BERGEN COUNTY, N.J.- This week, the New York Giants (0-1) and the Dallas Cowboys (0-1) will be locked in an old-fashioned NFC East battle under the bright lights of the retractable dome at AT&T Stadium on the national stage: Sunday Night Football.
KEYS TO A GIANTS VICTORY
1. Offensive Line play: Eli Manning, although he missed a few important completions last week, was not the biggest problem of the Giants offense. His offensive line, specifically the right side of it, was downright awful. In fact, there is not a strong enough word to describe how poorly it played. Manning was under incessant pressure throughout the entire game, forcing him into quick, rash decisions like his tipped pick-six, which was more than the difference on Sunday.
In Ereck Flowers’ answers today, one thing stood out: he said on first play, he didn’t know Calais Campbell was more of power guy, not speed guy. He got caught cheating for a speed rush and was beaten inside.
I wish I followed up, but my first thought was: no scouting report?
— Art Stapleton (@art_stapleton) September 10, 2018
A missed assignment is bad, but the only player that actually played worse than Flowers last week was fellow right-side offensive lineman: Patrick Omameh. While the Giants cannot make any huge personnel moves at the moment, I have created an emergency contingency plan (yes, it is already time for one) with the personnel they already have here.
2. Force Dak Prescott to be a quarterback: The Giants know that Dak Prescott is not the Prescott of the ’16 playoffs. Take your pick of any of the endless reasons why the Cowboys cannot score: safety net Jason Witten has since retired, a lack of talent at wide receiver, an offensive scheme that does not accentuate the talents of Prescott, a lame head coach in Garrett, etc. The fact of the matter is, in week one: Prescott was sacked 6 times (T-2nd most), he did not throw one, single touchdown pass, and the Cowboys passed the ball for the third-least amount of yards in the National Football League. The Cowboys scored only one touchdown late into the fourth quarter. Giants’ safety Landon Collins knows it is about executing this upcoming week’s game plan:
— Jordan Raanan (@JordanRaanan) September 12, 2018
3. An Eye on the injury list + a little luck: Perhaps some good news (for now) for Big Blue is that key members of the Cowboys’ defensive line did not practice Wednesday. Franchise-tagged starting left defensive end Demarcus Lawrence remains questionable for Sunday night’s game after suffering a groin injury. The feeling around the team, however, is that he will play.
DeMarcus Lawrence (groin) did not practice today but the Cowboys are not concerned about his availability for Sunday. More of a precaution today. #cowboyswire
— Rob Phillips (@robphillips3) September 12, 2018
Defensive end Randy Gregory is still nursing a knee injury and also remains in concussion protocol after sustaining injuries last week that sidelined him in the second quarter. He has yet to practice this week. “[Cowboys Head Coach Jason] Garrett said Gregory remains in concussion protocol, but the team is hopeful that he’ll be ready to go as the week goes on.”
KEYS TO A COWBOYS VICTORY
1. Dak Prescott: Plain and simple, Cowboys Nation needs Prescott to return to the guy they remember from the 2016 Playoffs. Kate Hairopoulos, sportswriter for the Dallas Morning News noted, from week one that: “Prescott had trouble getting the ball to receivers even when they were wide open, memorably when he threw short to Blake Jarwin in the second quarter, unable to set his feet after debating running with the ball. It probably cost them a touchdown. In the third quarter Prescott also simply missed Beasley when he had worked his way open. Garrett and his staff need to do a better job of incorporating play action into their Sunday Night repertoire: make the Giants commit to the run, then Prescott must be able to find and hit a wide receiver in isolation. These types tend to be high-reward plays without much of a risk.
2. Run the ball: After having defended superstar running back Leonard Fournette (for only half of the game), the Giants rank in the worst third from week one in terms of surrendered rushing yards (137) and they rank in the worst third in terms of average yards per rush (4.9). Incredibly, they gave up the third longest run of the week (41 yards)… to BLAKE BORTLES, A QUARTERBACK! Ezekiel Elliott needs to feast on this Giants’ rushing defense, which can’t seem to even catch a cold.
3. Prevent a shootout: Where the Cowboys could find themselves in trouble is if the game develops into a shootout. With the Giants’ offensive weapons, the Cowboys will not earn a win if the game develops into a shootout. With a wide receiving depth chart that features Terrance Williams, Deonte Thompson, Cole Beasley, and Tavon Austin, what kind of production are they getting from the position anyway?The Cowboys’ offense needs to dictate the pace of play for this game, keeping Manning and Co. off the field for as long as possible. They can do this on the shoulders of Elliott and a scrambling Prescott. Having a run-heavy offensive strategy will keep the clock moving which, in turn, will translate to longer possessions. Longer Cowboys’ possessions, obviously, means that less of the clock will be at the Giants’ disposal.
The Dallas Cowboys’ offense has too many new parts without enough experience. Prescott and his receivers won’t get on the same page between now and Sunday and, quite frankly, it’s hard to forget and move on from getting sacked six times in one game. What trust does he have in his offensive line? In how many milliseconds could his receivers get open? This offense needs more time to gel. Furthermore, with the Cowboys’ defensive line injury question marks, the Giants’ offensive line might earn themselves a last-minute reprieve. With time (and play action), Eli Manning is an entirely different quarterback.
Score prediction: Giants 17, Cowboys 9