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Giants vs. Cowboys: 10 things to watch for

Posted Sep 9, 2017

Here are 10 storylines to follow as the Giants start the regular season against the Cowboys Sunday night:

1. CAN’T GET ENOUGH

The NFL couldn’t help itself. Since the league released the 2017 schedule in late April, the Giants knew they would be going back to Dallas in Week 1 for the third year in a row and fourth time in the last five seasons. The NFC East rivals split their last two openers at AT&T Stadium in games decided by one point apiece. The Giants are 5-3 at the current home of the Cowboys, winning their first four trips as well as their most recent one last year.

2. CONTROLLING THE NFC EAST

Dallas enters this year’s contest as the reigning NFC East champion and No. 1 seed in the conference after a 13-3 campaign. Two of the losses were to the Giants, who won in Weeks 1 and 14 to bookend an 11-game winning streak by the Cowboys. The Giants have not won the NFC East since their Super Bowl XLVI run, while there has not been a repeat division champion since the Eagles from 2001-2004.

3. GIANTS INJURY REPORT

Out: LB Keenan Robinson (concussion)

Questionable: WR Odell Beckham Jr. (ankle)

4. COWBOYS INJURY REPORT

Out: LB Anthony Hitchens (ankle)

Questionable: CB Jourdan Lewis (hamstring)

5. ZEKE TO PLAY

Although Ezekiel Elliott’s six-game suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy was upheld, the 2016 rushing champion will be allowed to play Sunday night. Elliott rushed for 158 yards and a touchdown on 44 carries in two games against the Giants, who had been preparing for him to play all along in Week 1. Meanwhile, the Giants will also be facing quarterback Dak Prescott, the 2016 AP Offensive Rookie of the Year.



6. POSITION MATCHUP TO WATCH


Giants D-Line vs. Cowboys O-Line. On one side, the Giants boast Jason Pierre-Paul (two-time Pro Bowler), Olivier Vernon (second-team All-Pro) and Damon Harrison (first-team All-Pro). On the other, the Cowboys have a trio of first-team All-Pros: left tackle Tyron Smith, center Travis Frederick and right guard Zack Martin. Let the fun begin.

7. INDIVIDUAL MATCHUP TO WATCH

CB Janoris Jenkins vs. WR Dez Bryant. En route to his first Pro Bowl nod in his first season as a Giant, Jenkins, a sixth-year cornerback, was a key member on a secondary that allowed just 15 passing touchdowns, the second-fewest in the league. None of those were to Bryant, a three-time Pro Bowler who had just 18 receiving yards in two games while going up against one of the best secondaries in the game.

8. BACK & BETTER THAN EVER

Out of the Giants’ 22 starters from the 2016 opener, 15 are projected to start in the same game a year later. Two more -- right tackle Bobby Hart and running back Paul Perkins – also started at times for the Giants last season and are expected to be in those roles on Sunday night.

9. STEPPING UP

Despite the core of the lineup returning, the Giants still had their share of holes to fill. The free-agent additions include six-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Brandon Marshall and veteran tight end Rhett Ellison. And for the first time since Jeremy Shockey in 2002, the Giants drafted a tight end in the first round with the selection of Evan Engram. He led a six-member draft class that also includes defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson, who looks to follow in the footsteps of Linval Joseph and Johnathan Hankins.

Meanwhile, B.J. Goodson, who played just 13 defensive snaps as a rookie last year, is now calling the shots on defense as the starting middle linebacker. Safety Darian Thompson, whose promising debut last year was cut short by injuries, is back in a starting role opposite All-Pro Landon Collins. Sunday night will be the first time seeing them all come together.

10. MEET THE NEW CAPTAINS. SAME AS THE OLD CAPTAINS

The Giants voted on their 2017 season captains this week, and the three are the same as last season: quarterback Eli Manning, linebacker Jonathan Casillas, and long snapper Zak DeOssie. McAdoo will also name additional game-by-game captains as he did last year.

“The group of captains is a special group of men,” coach Ben McAdoo said. “Obviously, Eli’s history in this building speaks for itself, and a lot of the things that he has accomplished with this team. Just a tremendous pro. Zak, you know he is an all-day, everyday type guy. He’s a man’s man. He really gets that special teams unit going. He ignites them. He leads by example and he knows how to push some buttons, which is always great. J.C. has been a few different places and I think he has found a good home here. He’s a guy who has football get-it. We are fortunate to have all of those guys.”