Giants (0-0) vs Cowboys (0-0)
Last year the Cowboys finished last in the NFC East with a 4-12 record. They sunk
badly after a 12-4 first place finish the year earlier. The Giants finished third
in the division for the third consecutive year, repeating their prior years 6-10
win-loss record. The Cowboys had won the season opener with the Giants and the
Giants took the second game.
Last year Tony Romo suffered a broken
collarbone in a week 2 game with the Eagles
and returned later in the season only to be re-injured. Romo was out for the rest
of the games. With plenty of time to recover during the offseason, hopes were
high until the Cowboys second preseason game. Romo suffered a broken bone in his
back and is estimated to miss anywhere from a quarter of the season to a half.
Can the Cowboys make it to the top of the NFC East without Tony Romo?
regular season 9-7 record in 2011 got the Giants into the playoffs and they finished
out the year with an exciting Super Bowl win. That made it easy to forget that
the Giants regular season win-loss record had been steadily declining since 2010.
The sliding scale of wins was 10, 9, 9, 7, 6, 6. Over the course of that time
the Giants had replaced their offensive and defensive coordinators. Tom Coughlin
took the hit last year and offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo is the new head coach.
Now all eyes are focused on General Manager Jerry Reese for his past and more
important, current contributions for this season.
The Cowboys were 1-11 playing without
Tony Romo last year. They're without him once again and that didn't work out for
the Cowboys the last time they faced the Giants. Matt Cassel threw three interceptions
to sabotage their chances, and even though the Cowboys were able to run all over
the Giants defense for 233 yards they lost the game. Cassel is gone now and rookie
quarterback Dak Prescott will be making the throws in Romo's place. Prescott,
a quarterback pressed into making his first NFL career start, could only hope
to have the kind of running support that the Cowboys established in that last
Prescott does have what's acknowledged to be one of the best offensive
lines in the league, and he was very impressive in preseason games, completing
39 of 50 passes for 504 yards and 5 touchdowns with no interceptions. In 2014
Dez Bryant had 1320 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns, but last year Bryant was
dealing with a fractured foot and he missed games. Tight end Jason Witten became
the leading receiver for the Cowboys, and two of the three touchdown catches he
made on the full year were (of course) against the Giants.
In 2014 DeMarco
Murray was the leading rusher in the NFL and provided 1845 rushing yards and 13
touchdowns for the Cowboys. Still they let him walk with the thought being that
any proven running back would flourish behind their offensive line. Darren McFadden
was brought in to take Murray's spot and he finished with 1089 yards and 3 touchdowns.
Now the Cowboys are setting their hopes high on first-round pick Ezekiel Elliott
to be the starter.
Last year they started the season
with Greg Hardy and Rolando McClain serving four-game suspensions. Hardy is off
the team now, but in keeping with NFL tradition(?) Demarcus Lawrence and Randy
Gregory are serving four-game suspensions. McClain came in and played well after
his suspension and Sean Lee stayed healthy for the full year and he led the team
with 156 tackles. It's hard to get a run going when these two linebackers are
on the field. Now with current suspensions in effect, Kyle Wilber looks to be
in line for some additional playing in multiple positions as well as for his pass-rushing
For the secondary, the Cowboys will welcome back cornerback Orlando
Scandrick. He was the defensive MVP in 2014 and they were without him last year
when he was injured in training camp. Scandrick did suffer a groin injury during
preseason, but is set to go. They also count on reliable cornerback Brandon Carr
who took a pay cut.
The offensive line did not shine
in preseason play so it's hard to know what to expect.
Eli Manning has receivers Odell Beckham Jr., Victor Cruz and Sterling Shepard,
but he still needs time to throw the ball. The Cowboys will be without a good
pass rush so that helps, and if running back Rashad Jennings can get going early
on the Giants should be set. This year they look to go with Jennings as the main
back and have scrapped the idea of cycling runners in and out to 'see who is hot'.
That running back by committee plan likely added a few steps to Tom Coughlin being
pushed out the door (though ironically, Ben McAdoo was the offensive coordinator).
Odell Beckham Jr. learned last year that
he shouldn't put himself above the team, and it will be interesting to see how
the Cowboys cover him now, with Cruz and Shepard on the field. Cruz might be dealt
a few extra shots to make Manning worry about throwing his way too much, and talented
or not, Shepard is still a rookie playing in his first NFL game. If he works out
that would leave Dwayne Harris with more time to work on what he was brought in
for, to upgrade the special teams unit.
The Giants big weakness in the
last game they played with the Cowboys was not being able to stop the run. Tackle
Johnathan Hankins was on injured reserve at that point and now he'll be working
with free agent pick up Damon Harrison. Their run-stuffing will be assisted by
Jason Pierre-Paul who also missed that game after dealing with his injury. He
returned for the last five and is all set to go this year. While focusing on running
back Ezekiel Elliott, they'll still have to watch out for athletic quarterback
Dak Prescott for his running ability. Darren McFadden burned the Giants last time
with 152 yards and 1 touchdown.
Landon Collins has another year under his belt
after being thrown into the mix as a rookie starting safety and will also be a
help in that area. First round pick rookie cornerback Eli Apple is also in the
mix. Overall the Giants have rebuilt a defense that was the worst in the league
last season. Aside from Hankins and Harrison, they added pass rusher Olivier Verno
and corner back Janoris Jenkins. We've said it before, it doesn't matter who's
throwing the ball, covering Jason Witten is always a problem. If the defense can
stop Elliott (possible), cover Witten (half the time) and disrupt Dez Bryant (until
he has a mental break down), it's over.
have to think back to when Eli Manning was a rookie and he had the benefit of
watching and learning while Kurt Warner ran the show for nine games before making
his first start. Manning went on to lose the next six games before notching his
first win in the very last game of the season. (It was against the Cowboys by
With that thought I feel the Cowboys are asking a lot from fourth-round
rookie quarterback Dak Prescott. It's one of the reasons they recently picked
up Mark Sanchez, who knows what it feels like to run a team at full NFL game speed.
They'll be depending on a strong running game to help Prescott out, but once again
running back Ezekiel Elliott is a rookie playing in his first NFL game against
a Giants defense that looks to be well improved over last year.
NFC East Games
at 1:00pm Browns (0-0) at Eagles (0-0).
Sunday at 4:25pm Giants (0-0) at Cowboys
Monday at 7:10pm Steelers (0-0) at Redskins (0-0).
The Eagles are
favored to win and the Redskins are not in their games.
The Giants and Cowboys
are even picks in their game.
Giants had 10 losses last
year and 8 were by six points or less.
broke their five game losing streak to the Cowboys with their second match up
win last year.
Kicker Josh Brown is suspended
one game and Randy Bullock will be the kicker
for this game.
Cowboys are 8-0 against the
Giants in season openers.
up with only one win last season playing without Tony Romo.
Prescott had a preseason 137.8 passer rating with 78 percent completions, 5 TD
passes, no interceptions and two rushing touchdowns.
Prescott is just the fourth rookie quarterback to start a season opener for the
Cowboys: Roger Staubach (1969), Troy Aikman (1989) and Quincy Carter (2001).
Ezekiel Elliott is the first rookie running back to start since 1993 (Derrick
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Sept 18 - Saints at Giants.
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