The Giants hope to extend their winning streak to three games to start the season when they face off against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 3 on Monday Night Football.
Brian Daboll's squad is coming off its season debut at MetLife Stadium, where they defeated the Carolina Panthers, 19-16. Graham Gano connected on two 50+ yard field goals, including the game-winner from 56 yards which tied for the second-longest in franchise history, on his way to being named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week.
On the other sideline, the Cowboys took on the Cincinnati Bengals in their first game without starting quarterback Dak Prescott, who suffered a thumb injury in the season opener. With Cooper Rush under center, Dallas defeated the Bengals at home, 20-17, as the defense picked up six sacks.
Here are five storylines to follow in the Week 3 matchup.
1. Going for 3-0
With Sunday's win, the Giants were able to jump out to a 2-0 start for the first time since 2016. This week the Giants hope to win a third straight game to start the season, a feat the franchise has not been able to accomplish since 2009 (when the team started 5-0). Despite this week's game occurring in primetime, Daboll is making sure his team stays focused on the task at hand.
"Playing on Monday night is always special, but the things that help you win a game on Sunday at one o'clock are the things that help you win a game on Monday," said the head coach. "And I think that's where our focus needs to be is there's plenty of things that we needed to correct from Week 2, from Week 1. You're always evaluating where you're at as a team, whether it's after a loss, after a win. You're doing research on scheduling, making adjustments. You never want to come out and say, 'Well, we weren't prepared in that regard.' We're working hard to keep improving as an organization all the way around. We look forward to playing on Monday night and trying to build off on some of the things we did well and improve on the things we haven't done well."
Heading into Week 3, the Giants are one of just six teams able to start the season with two wins. Joining them are the Philadelphia Eagles, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins and Kansas City Chiefs. Since 1990, 63.0 percent of teams starting 2-0 have gone to the postseason, while that number jumps up to 74.4 percent for teams that start the year 3-0.
"It's crazy to look far in the future," safety Julian Love said on Monday. "We've seen many teams in NFL history that start a certain way, finish a certain way, it's the NFL. Things can happen any week. Our biggest game of the year is this week because it's the next game. Simply put. On an outside standpoint I think (Head Coach Brian) Daboll has done a great job of emphasizing what's important. He harped on it today with us and we I think as a team understand. We won two games. I know it's a little different than it has been in the past few years but at the end of the day it's two games. We want to stack and just go 1-0 next week."
2. First NFC East battle and a "white out" in primetime
The Giants will begin their six-game NFC East slate with Monday's showdown against the Cowboys. Following this week's game, they will not face another division opponent until Thanksgiving when they travel to Dallas in Week 12, which starts a four-week stretch against the NFC East.
Monday's game also represents the team's first time playing in primetime this season. The Giants have not had good fortune playing in the national spotlight over the last few seasons; they have lost 10 consecutive games under the lights dating to Week 10 of the 2018 season, when they defeated the San Francisco 49ers, 27-23, on Monday Night Football.
But it's a new era of Giants football, and for the first primetime game under Brian Daboll, the team is doing something special. The Giants will be donning their white color rush uniforms Monday night. The team is asking fans to once again bring the energy they showed in the home opener, as well as match the team by wearing all white. Yes, we're talking about a "white out."
"I would just say again the fan support's been great," said Daboll. "It was awesome last week. Looking forward to it this week. I think the most important thing is trying to do our job and play well, and you can definitely feed off of the energy that they're providing when we make a good play or we make a good stop. I mean, it was hard to hear out there for Carolina, I know. And that's like, you say the twelfth man. That's like the twelfth man. It's hard to operate offensive football when it's that loud. So, obviously everybody gets juiced up a little bit after good plays. I think the crowd really was great, and we'll do our best to help them be great again by playing well."
3. Starting fast
In each of the first two games of the season, the Giants needed late comebacks in order to pick up victories. The offense gained only 50 yards, three first downs and six points in the first half against the Panthers last week, and in the season opener, they were shut out completely by the Titans.
"That's an important part of the game for us is trying to get off for a fast start," Daboll said on Monday. "That doesn't always happen. The last two games are the only two games to go by in terms of the regular season. So, we'll continue to work at that and put together some good openers. It takes everybody – the coaching, the playing – everybody. And it's something we'll work on…
"I think we go into the week and the game trying to put together the best plan we can. And I think the offensive coaches do a really good job. Again, we haven't had the results that we're hoping for, but I believe in the process and the preparation that those guys do. We'll continue to try to do a better job at that."
A big part of starting fast will be getting Saquon Barkley going early. Through the first two games, Barkley has rushed for 45 yards on 11 carries (4.1 avg.) in the first half, including only three yards on the ground against Carolina. But his numbers jump up to an impressive 191 yards on 28 attempts (6.8 avg.) in the second half. Coincidence or not, 34 of the team's 40 total points have also come in the second half. Establishing the run early should help the Giants jump out to a faster start against Dallas, who rank 19th in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game (120.5).
View rare photos from the historic rivalry between the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys.
4. Injury updates: status of Kayvon & Azeez
The first official injury report will not be released until Thursday, but Daboll revealed some injury updates on Wednesday. Outside linebackers Kayvon Thibodeaux (knee) and Azeez Ojulari (calf) have been sidelined for the first two games as they work back from their respective injuries. Daboll said that the pair of edge rushers are still "day-to-day" but that both would participate in team drills and are improving.
"They're getting close," Daboll said on Wednesday. "They're going to take some team reps today. So, I think they took a little bit last week, but they're going to take more this week. They're getting close, so we'll see with them. I'd say they're still day-to-day even though they're on the close side."
Leonard Williams left Sunday's game against the Panthers with a knee injury and was ruled out almost immediately. The defensive lineman has never missed a game in his eight-year career, and Daboll said it was too early to tell if he'd make it back in time for Monday's game.
"Leo's rehabbing," said Daboll. "Again, Leo's a quick healer. He tells me he's a quick healer. So, I'm not going to put it past Leo to be ready to go. Would it shock me either way? No. But he'll stay in; he'll get treatment today during practice, so you guys know. I that's the best thing for him."
The head coach also shared that wide receiver Wan'Dale Robinson (knee) is "close" but would not partake in practice Wednesday. The same goes for cornerback Aaron Robinson, who's recovering from last week's procedure that saw his appendix removed. Additionally, wide receivers Kadarius Toney (hamstring soreness) and Sterling Shepard (rest), along with defensive back Nick McCloud (hamstring), did not practice Wednesday.
5. Slowing down Dallas pass rush; Cowboys scouting report
The Cowboys' defense starts with All-Pro linebacker Micah Parsons. Last year's Defensive Rookie of the Year is off to another stellar start in 2022 with four sacks in the first two games. The talented second-year linebacker has added seven quarterback hits to his season stats as well, while his 92.2 overall grade from Pro Football Focus is the second-highest of any player in the NFL this season (Kansas City Chiefs DL Chris Jones leads the league with his 92.5).
"He's a problem," Daboll told the media. "He's a dynamic football player. And he can play multiple spots. He does. You'll see him at linebacker; you'll see him at defensive end. He has rare pass-rush ability. We're going to have to have a good plan for him. He's fun to watch when you're not getting ready to play him. I'll give him that compliment. He just does things that are pretty impressive on the football field...
"I've seen him play in a variety of spots. He plays in the stack behind a loaded-up box. He'll play on one –. We have to know obviously where he's at. But our tackles are going to have to do a good job, too. You can't chip him or ... You can't do it on every single play. I think that's the beauty of where they move him around. I think (Dallas defensive coordinator Dan) Coach Quinn does a great job with his scheme. He's a dynamic player."
Defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence is another player who cannot be overlooked. The veteran missed 10 games last season due to injury, but came back to register three sacks over the final six games. In 13 career games against the Giants, Lawrence has seven sacks and four forced fumbles. Third-year cornerback Trevon Diggs is also coming off a season in which he led the NFL with 11 interceptions and was named All-Pro.
Moving over to the offense, the Cowboys are unlikely to have quarterback Dak Prescott for this week's game, meaning the defense will face off against Cooper Rush. Rush, who had a brief stint on the Giants practice squad in 2020, completed 61.3 percent of his passes last week for 235 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions in the win over Cincinnati.
Dallas' offensive playmakers are off to a slow start this year. Running back Ezekiel Elliott has just 105 yards on 25 carries (4.2 avg.) and has been unable to find the end zone, while Tony Pollard has gained a mere 51 yards on 15 attempts (3.4 avg.) with one score. Meanwhile, wide receiver CeeDee Lamb has caught just nine passes for 104 yards. The Cowboys' leading receiver is Noah Brown, who has totaled 10 receptions for 159 yards and a touchdown. Additionally, the status of tight end Dalton Schultz is up in the air as the talented tight end hurt his knee against the Bengals. The offense has already been playing without standout left tackle Tyron Smith, who suffered a serious hamstring injury last month.
The Giants will wear their all-white Color Rush uniforms on Monday Night Football against the Cowboys.