1. The Cowboys passing attack is a bigger threat than their rushing game right now.
John Schmeelk: Fact – If a team has a top quarterback, as Dallas does in Dak Prescott, its passing game will be more of a threat than its rushing game. Ezekiel Elliott is one of the top running backs in football and is a threat as a ball carrier and a receiver, but he is still only averaging 112 scrimmage yards per game and 4.9 yards per touch. Prescott and the Cowboys pass game, meanwhile, has been a big play machine. He is averaging 8.9 yards per pass attempt and has 755 yards on his 21 completions that have traveled more than 20 yards in the air. It’s only 23 yards less than Elliott has combined from scrimmage this year. Wide receivers Amari Cooper, Randall Cobb and Michael Gallup are all capable of making the type of splash plays that have hurt the Giants all season long. Eliminating those needs to be the focus of the defense.
Dan Salomone: Fiction – The run sets up the pass. Since Dak Prescott took over in 2016, the Cowboys average 154 yards rushing per game and 4.74 yards per carry in their 36 wins. In their 19 losses, they average 105 and 4.38 in those respective categories. If you stop the run, then you win the game.
Lance Medow: Fact – Dallas’ passing offense ranks third in the NFL with an average of 292 yards per game. While the rushing attack ranks fourth in the league, let’s not forget Dak Prescott threw for 405 yards and four touchdowns in Dallas’ 35-17 Week 1 victory over the Giants at AT&T Stadium. If you don’t think those numbers are relevant because it was several weeks ago and personnel/experience has changed on both sides, the Giants are coming off a loss to the Lions in which Matthew Stafford collected 342 passing yards and three touchdowns, including two for 40+ yards. In eight games this season, the Giants have allowed six receivers to reach the century mark, including Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup of the Cowboys in Week 1. Until the Giants limit explosive plays through the air, the pass game has to be the considered the bigger threat.
2. Daniel Jones will have a rushing touchdown on Monday night.
Schmeelk: Fiction – A quarterback will get more opportunities to run with the football against the teams featuring a heavy man-defense pass scheme. The Cowboys play mostly zone defense, so he will have fewer chances to run the football. The speed of Cowboys linebackers Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander Esch and Sean Lee will make it difficult for him to scramble for a lot of yards.
Salomone: Fact – I’m actually a little surprised he hasn’t found the end zone with his legs since recording two touchdowns in his starting debut in Week 3. He still averages 5.8 yards when he does take off, and something tells me he gets back into the end zone in primetime. All of his weapons are on the field for the first time, which will open things up for him.
Medow: Fiction – Daniel Jones has two rushing touchdowns on the season and both came against the Bucs in his first career start. Since then, in the last five games, he has not reached the end zone on the ground. The Cowboys haven’t surrendered a rushing touchdown to a quarterback this season and they limited mobile signal callers such as Aaron Rodgers and Teddy Bridgewater to just seven rushing yards combined. Given the strength of the Cowboys’ defense is at linebacker, it may be difficult for Jones to consistently find rushing lanes.
3. Leonard Williams will make an immediate impact in his first game with the Giants.
Schmeelk: Fact – Given Williams’ familiarity with James Bettcher’s scheme due to his time playing for Todd Bowles with the Jets and the nature of the position he plays, there’s no reason he can’t get up near 50% of the snaps. There are some calls and other details a defensive tackle has to learn in a new system, but there are enough fundamental things consistent from the team to team that he shouldn’t be slowed down by being on a new team. According to Pro Football Focus, he managed two quarterback hits and two hurries when the Jets played the Cowboys three weeks ago.
Salomone: Fact – Not only will he play a few days after joining the Giants, he has already beaten the Cowboys – three weeks ago. He helped the Jets, his former team, limit the Cowboys to a single offensive touchdown in the 24-22 victory at MetLife Stadium. As general manager Dave Gettleman said, their goal is to sign him long term. Williams followed up and said this whole year has been an “audition.” There’s no better stage for his first performance with the Giants than Monday Night Football at home against the Cowboys.
Medow: Fiction – Last Sunday in Detroit, linebacker Deone Bucannon made his Giants’ debut several days after he was signed and wound up playing just 11 snaps. Despite his limited playing time, he was still extremely active and made a few nice plays to aid the run defense. Although you can argue it’s a little easier for a defensive lineman to adjust to a new defense and Leonard Williams already has some familiarity with the scheme because he played for Todd Bowles when he was with the Jets, it’s still hard to predict how much he’ll play. That’s the big wild card. I think the Giants will utilize a strong rotation on the line and it may take a game or two for him to get truly acclimated to the scheme and his new teammates.
4. Deone Bucannon, another recent arrival, is the X-factor on defense this week.
Schmeelk: Fiction – Bucannon may be important, but what the secondary does will be paramount. Aside from eliminating the chunk plays mentioned above, the Giants need to be better on third down. On third down and more than six yards to gain, the Giants are tied for worst in the league, allowing a 33.3% conversion rate. The Cowboys, meanwhile, are best in the league at converting third downs in those situations. Even if the Giants defense manages to eliminate those chunk plays, they will still have to figure out a way to get off the field on third down. Bucannon will play a role in those situations, but the defensive backfield will be far more responsible for it.
Salomone: Fact – Let’s see what the “money” linebacker can do now that he has settled in a little bit with his new team. A week before the Giants traded for Leonard Williams, they signed Bucannon, who flourished under defensive coordinator James Bettcher in Arizona. Bucannon is a hybrid player who can defend the run and the pass. The Cowboys are a hybrid offense that pass as well as they can run.
Medow: Fiction – Deone Bucannon will defend the middle of the field, which is a big plus because of Ezekiel Elliott’s ability to get to the second level of a defense, but I think the X-factor is going to be DeAndre Baker. In Week 1, the former Georgia corner made his regular season debut and the Cowboys didn’t hesitate going after the rookie. He’s clearly come a long way since that game and how he matches up with the Dallas receiving corps will dictate how the Cowboys look to attack the Giants.
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