Two NFC East teams try to avoid starting their season 0-2 on Sunday night. It’s not a death sentence, but 0-2 teams face an uphill battle to make the playoffs.
The Giants took on the tough Jaguars defense last week, but debuted their new Head Coach in Pat Shurmur and an explosive playmaker in running back Saquon Barkley.
After losing to the Jags, my big takeaway that the Giants offense is definitely improved from last season, especially with Odell Beckham Jr. back on the field and Shurmur calling plays. The Cowboys lost to the Panthers in week 1, only getting 8 points on the board.
The offense was lackluster, mostly due to a lack of creativity in play calling and the inability of receivers to get separation. The defense impressed however, forcing Cam Newton to bail out of the pocket and smothering Panthers receivers in coverage.
The Vegas line has been set at -3 in favor of the Cowboys, and an Over/Under set at 42.
Skip and Shannon: UNDISPUTED
New York Giants
The most impressive Giant in week 1 was undoubtedly Odell Beckham Jr. Beckham caught 11 balls on 15 targets for 111 yards, and consistently got separation against two of the leagues top corners in AJ Bouye and Jalen Ramsey.
Eli Manning looked more confident in Pat Shurmur’s offense, even if the box score doesn’t show it, and rookie Saquon Barkley showed exactly why he was the 2nd overall pick in last years draft. After being mostly stifled against the Jags front 7, Barkley broke open the game with a 68 yard run, breaking multiple tackles and racing in for a score.
Defensively, the Giants looked improved from last year as well. Cornerbacks Eli Apple and Janoris Jenkins were consistently torched in 2017, but looked solid against Jacksonville, combining to allow just 54 yards on 9 targets, adding 2 pass breakups and a Jenkins interception.
Injuries and Inactive Watch
EDGE Olivier Vernon (ankle) – DNP Wed and Thurs. expected to play, WR Sterling Shepard (back)– limited Wed. expected to play
Dallas really struggled offensively against the Panthers, something I didn’t fully anticipate. Jason Garrett and offensive coordinator Scott Linehan really have to be looking over their shoulder if they continue to call the offense the way they did last week. The Cowboys essentially refused to give star running back Ezekiel Elliott the ball in the first half.
Quarterback Dak Prescott had 39 dropbacks in the game, which is not a formula the Cowboys need to follow if they want to be competitive. The Cowboys lack of receivers really showed, and no one could find any space against the Panthers subpar corners.
The Cowboys front 7 was all over the Panthers run game, constantly stopping Christian McCaffery and Cam Newton at the Line of Scrimmage. They did allow a few chunk runs, but that is to be expected with players as dynamic as McCaffery and Newton.
Edge Rushers Taco Charlton and DeMarcus Lawrence regularly beat the Panthers OT’s, combining for 7 QB pressures. In the back end, the Cowboys corners played fairly well, mostly keeping receivers in front of them, and allowing little yards after the catch.
Injuries and Inactive Watch
C Travis Frederick (illness) – still expected to be out for a few weeks, S Xavier Woods (hamstring) – DNP Wed. and Thurs. Questionable., EDGE Randy Gregory (concussion)- DNP Wed. and Thurs. Questionable.
Matchups to Watch
Giants OTs vs Cowboys EDGE
Giants Odell Beckham Jr. vs Cowboys CBs
Cowboys OL vs Giants DL
Cowboys Zeke Elliott vs Giants LBs
This game really comes down to two things. If the Cowboys can get the run game going early, Zeke could carry the Cowboys all night. It won’t be easy however, as the Giants defensive line has some monsters up front in Damon Harrison and Dalvin Tomlinson, but if they can get Elliott into the second level, he should feast against the Giants weak linebackers.
The Giants game plan needs to revolve around OBJ. They did a nice job last week getting him lined up in a variety of positions and having him run a multitude of routes. The Cowboys secondary can struggle with speed, and Beckham could be in line for another big game.
We anticipate that the Cowboys get Zeke involved a little more this week, realizing that their receiving corp probably won’t get it done again, and finding a way to get him the ball in the passing game as well.
We also think the Cowboys defense will do a solid job of containing Saquon Barkley. He may pop off a long run or 2, but expect a lot of runs for minimal or negative gain. Dallas should also have no issue getting pressure off the edge with Lawrence and Charlton, as the Giants tackles do little to impress in pass blocking sets. In the end, I’m rolling with the better defense at home, looking for the ‘Boys to step it up offensively‘.
Final Pick: Dallas (-3)