So hands up. Who saw last week’s game against the Bengals coming? Whether you did or had your reservations before the game, it was a stark difference in terms of desire and execution from the team, and that makes for happy fans.
Well the good news is that the Dallas Cowboys grab a huge win in Week 2; now sitting at 1-1 after a shaky opener, and with momentum going into this week's game versus the New York Giants. The problem with that statement is that the Giants are also playing with confidence after going 2-0 this week, beating the Carolina Panthers at home.
Looking at both teams historically, the Cowboys beat the Giants twice last year. In fact, the last ten matchups between the two teams have the Cowboys at only one loss, and the Cowboys overall are 71-47-2 against the Giants since entering the league. But what about the present? Let’s take a look at both rosters and which team wins based on a head-to-head matchup of offensive positions.
Daniel Jones vs Cooper Rush
Well this is a lot more interesting to look at this time around compared to last week. The first reason is we have seen a full game from a backup QB, and the second reason is the other plays like a backup QB.
After two weeks, Cooper Rush already has a higher offensive rating than Daniel Jones. Rush currently ranks 30th with a PFF rating of 53.6. Daniel Jones ranks 32nd out of a possible 36 ranked players. He’s tried to build a chemistry with his offense, and so far with questionable results. By now we all know what Jones is and what he’s not. He’s not a guy that will get the team huge yards. The ball has as much chance to go the other way as it does the direction he wants (currently Jones is 48-30 on his career for touchdowns to interceptions). Add on top of Jones’ issues the fact that he also has 37 career fumbles. All this makes him one of the most turnover worthy QB’s in the league. And using recency bias to confirm this, Jones has already thrown an interception and coughed up the ball once this year.
As for Cooper Rush, in five quarters he has yet to turn the ball over, and that’s while having an average depth of target of 8.6 yards which ranks in the top ten among QB’s. Sure the sample size is small so far, but still it’s something to feel positive about going into this week’s game.
The thing for Cowboys fans to be most optimistic about when it comes to Rush was from watching last week’s game and his chemistry with the WR’s, especially if your name is Noah Brown. A fact pointed out during the game was that Rush was playing the game mostly with the second-string wide receivers. Rush spent his offseason practicing with the second string and downroster WR’s that are currently seeing snaps due to depth issues at the position. Sure, the play-calling last week went a little conservative too early during the game, but the thing going for Rush this week is he has more time in practice with the starting roster, more time for Kellen Moore to key in on the strengths of his starting QB, and most of all Rush gets more confidence this week after a good showing under center last week.
Barkley/Breida vs Elliott/Pollard
Yes, it’s true that right now Saquon Barkley is the league’s rushing leader, and he’s also just outside the top 20 in receiving yards among running backs. But his Week 1 game where he averaged 9.1 yards per carry had to regress to the mean. And in Week 2 against the Panthers we saw him level back out, averaging just 3.4 yards per carry which isn’t great. But add to the fact he’s Daniel Jones main receiving outlets on quick passes and extended hand offs shows his use as a double-edged sword for the Giants offense. For Barkley, looking through his numbers and watching last week's game, his usage as a receiver is slowly becoming less of a part of his game. In each season where he managed to remain healthy, both his targets and receiving yards have lessened each year and by a considerable amount. The final take on Barkley is the saying ”a player’s best ability is availability”, and Barkley has only played 16 games once, and that was his rookie season.
Much can be the same for Barkley’s backup Matt Breida who has had issues remaining on the field due to injuries, and so far has yet to have any major usage as a runner on this Giants offense.
On the flip side, Ezekiel Elliott had somewhat of a quiet game last week. But what is true is this was an unfair game to judge Zeke on. Where Zeke does beat Barkley is in pass blocking. So far Zeke has allowed zero sacks over the last two games and has been asked to pass block a little more than Barkley in that time. As for Tony Pollard, he is superior to Breida as an RB2, the usage and stats show this. Pollard now has 69 receiving yards on six receptions which ranks eighth among RB’s, and has 51 yards rushing which is in the top 50 among running backs. What’s also great is Pollard got into the paint last week scoring the team’s first touchdown from a back this season. Collectively, both Zeke and Pollard are a better tandem than Barkley and Breida, but never forget how much of a threat Barkley is on the Giants offense as he can hit a home run at moments notice. The question becomes is Barkley better than Zeke and Pollard combined.
Sills/Shepard/James vs Lamb/Brown/Fehoko (Gallup possibly)
Dennis Houston, who has now been waived, was a non-factor in the last game. That’s no surprise with the fact his biggest strength was his chemistry with Dak Prescott during the offseason, and Dak, as we all know, is out. But we saw the flip side of that magic word “chemistry” when we saw how in sync Rush and Noah Brown are together. Brown helped the Cowboys get five first downs, some of which were very important to help maintain drives. He also scored his first career touchdown which he well deserved in this game. He was just shy of going for 100 yards on the day, and right now leads the team in receiving yards, receptions, yards per reception and QB rating when targeted.
CeeDee Lamb left a lot to be desired in Week 1 and needed to show his resilience to bounce back from a bad week. Thankfully things were much better in Week 2. Lamb had the most receptions last week with seven and converted that into 75 yards and four first downs. But what is good to see is the concentration from Lamb and the clean routes. Sometime soon, with teams worried about the connection Brown has with his QB, expect Lamb to break off a big game receiving and getting into the end zone.
As for the Giants, their most expensive player, Kenny Golladay, still has yet to score a touchdown. This issue here is highlighting the fact the WR corps for the Giants is tied to Daniel Jones’ arm. Their leading receiver right now is Richie James Jr. who plays mostly from the slot. But out of the group, their most reliable receiver is veteran wideout Sterling Shepard. He’s the only WR that has scored a touchdown on the year, but last week he failed to get over 40 yards receiving and was clearly a part of the Panthers defensive plan. A final note on Shepard, since joining the league in 2016, he has only scored against the Cowboys twice, the last time was January 2021.
Based on the fact Michael Gallup could be back this week, and conversely for the Giants there are questions on Wan’Dale Robinson’s health to play this week, the Cowboys collectively look like a more reliable group to have and they also have first-round talent in CeeDee Lamb. Dallas wins this round
Daniel Bellinger vs Jake Ferguson (Dalton Schultz unlikely)
If Dalton Schultz plays, this matchup is a slam dunk, but it looks like the offense will be without the elite tight end this week as he nurses a PCL injury he suffered late in last week'sgame. That means this is a battle of the rookie tight ends.
For the Giants, Daniel Bellinger has already scored a touchdown on a sole reception for 16 yards.
For the Cowboys, they will be looking to play Jake Ferguson and aim to get him his first NFL reception. This is a push slightly, but the fact the Giants TE has a score compared to zero receptions to the Cowboys counterpart, this one can go to the Giants
Right now for the Cowboys, four of their top five highest-rated offensive players are offensive linemen. Tyler Smith at left tackle has started to find a groove. He allowed a sack in Week 1 and two pressures, but in Week 2 we saw him dominate his position on the left and allow only a single pressure on 36 pass blocks. But watch Smith both weeks so far as he bullied his way around on run blocking, using his super-human strength to throw his opponent around with ease. Terence Steele looked much better against the Bengals, he only allowed a single pressure on the same number of blocks. But the biggest improvement for Steele was the penalties. He had zero!
The Cowboys offensive line in general has looked better than expected even with Connor McGovern missing time. The link right now that needs taking care of is Matt Farniok. Although he has yet to allow a sack; he is giving up an average of six pressures a game. With Rush as the signal-caller, he needs as much help with the minimum amount of pressure as possible, so this could be an issue if it gets any worse.
The Giants offensive line has given up four sacks (five if you include the sack allowed by Barkley) so far this year and has given up more pressures than the Cowboys. They do however boast two first-round picks on the line and when their rookie Evan Neal finds his feet he will look to dominate at the tackle position. But this line is giving up quite a bit of pressure and has to face a defensive unit that is finding all different ways to put the QB in the dirt. The Giants offensive line has a lot of work to do this week
Who has the better offense?