had this date circled for so long. Plus, Pittsburgh will be without starting safety Ryan Clark, and we saw the difference that made when the Steelers lost to Denver in the wild-card round in January. I would be surprised if Manning didn't play well Sunday night.

Q: Adam, how important is this season for Tony Romo? If he doesn't lead the Cowboys to the playoffs, could he lose his job?

-- Avery (New York)

A: We probably could have said the same thing about him in each of the previous seasons, Avery. If Romo fails to get the job done again this year, my question would be: Who are the Cowboys going to get at quarterback who is better? Is there a quarterback upgrade out there and available? If there was, teams such as Arizona and Buffalo and Oakland might have been all over him. Good quarterbacks are tough to come by, and no matter how much some Cowboys fans don't think so, Romo is one of the better quarterbacks in the game. So my sense is that Romo's not in as much danger of losing his job as some Cowboys fans would like.

Q: Adam, who are a couple sleeper teams in each conference that you like to make the playoffs? Could my Carolina Panthers get in this season?

-- Mason (Michigan)

A: I like the Panthers, Mason. They're one of the teams that I think will be improved this season. I also really like the Seattle Seahawks and the Indianapolis Colts to surprise some people. I believe people are underestimating the Seahawks' defense and the intangibles that Russell Wilson brings. And as for the Colts, I can see them making a run at a playoff spot. It's going to be tough to dethrone the Houston Texans, but my belief is the Colts will be the league's most improved team and will have the greatest increase in the number of wins from last season.

Q: How much playing time do you expect the Minnesota Vikings to give Adrian Peterson? Do you think that it's worth playing him against a team Minnesota should beat anyway?

-- Austin (Nevada)

A: Forget about the team they're playing, Austin. They need to do what's best for the team and for Peterson. And it certainly sounds like the Vikings are taking a long-range view on this, preparing to play Peterson only when he's healthy. They say it's a game-time decision, and my sense is Peterson will be out there in a limited capacity on Sunday. But with how much they have riding on him, maybe the Vikings wait a week, until Week 2, when they play at Indianapolis. Again, the Vikings say they haven't made a decision and won't until Sunday. But what they do should have nothing to do with who they're playing.