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Scouting Report: Marquee matchups for Sunday Night Football


The NFL has turned into a league of matchups, so to preview each week's game, let's look at some key matchups on both sides of the ball that should play a pivotal role in determining the outcome:

Giants Defense vs. Cowboys Offense

CB Adoree' Jackson vs. WR CeeDee Lamb: In his two games against the Giants last season, Lamb had 14 catches for 193 yards and a receiving touchdown on 22 targets. Lamb played 40 of his 122 offensive snaps in the slot and 71 outside. Lamb's slot usage increased throughout the season in 2022, playing 30 or more snaps and more than half of his snaps in the slot in each of his final seven games of the season. According to Next Gen Stats, no player had more receiving yards from the slot last year than Lamb's 826.

Jackson missed the second game of the series last season after injuring his knee against Houston. In the first game, Jackson played only four snaps inside at nickel corner, but all four were matched against Lamb, who failed to catch a ball against him. Jackson played 68 total snaps inside last season, a number that will likely increase this season given the emergence of rookies Deonte Banks and Tre Hawkins outside.

If Jackson travels with Lamb for most of the game that means rookie cornerbacks Hawkins and Deonte Banks will get matched up with veteran Brandin Cooks and Michael Gallup. The Cowboys acquired Cooks for two Day 3 draft picks this off-season. He accumulated 1,000 receiving yards in six of his past eight seasons, with only Travis Kelce and Mike Evans having more. Gallup only had 39 catches for 424 yards last season after tearing his ACL in the 2021.

According to PFF, the Giants played more Cover-1 or Cover-0 than any other team in the league last year (29%) and blitzed more than any other team in the NFL (50.1%). Even though they are rookies, Wink Martindale is unlikely to be hesitant putting them on islands in 1-on-1 coverage.

The Cowboys were right in the middle of the league last year with 50 pass plays of 20+ yards. Lamb has 44 of those catches since 2021, which ranks second to Justin Jefferson in the NFL. Dallas did not throw the ball deep down the field as much as other teams last season. They only had four completions last year that traveled at least 30 yards in the air, which was the fifth-fewest in the league, and one fewer than the Giants.

There are questions as to how the Cowboys' offense might change with the departure of coordinator Kellen Moore, Brian Schottenheimer arriving to replace him and head coach Mike McCarthy taking over play-calling duties. There is conjecture in Dallas that this year's version of the Cowboys might have a more vertical passing offense.

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

Giants Offense vs. Cowboys Defense

LT Andrew Thomas vs. LB Micah Parsons: When these two players line up against each other, pay attention. Thomas earned second team All-Pro honors in 2022, while Micah Parson was first team and finished second in the NFL Defensive Player of the Year voting.

The Cowboys have said Parsons will be a full-time edge player this year, though he already played 82.6% of his snaps on the line of scrimmage last year. Last season, Parsons lined up on the left side of the line (over the right tackle) 277 times, while he spent 490 snaps lined up over the left tackle.

Parsons leads the NFL with a 18.3% pressure percentage since 2021 (according to Next Gen Stats) and is only one of three players with at least 25 sacks and 30 tackles for loss since 2021. He was the only player last season who had six games with at least two sacks. According to Pro Football Focus, his 94 pressures ranked second to Nick Bosa in the NFL.

Andrew Thomas, meanwhile, has developed into the one of the most consistent pass protectors in the NFL. According to PFF, he only allowed pressure on 3.9% of his pass-blocking snaps last season. His 88.8 pass blocking grade awarded by Pro Football Focus ranked fourth among offensive tackles.

Parsons is often lined up at different spots throughout the game to find mismatches and to utilize him in twists and slants to give him more opportunities against less athletic interior offensive linemen. The Cowboys led the league in stunt/twist rate last season. They utilize a pass rush package on passing downs that features all edge rushers: Parsons, DeMarcus Lawrence, Dante Fowler, Dorrance Armstrong and Sam Williams.

By many metrics, the Cowboys were the most efficient pass rushing team in the league last year. According to PFF, they led the NFL in pressure rate (43.1%), average time to pressure (2.41 seconds). They were tied for third in the league with 54 sacks. They managed those numbers despite the fact they only blitzed at the 16th-highest rate in the NFL (29.3%).

A key to this game for the Giants will be staying out of obvious passing situation, where Dallas can use their pass rush package and employ movement up front to generate pressure on the quarterback.

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


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