IRVING, Texas (AP) - There are so many ways to hype the Colts-Cowboys game Thursday night.
Wade Phillips making his debut as Dallas coach against a team playing its first game since being crowned Super Bowl champions!
The Colts returning to Texas Stadium, where their bid for a perfect season ended after a 9-0 start last November!
Dallas' upstart quarterback Tony Romo vs. the standard of excellence, Indianapolis' Peyton Manning!
And how about this for a new grudge between franchises linked since the Colts beat the Cowboys with a field goal in the final seconds of Super Bowl V: Indianapolis seeking payback for the May vote that awarded the 2011 Super Bowl to Dallas' new stadium instead of its own!
Alas, this is only the preseason — worse yet, the opener. Not even Fox, which will televise the game to a national audience, has enough exclamation points to make this game more meaningful than it really is. Uh, isn't.
"You do like to go down there and play well and try to put on a good performance. It just makes you feel better about yourself," Manning said. "But, ultimately, it's about doing what you have to do to get ready for the regular season."
Phillips and Indianapolis coach Tony Dungy will be far more interested in examining the bottom 30 players on their rosters than the top 30. That, plus the fear of injury, is why Romo, Manning and most known commodities will play about one quarter, if that much.
"We will probably have more of a mass substitution at the tail end of the first quarter," Dungy said.
Still, this game will help both teams start compiling the answers to the biggest questions they face heading into this season. For Indianapolis, it's how they will replace injured defensive tackle Anthony McFarland and retired left tackle Tarik Glenn. For Dallas, it's whether Phillips and his new staff can get more out of virtually the same lineup that went 9-7 and didn't win a playoff game for Bill Parcells last season.
Although this is Phillips' 31st year in the NFL and his third stint as a head coach, he's excited about stepping onto the field, looking up at the hole in the roof and knowing he's in charge. Offensive coordinator Jason Garrett likely will get a similar thrill in his first time on the Dallas sideline since he was Troy Aikman's backup in 1999.
As much as the newcomers want to see their players handle live action, they'll have to balance that with revealing little about the new playbook.
"I'm not for hiding everything," Phillips said. "If you don't ever run it in the game and then all of a sudden you try during the regular season, you're not able to execute well."
Ken Hamlin, signed this offseason to settle the free safety spot, likely will sit out because of a recent hit to the head. Linebacker Greg Ellis isn't back from a torn Achilles' tendon that ended his 2006 season, making room in the starting lineup for top pick Anthony Spencer.
On offense, the Cowboys will be without receiver Terry Glenn and both starting tackles, Flozell Adams and Marc Colombo, all because of recent knee surgeries. Terrell Owens is expected to play despite having missed some practice earlier this week because of back spasms.