These five players could make a key impact in Sunday's matchup
Here is what you need to know heading into the Sunday night game in Dallas:
1. Game on. Hey, it's Sunday night. Only one team has played more games in this primetime slot than the New York Giants – and that's the Dallas Cowboys. So it is only fitting the NFC East rivals take center stage for the Giants' 10th trip to AT&T Stadium, where they are 5-4. The games there have been decided by an average of 5.4 points, with two of the last three yielding one-point margins. The Giants, who began with four consecutive wins after the building opened in 2009, have also won by two and three points.
2. The 0-2 hole. It's like clockwork every NFL season. If your team lost in Week 1, people bring up the percentages of starting 0-2 and making the postseason. To save you some time, just know they are not good. This year, both teams are trying to avoid that conversation after Big Blue dropped its opener to Jacksonville and Dallas lost to Carolina. The season doesn't end after Week 2, though, for 0-2 teams. Just ask the 2007 Giants and, more recently, the 2017 Saints, who began the season with two losses and advanced to the playoffs while becoming the first team in the Super Bowl era to win eight consecutive games following the 0-2 start.
3. OV ruled out on injury report. Outside linebacker Olivier Vernon will not play for the second week in a row after spraining his ankle in practice in late August. While he did manage to do some running on the sidelines with trainers, Vernon did not practice at all this week. Meanwhile, inside linebacker Tae Davis (hamstring) is listed as questionable. Running back Wayne Gallman (injured knee in Week 1) and wide receiver Sterling Shepard (back) are full-go.
4. Feed them. After no running back was selected anywhere in the first round in 2013 and 2014, the past four drafts have produced Todd Gurley (10th overall), Ezekiel Elliott (fourth), Leonard Fournette (fourth), and now Saquon Barkley (second). Meanwhile, rookies have led the league in rushing back-to-back years, including the Cowboys' Elliott in 2016. Barkley and Elliott go back to their college days in the Big Ten, and combined to rush for 347 yards in their only meeting in 2015. Penn State lost the game that day, but Barkley outrushed Ohio State's Elliott, 194-153. Last week, Barkley became the first Giants back to run for at least 100 yards in his NFL debut, and his 68-yard run was the longest by a Giants player in his first game.
5. O-Lines under microscope. Since drafting perennial Pro Bowlers Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick and Zack Martin between 2011 and 2014, the Cowboys have boasted the most respected offensive line in the NFL. This year, however, they have two new starters. Joe Looney is filling in for Frederick after the center announced before the start of the season that he had been diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome, an autoimmune disease. Rookie Connor Williams made his NFL debut at left guard last week against Panthers defensive tackle Kawann Short, who had two sacks in his team's 16-8 victory. The Cowboys allowed 10 quarterback hits and six sacks overall against the Panthers in Week 1 and rushed for 94 yards, well below their 2017 average of 135.6 per game. "I don't know about the narrative about their O Line," Giants coach Pat Shurmur said, "but they look pretty good blocking to me."
Shurmur, a former college center, also defended the first performance of his rebuilt offensive line, particularly Ereck Flowers, who made the switch from left to right tackle this offseason. "He's like every player," Shurmur said. "He had a lot of really good plays and he had a couple that he'd like to have back."
6. Dak & 60-yard check-downs. The Cowboys are 10-2 when quarterback Dak Prescott rushes for a touchdown and 8-2 when he runs at least five times. "When you have the threat of the quarterback as a runner, that adds another element to it because the so-called zone read game shows up and they don't worry about him running with the football," Shurmur said. "They do a good job of kicking the ball to the perimeter in their run game on their RPO stuff, so there's yardage there, as opposed to just turning around and handing the ball off. They've got really good concepts in the passing game and if they do drop back to pass and we don't corral the quarterback, that's when he gets outside of the pocket and I call them 60-yard check-downs, he's outrunning the route, he's got a strong arm and if he sees somebody open, he can get the ball down the field. That makes him also dangerous."
7. Odell 2.0. Healthy and contractually extended, Odell Beckham Jr. made his return last week and caught 11 passes for 111 yards against 2017's top-ranked passing defense. He did so while playing 95.8 percent of the team's offensive snaps. "I'm not going to lie, I was sore after the game," Beckham said. Now for his first touchdown and his ensuing celebration. "We'll see when it happens," said Beckham, who made "The Catch" during a Sunday night game against the Cowboys four years ago. "Yeah, I got something."
8. Barwin has the Cowboys' number. With Vernon out, 10-year NFL veteran Connor Barwin played 65.1 percent of the defensive snaps in Week 1, third-most on the team behind Alec Ogletree and Kareem Martin. One stat to keep in mind about Barwin this week is that he has a sack in six consecutive games against the Cowboys, five with the Eagles and one with the Rams last season. While he tries to make it seven in a row, also look out for rookie Lorenzo Carter, who is also playing a significant role.
9. No Witten, no Dez, no problem? Eleven-time Pro Bowl tight end Jason Witten, who has more receptions (154) and receiving yards (1,568) against the Giants than any other player in history, is now in the broadcast booth for ESPN on Monday nights. Meanwhile, Dez Bryant, another former Cowboys playmaker on offense, remains a free agent after being released in April. "Without Witten, it looks very different," Giants safety and defensive co-captain Landon Collins said. "Honestly, Dez was a big influence in their offense. Somebody that kind of took a lot of pressure off their running game. Now that those two guys are gone, it's kind of phenomenal that they're giving the ball to Zeke, and try to keep the run game going."
10. Eli dials up Dallas. Eli Manning averages 282.4 yards per game at AT&T Stadium, the best rate of any quarterback, including Cowboys passers, with a minimum of five games played at the venue. Manning also has the most passing touchdowns (49), completions (568) and passing yards (6,674) among all opposing quarterbacks in Cowboys history in the regular season.