The Giants.com crew is presented with four statements and must decide whether they are Fact or Fiction.
The best non-quarterback the Giants face this season is Micah Parsons
John Schmeelk: Fact – This is a great statement for us to debate. Here's the Parsons portion of the Cowboys preview posted on Giants.com.
Micah Parsons has emerged as one of the best defensive players in the NFL in his second season. He is tied for the most sacks in the NFL with four. He also has seven official quarterback hits. According to PFF, his 13 total pressures through two games is tied for second in the NFL (Maxx Crosby has 15 but he has 29 more pass rushing snaps than Parsons). According to Seth Walder and ESPN Stats and Information, Micah Parsons is just the fifth player to record back-to-back games with a pass rush win rate of 50% or higher. The other four: Von Miller, Dwight Freeney, Robert Quinn, Melvin Ingram.
There are other contenders for this statement, such as running backs Christian McCaffrey, Derrick Henry, Dalvin Cook and Jonathan Taylor, but none are as impactful as Parsons. Colts linebacker Shaq Leonard might be in this conversation, but Parsons' pass rush ability puts him a step ahead. One of the Eagles' offensive linemen could be in the running, but they no longer have a Jason Peters-type in his prime. Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson is the closest and there's a good argument he should be ahead of Parsons, but let's stick with him given how dominant he has been through two games.
Dan Salomone: Fact – With 17 sacks in 18 games, he needs three more in his next two outings to become the fastest player to reach 20 career sacks since they became an official statistic in 1982. After two weeks of focusing on running backs, the Giants will have their hands full with a defender this week.
Lance Medow: Fact – There's several candidates you can take into consideration such as Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson, Lions wideout Amon-Ra St. Brown, Colts defensive lineman DeForest Buckner and Eagles corner Darius Slay. But can any of them wreck a game like Micah Parsons, who had a stellar rookie campaign highlighted by 13 sacks, 20 tackles for loss and 30 quarterback hits? He's already picked up where he left off in 2021 with four sacks, four tackles for loss and seven quarterback hits in just two games. The Giants have to deal with him twice this season and the Cowboys are so effective in moving him around, where it can completely change from one game to another – you have to put him at the head of the pack.
Matt Citak: Fact – Micah Parsons put together a stellar rookie season last year as he racked up 84 tackles, 13 sacks and three forced fumbles. He was a unanimous choice as Defensive Rookie of the Year, earning all 50 votes, and finished second in the Defensive Player of the Year voting. It's not too often that a rookie is named First-Team All-Pro, but Parsons achieved that last season and is off to another strong start this year. Through two games, the second-year linebacker has four sacks.
It won't take more than 21 points to win Monday's matchup
John Schmeelk: Fact – Perhaps, but it's a dangerous assumption to make. The Cowboys' offense is not the explosive unit it once was, especially with backup quarterback Cooper Rush starting; but the offense is not the only unit that can score. Dallas' defense led the league in takeaways last year, and if the Giants' offense does not protect the ball they could give the Cowboys offense short fields, or score themselves. Cowboys returner KaVontae Turpin took the ball back for two touchdowns in the preseason and is liable to run one to the house if kick coverage isn't up to par.
Dan Salomone: Fiction – The Giants have two games under their belt to settle into the new schemes, and Dallas got a confidence boost with winning with backup Cooper Rush last week. While neither of these rivals has scored more than 21 points this season, the juices will be flowing under the lights.
Lance Medow: Fact – You can't be surprised if this game turns out to be similar to Week 2 against the Panthers, which was a grind it out affair. The Cowboys and Giants showcase strong defenses and each team is averaging 20 points or less over the first two games. New York has scored 21 and 19, respectively while Dallas posted three and 20, respectively, in its first two contests. Based on those trends and the defensive mentality of both teams, three touchdowns should do the trick.
Matt Citak: Fact – If Dak Prescott were healthy and starting under center, then we'd be having a different conversation. But with Cooper Rush getting the start, 21 points will likely be enough to win Monday's matchup. The Cowboys have scored 23 total points through the first two weeks of the season, while the Giants have scored 21 and 19 points, respectively, in their two wins. The defense has led the way for both teams thus far this year, and that will likely continue into Monday night's matchup under the lights.
View rare photos from the historic rivalry between the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys.
Left tackle Andrew Thomas has been the most impressive player on offense in the 2-0 start
John Schmeelk: Fact – Andrew Thomas has played like someone who looks ready to make their first Pro Bowl appearance or be selected as an All-Pro for the first time. He has been rock-solid at left tackle protecting Daniel Jones' blindside and a body-mover in the run game. According to Pro Football Focus, he has allowed just one quarterback hit and three hurries through the season's first two games. Thomas and Barkley are the team's two best players so far this season, and you'd rather give credit to the offensive tackle, especially since he is one of the guys making room for Barkley in the run game.
Dan Salomone: Fact – The offensive line has been a question for the Giants for a long time, and now they have an answer at one of the most important non-quarterback positions on the field. Thomas is just scratching the surface on his career.
Lance Medow: Fiction – Andrew Thomas has had a solid start to the season but it's not been eye-opening considering he had a strong sophomore campaign despite dealing with an ankle injury. Instead, go with one of the players he's creating holes for in Saquon Barkley, who has shown flashes of his rookie season with 194 scrimmage yards in the opener in Tennessee and followed up with a hard-fought 72 rushing yard performance against the Panthers. Barkley seems extremely comfortable in the new scheme and his decisive running has proven to be a noticeable difference maker.
Matt Citak: Fact – After a slow start to his NFL career in 2020, Thomas has been getting better and better each time he's stepped onto the field. He saw a big jump from Year 1 to 2, and he's been tremendous in both games this season. Thomas has not surrendered a sack through two games, which has helped him earn the highest PFF grade of any offensive linemen (89.1). He's also improved significantly in the run game, as his run blocking grade has jumped from a 68.5 in 2021 to an 88.3, the second-highest among all O-linemen. Thomas has also stepped up off the field. The third-year lineman was voted a team captain for the first time this season. Rookie tackle Evan Neal has spoken about Thomas' leadership and guidance numerous times over the last few months. In every aspect, Thomas has been the most impressive player not only on the offense, but on the entire team.
Safety Julian Love has been the most impressive player on defense
John Schmeelk: Fact – It's been impossible to find someone more impactful than Julian Love. Xavier McKinney has been excellent but he doesn't have the sack, quarterback hit or two tackles for loss that Love has this year. Jihad Ward has been game-changing against the run, but he hasn't impacted the pass game enough. Adoree' Jackson was a good initial reaction, but his two penalties took him out of consideration. Love is the only answer here.
Dan Salomone: Fact – Love is the ultimate team player, but even he admitted he was excited to show what he can do individually on defense and not just special teams this year. A team captain, Love has done just that, highlighted by his clutch sack in last week's win over Carolina.
Lance Medow: Fiction – Julian Love warrants heavy consideration for his strong start and versatility, which has been on full display, but he's also shown flashes of that in previous seasons. So let's put linebacker Jihad Ward slightly ahead of him. With Kayvon Thibodeaux and Azeez Ojulari sidelined, Ward has been very active and s the unsung hero of the Giants' defense - thanks to his hustle and motor. He came up huge in Week 1 against the Titans by setting the edge to keep Derrick Henry in check and followed up with a solid outing against the Panthers (highlighted by two tackles for loss). Through two games, Ward is second on the team in tackles and tied for first with Love in tackles for loss. He's proven to be a valuable addition this off-season and is settling in nicely thanks to his familiarity with the scheme.
Matt Citak: Fiction – Love has certainly made an impact, but the most impressive player on the defensive side of the ball so far is outside linebacker Oshane Ximines. With Kayvon Thibodeaux and Azeez Ojulari sidelined for the first two games, Ximines was thrust into a starting role and has delivered. The fourth-year OLB has picked up a pass breakup in each of the first two games. He also registered his first sack since his rookie season last week. Ximines has earned an 80.5 overall grade from PFF, the highest on the Giants' defense and the 17th-best mark among all edge rushers. Finishing in a close second is fellow outside linebacker Jihad Ward, who has been a force setting the edge in the run game. Both OLBs have also stepped up and performed well in their limited snaps in coverage.