Welcome to the 2016 NFL season. After months and months of talking about how good this year’s Cowboys team is going to be, the time has finally come to found out. For the fourth time in last five years, the Cowboys will open up the season playing the New York Giants. Dallas has owned New York in recent years, winning five of the last six meetings. The Cowboys only loss in that span happens to be the last time these two teams met. The Giants won 27-20 in week seven of last year. This game featured a very unimpressive three-interception performance by Matt Cassel.
Over the last few years there really hasn’t been too much to be worried about with this Giants team. Defensively, they’ve been lousy. Last season, they finished dead last in yardage allowed, giving up 420 yards per game. That would explain why the Giants went out and completely revamped their defense. They spent a lot of money bringing in defensive linemen Olivier Vernon and Damon "Snacks" Harrison as well as adding cornerback Janoris Jenkins. They also spent their first draft pick on cornerback Eli Apple. These additions won’t immediately make the Giants a top-notch defense, but it will definitely help this team.
As much as their defense should improve this season, the Giants do their real damage on offense. But this wasn’t the case a few years ago. Under then offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride the Giants offense ranked 28th in the league in scoring. Then, upon the transition to new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo the Giants improved to 13th in scoring in 2014 and then finished 6th last year, scoring 26.2 points a game. McAdoo now assumes the head coach position replacing Tom Coughlin. The Giants new head coach has injected new life into Eli Manning and the passing game as Manning has thrown for over 4,400 yards in each of the last two seasons. And let’s not forget about Odell Beckham Jr. The Giants superstar receiver has tore it up in his two seasons in the NFL. OBJ has had 15 games of 100+ yards receiving. Expect them to be at it again this season.
But don’t be surprised if OBJ and the Giants offense doesn’t roll all over the Cowboys.
Despite wreaking so much havoc in this league, Beckham Jr. hasn’t done a whole lot against Dallas. Yes, there was that one game. You know the game. The game that, despite being only his seventh career game, immortalized him as the world’s greatest receiver in the history of the NFL. Props to him. That was a great performance. He had 10 catches for 146 yards. Too bad it had to happen in a losing effort.
But what about the other three games he’s had against the Cowboys? Here are the numbers from those games:
- 4 catches, 34 yards (6 targets)
- 5 catches, 44 yards (8 targets)
- 4 catches, 35 yards (6 targets)
Three of his worst five performances have come at the hands of the Cowboys, including both of their games last year. And after posterizing Brandon Carr in 2014, the Cowboys seem hell bent on making sure Beckham doesn’t beat them again. Besides low reception numbers, Eli has shown that he’s not even throwing to him all that much. Do the Cowboys have a secret weapon? Well, sort of. For starters, OBJ hasn’t been able to anything against Morris Claiborne. During Beckham’s huge game, Claiborne was already out for the season with a knee injury. Last season, with Mo on the field, OBJ was a complete non-factor. With Claiborne healthy and having a great camp, he could be just what the Cowboys need to try to hinder Beckham’s effectiveness. Not only that, but Orlando Scandrick returns and will give the secondary additional help.
It may seem like the Cowboys just over-commit in stopping Beckham and force others to beat them. Well, as much as Manning has been racking up the yardage in recent years, he didn’t break the 200 yards passing mark in either of the two games last season and Manning didn’t throw a single touchdown.
So, if the passing game hasn’t been hurting the Cowboys, then the Giants must be doing their damaging on the ground, right?
The Giants can’t run on Dallas. There have been a few instances where a Giants running back breaks off a nice run. Darkwa did it for 15 yards, Shane Vareen escaped for a 39-yard run, and even Rashad Jennings had a nice 27-yard run late in the fourth quarter of last year’s opener. But those runs are few and far between. The Cowboys keep the Giants running game in check.
In reality, they’ve kept the entire Giants offense in check. Of the Giants five touchdowns they scored against the Cowboys last year, only two of them were from the offense. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie had two defensive scores and Dwayne Harris returned a kickoff for a touchdown.
So, even with the high-powered west coast offense that the Giants execute so well, the Cowboys have done a good job fending them off. Does Rod Marinelli have the Giants figured out? New York will come out dinking and dunking as they work the short passing game to move the ball, but the Cowboys have done a great job of keeping them out of the end zone. While it is reasonable to worry about the Cowboys defense against one of the stronger offensive teams in the league, at least it’s good to see that they have already demonstrated that they can live up to the challenge.
The only question is – can they keep living up to it? How many points do you see the Giants offense scoring?