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Fact or Fiction: Stat predictions for Sunday night


The crew is presented with four statements and must decide whether they are Fact or Fiction.

The Giants will have at least four sacks and takeaways combined on Sunday night

John Schmeelk: Fiction – Last year the Giants did not sack Dallas in either matchup. The Giants did not manage a takeaway in Week 3 against Cooper Rush, but they picked off Dak Prescott twice in the game. If the Giants do get to four in this category, their odds of winning the game shoot up, though it is not a necessity. It's far more important for them to avoid giving up sacks (eight in the two games last year) and protecting the football (one interception in those two games). The first rule of winning football is not to beat yourself.

Dan Salomone: Fact – Well, the Giants had the highest blitz rate (44.7 percent) in the NFL in 2022. An improved and healthy defensive front will only help out the back end, and vice-versa.

Lance Medow: Fiction – Last season, the Giants recorded no sacks against the Cowboys in both meetings but collected two interceptions in the second meeting. New York had two sacks or less in 11 of its 17 games in 2022 and finished tied for last in the NFL with the Raiders with only six picks. The latter is a product of how Wink Martindale uses corners in his defense with a heavy emphasis on man-to-man coverage, which doesn't always allow for a high volume of plays on the ball. When you take that into consideration on top of the fact that the Giants will likely be relying on a pair of rookie corners to play a bulk of the snaps, expectations need to be kept in check regarding opportunistic plays. Dak Prescott had a career-high 15 interceptions last season, but that number is misleading as about half of them were a result of deflections off targets' hands and those trends tend to balance out over time.

Matt Citak: Fact – In the two contests against the Cowboys last season, the Giants totaled just two combined sacks and takeaways. However, the defense looks a whole lot different now than it did going into the first meeting against Dallas last season (Week 3). For starters, Dexter Lawrence, Leonard Williams, Kayvon Thibodeaux and Azeez Ojulari are healthy heading into the opener. Williams did not play in Week 3 last year, while Thibodeaux and Ojulari were limited as they made their season debuts against Dallas. Add in the newcomers to the defense (such as Bobby Okereke, Deonte Banks and Isaiah Simmons) and it's easy to see the talent level has increased significantly. Despite Dallas' strong offense, the Giants' defense will get the season off on a strong note with some big splash plays.

The Giants and Cowboys will combine for more than 45 points

John Schmeelk: Fiction – Early in NFL seasons, it is common for offenses to still be searching for their footing and rhythm as they figure out what they're good at and what they struggle with. It gives defense an opportunity to dominate early in the season, which both of these teams have the chance of doing. The Giants have a formidable front with Kayvon Thibodeaux, Leonard Williams, Dexter Lawrence and Azeez Ojulari while Dallas has five defensive ends capable of winning on the edge with Micah Parsons, DeMarcus Lawrence, Dorance Armstrong, Dante Fowler, and Sam Williams. The Giants blitz more than any other team in the league while the Cowboys twist and slant more than any offensive line in the league, which can give offensive lines fits if they don't have their continuity or aren't ready to handle it early in the season.

Dan Salomone: Fact – The two teams have averaged a 47.2 combined points since 2000. That's good enough for me. But … just when you think you have the NFC East figured out, it goes sideways. We'll see.

Lance Medow: Fiction – They went over that mark in the second meeting last season as both teams combined for 48 points after only 39 in the first. Based on previous trends, offenses don't always light up the scoreboards early in the season as they're still looking to get in sync following limited time together in the preseason. You also can't overlook both teams' defenses and the continuity on that side of the ball. It will be awfully close to 45, but let's go slightly under.

Matt Citak: Fiction – Although the Giants' offense looks to take a big step in Year 2 under Brian Daboll and Mike Kafka, and the Cowboys' offense finished fourth in points per game last season, the season opener is going to be a defensive showdown. MetLife Stadium is going to be rocking under the bright lights of Sunday Night Football, which should help give the Giants' defense a boost.

View photos of the Giants on the practice field ahead of the season opener against the Dallas Cowboys.

Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley will account for a combined 125 rushing yards

John Schmeelk: Fact – The Giants will need this to happen if they want to win. The Cowboys' pass rush is one of the best in football, and Daniel Jones would be in peril if he had to drop back 40+ times in this game. The Giants are going to want to stay out of second- and third-and-long by running the ball successfully. The Cowboys' rush defense got better after acquiring Jonathan Hankins late last year, but it was leaky for a large portion of the season. Cowboys rookie Mazi Smith is a player to watch. It often takes defensive tackles a year or two to come into their own, but Dallas will be relying on Smith to be a factor right away as a mainstay of their defensive tackle rotation.

Dan Salomone: Fact – There are some parts to last season's winning formula that might not be sustainable, but Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley running isn't one of them.

Lance Medow: Fiction – Last season, Jones and Barkley combined for 160 rushing yards in the first meeting against Dallas, but only 53 in the second. The Cowboys allowed 129 yards on the ground per game in 2022, so that area was an issue but - much like the Giants, who had similar problems - they focused on improving that facet this off-season. If New York is looking to create more explosive plays through the air, based on its new faces, there may not be as many at-bats on the ground for Jones.

Matt Citak: Fact – As great as the Cowboys' defense was last season, they struggled against the run. Dallas ranked 22nd in rushing yards allowed in 2022, and in the first meeting between the two teams last season, Jones and Barkley combined for 160 yards on 23 carries (7.0 avg.). Considering the strength of the Cowboys' pass rush, Jones may be forced to tuck the ball and run on some designed pass plays, which should boost his rushing numbers. They may just barely clear the mark, but the QB and RB will reach 125 combined rushing yards Sunday.

TE Darren Waller will have at least eight catches in his Giants debut (Note: Waller was added to the injury report on Friday with a hamstring and is questionable for Sunday night)

John Schmeelk: Fiction – Eight is a lot. If you project that over the course of an entire season that's 115 catches. If this number was six, you would go over and not think twice, but eight is a bridge too far, especially since the Giants are likely to focus on the run game to mitigate the Cowboys' pass rush. Daniel Jones may not throw the ball 30 times in the game. If he finishes with 20 completions, predicting Waller will finish with 40% of those is a bit too much. When the Cowboys play man defense, expect Jayron Kearse to draw Waller most of the time.

Dan Salomone: Fact – Did you see the first (and only) drive of the preseason with the first-team offense? Darren Waller and Daniel Jones generated quite the rapport in such a short amount of time together.

Lance Medow: Fiction – Although Darren Waller will be a high-volume target this season, Daniel Jones will try to spread the wealth and that's why you can lean away from at least eight receptions right off the bat. Waller also hasn't reached that total since Week 1 of the 2021 season. In 2021, he faced Dan Quinn's Dallas defense and had two catches for 33 yards. Something tells us the Cowboys will be focusing a lot on Waller as it's no secret what he's capable of doing.

Matt Citak: Fact – Eight is a big number, especially going against a Dallas defense that did a great job of shutting down opposing tight ends last season. But based on everything we saw over the summer, including the one offensive drive Waller and Daniel Jones played during the preseason, the 6-foot-6 tight end has a good chance of leading the team in targets this season. Jones threw to Waller four times on that one drive, as they converted on three of those passes for 30 yards. Jones is going to target Waller early and often all season, and it's going to start Sunday night against the Cowboys.

View rare photos from the historic rivalry between the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys.


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