The rubber meets the road on Sunday night at MetLife Stadium.
After months of buildup and prognosticating with the draft, free agency, and training camp, reality sets in around the NFL this week. The Giants, who are coming off their best seasons since winning their most recent Super Bowl, must start a new journey as they look to close the gap in a competitive NFC East. And it begins right out of the gates with a visit from the Dallas Cowboys.
Here are three keys to victory for the Giants:
The first game of the Joe Schoen and Brian Daboll era ended with a bang on Daniel Jones' pass to Saquon Barkley for a late two-point conversion to give the Giants a one-point victory at Tennessee en route to a 6-1 start. But it began with a 13-0 halftime deficit.
Although thrilling, the Giants' 2022 campaign included a league-worst, minus-38 point differential in the first quarter. It is one of the many variables that the Giants know can't be part of their formula for sustained success, which is more difficult in the NFL than any other sports league. Dallas, meanwhile, was plus-33 (fourth-best in the NFL) on its way to a second consecutive 12-win season.
So, how do you start fast when the first quarter of the game – and season – is about figuring our yourself and the opponent?
"These games have really come down to the big things – taking care of the ball, trying to get the ball, good communication, tackling well, doing the right stuff on offense and being where you're supposed to be when you're supposed to be there," Daboll said in his weekly one-on-one interview with Giants.com. "And that really goes through, at least in my experience, the first month of the season, because you're still figuring things out as you go."
Win the red zone
Dallas boasted the NFL's best red-zone offense a year ago, scoring touchdowns on 71.4 percent of its trips. The second- and third-place teams were Kansas City and Philadelphia, who played each other in the Super Bowl. The Giants weren't too far behind at seventh, but equally important to their success was what they did on the other side of the ball. Wink Martindale's defense allowed touchdowns on just 49.2 percent of opponents' red-zone series, good for fifth-stingiest in the NFL.
Red zone and third downs are the true measures of teams, and fans can help the Giants in those departments on Sunday night and throughout the season.
"I know one thing, the fans are excited about it because I've had more people come up this year than ever last year, plus it's my second year in the city and over here in Jersey and I know a lot more people," Martindale said. "But fans don't realize the importance they have at home games anymore because of fantasy football and I know cell phones and everything else, but when you have a home-field advantage like we do, it is big time for us. Especially defensively. When that stadium gets rocking, it gets everybody's juices flowing on defense, and it's fun to watch."
Rookies must perform under the bright lights
A major story line of the summer was the Giants being in line to start two rookies at cornerback. One of them was no surprise. The Giants drafted Deonte Banks 24th overall, and the Maryland product stepped right into a starting role essentially from Day 1. Tre Hawkins III, a sixth-round draft choice out of Old Dominion, was another story. He continued to earn more and more reps while veteran Adoree' Jackson moved to the nickel cornerback position.
Has Daboll ever been hesitant to play rookies?
"No," he said. "I think that that's why you have all these meetings and practices, starting in May. People that earn the right to play, earn the right to play."
The same goes for former All-American John Michael Schmitz at center. The second-round draft choice will start against a Dallas defense that racked up 54 sacks while he was playing his final collegiate season at Minnesota.
"He earned that opportunity," Daboll said. "There's a standard we hold all of our players to, and he's worked hard to try to reach that standard. And he's going to need to continue to work hard.
"We talked to (the rookies) before the first preseason game and then we talked to them at the beginning of the week. I really let the captains take control of that, the ones that have played and can add their experiences to it. But we do that early in the week. We're into our routine and they've played football for a long time. I think there were a lot of good pieces of advice from the guys that talked to them. And again, we do that early so that our focus is really just on our preparation and our day-to-day improvement."
View rare photos from the historic rivalry between the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys.
Stats to impress your fellow Giants fans
🏈 There hasn't been a back-to-back NFC East champion since the Eagles won four in a row from 2001-04. The Giants, Cowboys, and Commanders set out to continue the streak this season after Philadelphia won in 2022 and advanced to the Super Bowl.
🏈 Daniel Jones was one of three quarterbacks with 3,000+ pass yards and 500+ rush yads in 2022 (Jalen Hurts and Josh Allen).
🏈 Prescott had his lowest completion percentage (54.7) and passer rating (80.9) against man defense last season since 2018. The Giants had the highest man coverage usage (45.5 percent) and blitz rate (44.7 percent) in 2022.
🏈 Kayvon Thibodeaux accumulated 40 quarterback pressures last season, second-most among rookies behind Aidan Hutchinson (45).
🏈 Isaiah Simmons, whom the Giants recently acquired in a trade, is the only player in the NFL to align at least 20 percent of his snaps on the line of scrimmage, in the slot, or off the ball since 2020.
🏈 The Giants averaged 2.5 yards before contact on designed runs to the left in 2022, the most in the NFL.
🏈 In 2022, 10 of the 14 teams that reached the playoffs won in Week 1.