It’s that time of the year again. Football season is back and the New York Giants are starting their season on the road against their NFC East rival the Dallas Cowboys. This is the third consecutive year these teams have opened the season against each other on Sunday Night. With this opening series tied at one to one, both teams will look to take the lead and become one step closer to taking back the division title. Although both sides will be playing their best football in this prime time matchup, here’s a deeper look at some of the Giants keys to victory.
Week One New York Giants Keys to Victory
1) Injury Management
Giants have been no stranger to injury this preseason. Starting wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall headline the list of players who have been banged up this preseason. Both players were injured in a matchup against the Cleveland Browns a few weeks back and have made significant recoveries since.
Even at age 33, Marshall bounced back from this brief shoulder injury and reassured the public telling reporters, “I’ll be out there” for Sunday’s game. Beckham on the other hand has missed every practice since his ankle injury, although he did participate in stretching at Wednesday’s practice. Whether he suits up for this week’s game is still uncertain, but expect it to be a game time decision.
On defense, injuries aren’t as serious for the Giants as linebacker Keenan Robinson is the only starter to miss practice. Cornerbacks Eli Apple and Michael Hunter were full participation in practice this week after missing some time with injuries. Fortunately for the Giants, nobody on the 53-man roster has any significant injuries, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a risk for re-injury if rushed back too soon.
Perhaps the most pressing issue for team personnel is to carefully manage the playing time and snap count of some of the players returning from injury. Last season head coach Ben McAdoo and company were slacking in this process as many starters had extremely high snap counts compared to league averages.
2) Offensive Line Must Show Up
Weak offensive line performances seem like tradition for the Giants recently. In fact, the Giants finished 20th in Pro Football Focus’s offensive line rankings last season. Entering his third season, Ereck Flowers needs to finally be prepared for the left tackle position. His first two years with the team haven’t been too great, but he shows glimpse of incredible talent and still has the potential to be great tackle.
Reports from teammates and scouts have stated his technique improved a lot over the off-season and that needs to be true for him to keep his spot on the left side. If Flowers can show improvement, this would be a huge step towards fixing the team’s weakest link.
Opposite of Flowers on the line is former 2013 first-round pick D.J. Fluker who has also seen his fair share of struggles in his first couple years in the league. Expected to play right tackle behind Bobby Hart, Fluker is another player with a lot of potential to develop into a true starter.
Considering the Cowboys defensive line is missing Randy Gregory, David Irving, and Damontre Moore due to suspensions, this unit has a perfect opportunity to capitalize on and control the game. If the Giants want to get points on the board, they’re going to need all the help they can get from their offensive line.
3) Contain the Rush
The NFL announced Tuesday night that Ezekiel Elliott’s six game suspension will be upheld, but due to legal agreements before the decision was made, Elliott would be able to play week one regardless of the outcome. The Cowboys now have their best player back and a tremendous upgrade from Darren McFadden and Alfred Morris at the running back position.
Regardless of who plays, the Giants defensive line could be the deciding factor in the game. The team finished second in the league last year in both fewest points allowed and fewest rushing yards allowed. The only modification made to last year’s starting defense is tackle Jay Bromley replacing Johnathan Hankins after leaving the team in free agency this off-season.
If the defense remains undisturbed and continues to gel, this game could very heavily swing the Giants way. Especially when you consider Dallas infamous offensive line lost Ron Leary to the Denver Broncos and Doug Free to retirement.
Although they’re coming off a phenomenal 13-3 season, the Cowboys roster has changed significantly and it’s beginning to look like a completely different team. It’s hard to know what to expect with so many uncertainties, but if the Giants can take advantage of this rebuilt unit, they could neutralize the run game and force Dak Prescott to throw into the Giants dangerous secondary led by Pro Bowlers Landon Collins and Janoris Jenkins.