Football is back! All the buildup and speculation throughout the offseason can be put to bed. We will finally have some tangible evidence as to what to expect from this 2023 Dallas Cowboys team. Their first test, the division rival New York Giants on Sunday Night Football at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
Each week we will identify a few matchups that could sway the game either way, whether in the Cowboys’ favor or not. While there are endless things to keep an eye on throughout this divisional matchup in Week 1, there are certain ones that shape up to be just a little bit more important than the others. This is what we will take a look at today.
Micah Parsons vs. Andrew Thomas
The Giants used two Top 10 picks on Andrew Thomas (fourth overall) and Evan Neal (seventh overall) in the 2020 and 2022 NFL drafts to be their starting tackles for the foreseeable future. Thomas has turned himself into one of the top young players at the position, but the Giants are hoping Neal makes a significant second-year jump this season. Last season Micah Parsons was shut out of sacks in their first meeting, but No. 11 doubled down with two QB sacks the next game. DeMarcus Lawrence has his way with Neal last year though.
Parsons' journey to become the Defensive Player of the Year in 2023 starts in Week 1 against one of the better young tackles in Thomas. He has his work cut out for him if he wants to put pressure on Daniel Jones, and Jones' mobility makes that task even more difficult. It will be up to Cowboys' DC Dan Quinn to put his superstar pass rusher in favorable situations, and if that happens, this is a matchup that could help sway the game in Dallas' favor.
Cowboys' WRs vs. Giants' secondary
In CeeDee Lamb, Brandin Cooks, and Michael Gallup the Cowboys have one of the best, if not the best, wide receiver trios in the entire league. These three will be a handful for any secondary to try to contain throughout the 2023 season, but even more so for a Giants one that is expected to start two rookies on the outside (Deonte Banks, Trey Hawkins III) with Adoree' Jackson playing in the nickel. Even if that's not how New York decides to play their CBs in Week 1, this is a matchup that heavily favors the Cowboys.
CeeDee Lamb and Brandin Cooks’ versatility to play any WR position for the Cowboys, and be equally as dangerous, is a mismatch problem for any secondary, and one Dak Prescott will try to take full advantage of. Throw in Michael Gallup's sneaky ability to take the top off of defenses, as well as Cooks', and Dallas' aerial attack should be able to pick apart New York's young secondary at will. This one matchup over any others could be the one that has the biggest impact on the outcome of the game for the Cowboys.
Cowboys' secondary vs. TE Darren Waller
This offseason the New York Giants added former Pro Bowl tight end Darren Waller to upgrade their offense and be a featured player for Daniel Jones in the passing game. The 6'6" TE has been a mismatch type of weapon throughout his career, but has struggled with nagging injuries that has hampered his production the last few seasons. Now healthy, at least for the season opener, Waller is the type of big, athletic receiving threat who could give the Cowboys secondary problems if they don't account for him down after down.
It will be interesting is to see how Dan Quinn tries to neutralize Darren Waller in the passing game. This will unlikely be a one-man job. Whether in zone or playing man-to-man, different players will have an opportunity to try to contain the Giants new TE depending on what defensive coverage Dallas is in at the time. It could be Jayron Kearse or one of the other safeties, one of Dallas' talented corners, or even LB Damone Clark. If left to run loose, this is a matchup where Waller could help sway the game in the Giants favor.