The preseason has come and gone, and now every game moving forward counts. For the New York Giants, they begin their quest for Super Bowl championship No. 5, which will be decided at MetLife Stadium in February, by taking on NFC East rival Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium tonight.
The numbers are all there — they've been beaten to death. Big Blue is 4-0 at the newly named AT&T Stadium, while the Cowboys have gone undefeated (6-0) against the Giants in season openers. Ultimately, one of those streaks will continue and one of them will come to an end on Sunday night. Which is which will depend on a number of things … so let's begin, shall we?
Test Cowboys Secondary Early
Quarterback Eli Manning hasn't had tremendous success against the Tampa 2 throughout his career (we'll get to that more later), but with the Cowboys' recent switch to the 4-3 Cover 2, it offers a unique opportunity to test their adaption to the new system. Primarily, Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr have been press corners who will now have to change their style of play to meet this scheme. Add in that Clairborne has taken precious few snaps in this new system, and Dallas' weakness at safety, and Manning may (see: should) be able to change his historical fortunes.
Attack Tony Romo Repeatedly
With questions in the secondary, many might be weary of the Giants sending the house. However, with a completely shuffled offensive line, the Cowboys have a multitude of problems up front. There's no telling how they'll be able to handle a revitalized and healthy Giants defensive line, so getting to Romo will be a key. Keep him moving, force him to make throw on the run and get in his head. Ultimately, this will lead to turnovers. However, if the defense loses contain, Romo could hurt them with his feet. It's one of those risk/reward scenarios.
Shut Down DeMarcus Ware
With no Jay Ratliff and no Anthony Spencer, the Cowboys are a bit thin along their defensive front. Their primary threat is DeMarcus Ware, who is arguably one of the most dominant defenders in the league. And with 13.5 sacks against Eli Manning, there's no denying that he shows up big when these two teams meet. As such, the onus falls onto Will Beatty and, potentially, rookie tackle Justin Pugh. Those two will need to match his big game play and keep their quarterback upright and in the pocket. If they can't, it's going to be a long day for Kevin Gilbride and the New York Giants offense.
Eli Manning vs. Tampa 2 Defense
As we mentioned earlier, Manning has struggled mightily in his career against Tampa 2 defenses — 9 TDs/14 INTs in 12 games versus Tampa 2 defenses — but those struggles have comes against teams who were comfortable and confident in that scheme. That may not be the case for the Cowboys who will play a 4-3 Cover 2 for the very first time in a regular season game on Sunday night.
BIG GAME ALERT
Wide receiver, Hakeem Nicks
Nicks is back, he's healthy and he's beyond excited to get out on the field and play for a big money contract. Win, lose or draw, Nicks is going to have a big game to reestablish himself as one of the premiere wide receivers in the NFL.
Look for Manning to target him early and often, and expect to see over 100 yards and at least one touchdown out of No. 88.
Perhaps it's nothing more than the Giants playing possum, but to say they seemed to lack confidence heading into this game would be an understatement. Cornerback Terrell Thomas went as far as to say the team isn't all that worried about this game and are already looking ahead. Meanwhile, Jason Pierre-Paul has remained skeptical about his availability and conditioning, and said if his reps were to be limited, he simply wouldn't play. Needless to say, this doesn't sound like a team who really "wants it." As a result, the Cowboys will move to 7-0 against the Giants in season openers.
Cowboys 31, Giants 21
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