WHAT: New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys
WHEN: Sunday, 3:25 PM (CT)
WHERE: AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas
There is really only one guarantee heading into the Week 1 division rival match up for the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Giants, and that is it will be a hard-fought battle between two teams that know each other extremely well.
In 2015, the Dallas Cowboys were able to come away with a last-second victory to open up the season, but the Giants got their revenge later in the year when former Cowboys special teams ace Dwayne Harris returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown.
There is no reason to believe that the 2016 season opener for the Cowboys and Giants will be any different.
Below I will attempt to explain how both the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Giants can start their 2016 season with a victory or defeat.
Dallas Cowboys win if…
All eyes will be on two of the Dallas Cowboys rookies Sunday afternoon in Texas, and rightfully so.
There are high expectations for both Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott for the start of the 2016 season. Prescott because he is taking over the starting QB position for an injured Tony Romo and Elliott because he was drafted so highly with the thought he was a perfect fit for the Cowboys offensive scheme.
If the Dallas Cowboys are going to win this game, Prescott and Elliott will have to have big games and limit any kind of rookie mistakes.
As rookies, they are going to be asked to carry the load at arguably the two most important positions on the offensive side of the ball. No other players touch the ball as much as a quarterback or running back, which is the reason why they need to focus on the task at hand and not get caught up in the bright lights of the NFL.
If both Prescott and Elliott come out and perform the way we all expect them to, then the Dallas Cowboys should be able to start the 2016 season with a W in the win column.
New York Giants win if…
I think the best chance for the New York Giants to win their season opener against the Dallas Cowboys lies in their wide receiver core.
Odell Beckham Jr., Victor Cruz, and rookie Sterling Shepard are a really tough group to open up the season against for the Cowboys secondary.
Beckham has already established himself as one of the best WRs in his short time in the NFL. Cruz was a nightmare for Cowboys defenders prior to his injury issues and if healthy could be so once again. Shepard is somewhat of an unknown, but I have a feeling he might just be the most dangerous of the three Sunday afternoon against the Cowboys.
I fully believe that if the New York Giants win this game it will be because of their wide receivers and how they can exploit the Cowboys secondary.
Dallas Cowboys lose if…
I think it would be too easy to say that the Dallas Cowboys lose this game if Dak Prescott struggles and doesn't play like he has been in the preseason. Instead, I'm putting the outcome of this game on the Cowboys defense.
We can all agree that the Cowboys defense is the weak link for this 2016 team. There are still questions about the pass rush and how they are going to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Eli Manning is known for getting rid of the ball quickly making the pass rush less of a concern.
Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli needs his defense to perform better than a lot of people are expecting. They don't need to be great, they just need to be the type of defense that bends and doesn't break.
If they are unable to get the Giants offense off the field in some key situations, then the Cowboys will lose their 2016 opener.
Holding the Giants to field goals instead of scoring touchdowns might be the determining factor in the outcome of the game Sunday afternoon.
New York Giants lose if…
The New York Giants spent nearly $200 million in the off-season to bring in Janoris Jenkins (CB), Olivier Vernon (DE), and Damon Harrison (DT) in hopes of improving their team on the defensive side of the ball.
Was it money well spent?
Well, I know the Giants are hoping so, but I'm not so sure.
Odds are Jenkins will be the one to cover Dez Bryant the majority of the game. I think that's a match up Bryant wins 9 times out of 10.
Vernon got the better of Tyron Smith as a member of the Miami Dolphins last season, but I don't see that happening again. Vernon doesn't nearly have the same type of supporting cast along the defensive line that he had in Miami, so I will give the edge to Smith.
Harrison has the tough task of going up against Travis Frederick, Zack Martin, and La'el Collins the entire game and I think we can all pretty much agree that is a match up that swings in the Cowboys favor.
If the Giants overpriced additions can't win their battles, they lose. Simple as that.
Who do you think has a better chance of winning?
Let me hear your thoughts and opinions in the comment section below..
Cowboys Wishlist: Dress Rehearsal Edition
In the NFL, the third preseason week is often referred to as the "Dress Rehearsal." It's usually the week in which starters get the most playing time. That has changed lately, with plenty of teams deciding to take care of their key players instead of risking them on the field. However, the Dallas Cowboys have played their starters on their first two games and there's no reason to believe that will change versus the Texans today.
Here is my wishlist for the Cowboys vs Texans "Dress Rehearsal!" Let me know what your wishes for tonight's game are in the comments section below or tweet me @MauNFL!
Wish #1: Justin Phillips Locks Up a Roster Spot
Phillips has been one of the most surprising players this offseason and preseason. The Cowboys are set at linebacker, but Phillips has made sure to be a tough guy to cut. Last week, he had a remarkable interception against the Rams. Despite making a first step toward the line, he managed to adjust and made the play. He has followed it up with more plays in practice.
If he keeps it up, the Cowboys won't be able to cut him. He has the potential to be a force on special teams and a quality backup.
Wish #2: Devin Smith Makes Things Interesting
The battle for the final wide receiver spots is at full-go. Devin Smith has shined lately, and has risen as a serious candidate to make the roster. However, it seems like other wide receivers have the upper-hand as of now. Earlier this week, I made my Cowboys WR Power Rankings and had Devin Smith at #7.
His TD catch versus the Rams last week was pretty impressive, and I wish he makes a few more plays to make the debate all the more interesting.
Wish #3: Tony Pollard Does It Again
Fifth-round rookie Tony Pollard
stole was the show last weekend as he racked up 51 total yards (five carries, one catch) and a touchdown on Dallas' first offensive drive. He looked impressive as the starting running back, giving us just what we wanted to see.
While many have advertised him as a gadget player, Pollard proved he can actually be a "standard" RB. He ran between the tackles, showed power, balance and great vision. I'm ready to watch it again, this time versus the Texans.
Wish #4: Taco Charlton Shines Rushing The Passer
Taco Charlton has made a couple of plays in preseason on his third year with the Dallas Cowboys. Against the Rams, he batted down two passes and looked good separating from opposing offensive linemen. Charlton has gotten praise from some analysts during these first two preseason weeks.
But I want to watch some quality pass rush from his part. Right now, the Cowboys' roster counts with some promising players, including rookies Jalen Jelks and Joe Jackson. While they're currently below Taco, he must prove he belongs on the roster.
DL Kerry Hyder Impressive In Cowboys Week 2 Preseason Win
Kerry Hyder joined the Cowboys this offseason on a one year deal, and while the four-year NFL veteran has put up some solid tape in his time around the league, it was hard to project just what he could bring to the Cowboys defense.
Listed at 6'2" 270 pounds, Hyder is a bit of a tweener on the defensive line. Though the answer to "will he play tackle or end" seems to be "both" to this point in the preseason.
As he fights for his life on this deep defensive line, Kerry Hyder had himself a day in the Cowboys 14-10 victory over the Rams last weekend.
Hyder made an excellent play defending a screen pass in the first quarter, reading the play perfectly and reacting quickly to running back Darrell Henderson coming out of the backfield. Hyder also created some pressure on the quarterback, and finished with 3 combined tackles in very limited playing time.
Hyder's versatility is working well for him as he looks to make the final roster. Like a Tyrone Crawford type player, Hyder will be able to move inside and out depending on the situation. This allows the Cowboys to be flexible in how they structure their depth chart on defense, and in how they decide to rush the passer on third down.
A pass rushing package involving Robert Quinn and DeMarcus Lawrence on the edge with the combination of Hyder and Maliek Collins on the inside could turn out to be a very dangerous one for opposing offenses to deal with.
Rod Marinelli spoke to this versatility a couple of months ago, showing just how much he values what Kerry Hyder can bring to this team.
"Maybe you adjust him sometime, once in a while – in a one-on-one pass rush situation, stick him over a guard and start to get a feel for it.” - Rod Marinelli
Earlier this offseason, I wrote that Kerry Hyder could end up being Rod Marinelli's next great under-the-radar find on the defensive line. And if he continues to play with the hustle and awareness that he had on Saturday, he's going to make Rod look very smart in his evaluation.
Kerry Hyder is making it very difficult for the front office to let him go. And, at the end of the preseason, I do expect Kerry Hyder to find himself on the Cowboys' active roster. Especially considering how Mike White is playing at quarterback, and how his release could open up an extra spot at a different position group.
#DALvsRAMS: Tony Pollard Proves he’s no Longer Darrell Henderson’s Backup
For the better part of three years Tony Pollard was forced to play second fiddle to Darrell Henderson during their time with the Memphis Tigers. But, Saturday night in the second week of preseason Pollard emerged from the shadows and proved he's no longer Henderson's backup.
Tony Pollard put on an impressive show Saturday night against the Los Angeles Rams. He touched the ball a total of six times and turned it into 51 yards and a touchdown. He rushed for 42 yards on the ground, averaging 8.4 yards per carry, and had one reception for 9 yards. All in all it was an impressive performance and one that arguably outdid his former teammate, Darrell Henderson.
Tony Pollard is starting to look like a real weapon for the Dallas Cowboys. It's still a small sample size, but in the first two preseason games he's proven the jump up in competition isn't too big for him. As a runner he's been decisive, picking up what yardage is given and not dancing around. He hasn't been utilized much in the passing game yet, but that time will come.
The Dallas Cowboys couldn't be happier with the way their rookie RB has performed thus far. He's everything they've said he was, and quite possibly much more. Maybe those Alvin Kamara comparisons weren't that far off after all.
We all know Ezekiel Elliott will return to the Dallas Cowboys at some point, but for now Tony Pollard doesn't look completely out of place as their lead back. He still needs to work on his pass protection, but everything else he's been asked to do he's excelled at.
I don't know about you, but I'm excited about seeing what No. 36 can do when these games start to matter in 2019. He will once again have to accept a backup role like he did behind Darrell Henderson in college, but you can bet the Cowboys coaching staff will reward him based on his play so far in preseason.
Pollard's versatility to be a weapon as both a runner and receiver in the passing game should make him a unique chess piece in the offensive game plan each and every week. He's been exciting to watch so far and we haven't even seen him in the return game yet, which was a big part of his game in college. I'm personally expecting big things from him this season. What about you?
What do you think of Tony Pollard's preseason performance so far?
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