As we all eagerly await the Sunday Night Football game between the New York Giants and the Dallas Cowboys, I will break down what we should look for, including matchups at each phase of the game and projected inactives going into Sunday.
I do not take these projections lightly, research has gone on from watching tape, reading what scouts say, and what those following each team also have said going into the game. Yet, I will not simply regurgitate information, I firmly believe everything listed below. With that let’s get this underway.
Cowboys Projected Inactive List:
- Christine Michael
- Lucky Whitehead
- Geoff Swaim
- Jordan Mills
- La’el Collins
- Ken Bishop
- Damien Wilson
Yes, I am making the assumption that some highly talked about fan-favorites will not dress Sunday Night.
I cannot see Lucky dressing if Cole Beasley is returning Punts and Lance Dunbar is returning Kicks. With additional spots needed elsewhere, I foresee Lucky being inactive for at least the first few weeks.
La’el Collins? From everything that I have read and heard it does seem like the Coaching Staff is more comfortable with Mackenzy Bernadeau at this point. He is a veteran that has flexibility at Guard and Center. As of right now Collins is really only a Left Guard. If a critical situation arises, Bernadeau provides the most insurance at the most positions as a backup.
Michael and Mills are listed as inactive due to just getting to the team and probably not having a grasp of the system as of yet. It would be a bit premature to throw either one on the field against the Giants, especially Michael as I feel there’s already an advantage in the running game. More on that later. Also, Mills making the injury report Thursday with a foot injury makes this an easy decision. Unless they do not trust Darrion Weems in the slightest.
With Nick Hayden and Terrell McClain likely to play 1st and 2nd down at the One Technique, I cannot see room for Bishop on the 46. He does not present any position flex, so he will simply be the odd man out along the deep Defensive Line.
Damien Wilson is the one I am not sure on.
As while looking at the roster, I definitely want to take six Linebackers to the game, but that would bring up several different scenarios. If Wilson dresses it probably would come down to making Corey White or Byron Jones inactive. With how White looked during Training Camp and Preseason games, there is no way I would sit him for this game.
Byron Jones sitting would create a number of stories within the media that would jump to the conclusion that Jones is a bust. I do not feel the Cowboys really care about that aspect, but I do feel they will avoid that for the player’s sake. Jones also provides a flexibility that could put the defense in quality matchups against the Giants.
Danny McCray and Jeff Heath are core Special Teams players and with how the unit looked during the Preseason, I can see Rich Bisaccia asking to have both active. The only aspect here to look at is McCray’s neck, if it’s not at one-hundred percent going into the game, Wilson should remain active.
Cowboys Offense vs Giants Defense
Without any bias whatsoever, this is by far the biggest mismatch on paper heading into Sunday night.
The Giants have five Safeties on their Injured Reserve list. Listed starting Strong Safety Cooper Taylor missed all of last season with a foot injury and has limited experience being a down after down player.
While the Giants’ starting Free Safety and this year’s second-round pick, Landon Collins, is a player with limited range and coverage skills, he is practically a Strong Safety lining up at the Free. If either one of these Safeties gets trapped in one on one coverage, it will be a matchup to watch as they will be at a major disadvantage.
Even their corners do not really seem to be the players you expect to shut down the Cowboys weapons.
The Giants front seven does not present many problems on paper either. Their starting Mike Linebacker Jon Beason missed practice today and their only down lineman that I have any major concerns over is Jonathan Hankins on the inside. But with the combo of Ron Leary, Travis Frederick, and Zack Martin I feel they will be able to handle him.
Key Match Up: Scott Linehan vs Steve Spagnuolo
This comes down to how Giants Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo calls the game. If he trusts his Corners with one on one Coverage against Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams, and Cole Beasley, they will bring blitzes all game long. If he wants the Cowboys’ running game to prove itself, we could see more zone, forcing the Cowboys to drive the ball down the field.
Cowboys Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan will have to recognize Spagnuolo’s gameplan then dictate the game the way he wants to call it. I see a huge game for both Darren McFadden and Joseph Randle. Linehan sees the same defense that I do, and the running game will be used to set up throws down the field. If the Giants are unable to get pressure on Tony Romo, it will be a very long day for the Giants defense.
The Giants simply do not have the Secondary to hold up in Man Coverage for long.
Once Safeties start creeping toward the line, the Cowboys will be able to exploit these matchups and march up and down the field.
Strong Advantage Cowboys
Cowboys Defense vs Giants Offense
This is a slightly more intriguing matchup which hinges on the health of Wide Receiver Victor Cruz, who missed the first two days of practice this week with a calf injury.
Without Cruz, the attention turns towards Odell Beckham Jr. and Larry Donnell. The Cowboys struggled at times last year against Tight Ends, so it will be interesting to see how they attempt to cover Donnell.
Beckham has the opportunity to be an All-Pro Wide Receiver in the NFL. Whether he lines up against Morris Claiborne, Brandon Carr, or Tyler Patmon, extra attention will be paid to him. I personally expect to see him in the Slot a great deal against Patmon and lining up against Carr. Giants Offensive Coordinator Ben McAdoo could look to exploit Carr’s lack of quickness and Patmon’s inexperience. I feel Claiborne has the best opportunity to compete against Beckham.
Wherever he lines up, there should always be a jam at the line of scrimmage. Giving him a free release allows him to get into his route far too easily.
Much attention has gone to the Cowboys’ new-look Defensive Line.
To minimize the effects of Tyrone Crawford, DeMarcus Lawrence, Jeremy Mincy, and Randy Gregory the Giants may attempt to establish the run right out of the gate. With uncertainty at the Cowboys Mike Linebacker – Anthony Hitchens being projected to start coming off of missing several weeks of practice – they may attempt to run straight at him. If Hitchens is not at full strength, I have a lot of confidence in Andrew Gachkar as he has shown he can be a physical Mike Linebacker.
This is where a healthy Sean Lee comes into play. If Tyrone Crawford and Nick Hayden can eat enough blocks up front, Lee will be able to roam clean from his Wheel Linebacker position and attack the ball carrier. I expect him to tally anywhere from eight to twelve tackles in this game.
If either Rashad Jennings or Andre Williams get going, it could really change the dynamic of this game.
Aside from Beckham, the one other mismatch in favor of the Giants is Shane Vereen. He has a reputation for being a solid receiving Running Back and him leaking out of the backfield could be a method to slow down the Cowboys pass rush. I expect him to have a bigger game than their projected Slot Wide Receiver, Preston Parker.
Where Corey White and Byron Jones are really beneficial is on obvious passing downs. I could see them both back there at Safety not allowing either JJ Wilcox or Barry Church to be exposed in the passing game.
Key Match Up: Cowboys Defensive Line vs Giants Offensive Line
No matter what comes out of the Giants camp, their Offensive Line has to be of concern. They played quite a bit during the Preseason, but you cannot expect their group to be a strength of their team.
Eli Manning struggles when he has to throw on the move or throw moving to the side, he needs his feet set to be effective. With Giants First Round Draft Pick Ereck Flowers starting at Left Tackle, I feel he will struggle to protect Eli, as he does not have the feet of a natural pass protecting Left Tackle.
It will be up to Lawrence, Mincey, Gregory, and Ryan Russell to move him off his throwing spot. When he attempts to climb the pocket, hopefully Tyrone or Jack Crawford is there to deliver a hit.
Eli is not in the slightest bit mobile and I expect Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli to bring some blitzes early to make Eli uncomfortable off the bat. Look for Sean Lee to come several times this game.
With that being said, if the Cowboys can get pressure with their front four then the game becomes a lot more difficult for the Giants offense. This will be one of the more interesting matchups of the game, especially with the hype surrounding the Cowboys Defensive Line.
Slight Advantage Cowboys
Special Teams Matchup
This is not just a discussion of Dan Bailey against Josh Brown, as obviously most would take Bailey without any hesitation. Nor are we just looking at Chris Jones against Brad Wing. This is a look at the entire group.
This is where the Giants could flip the game in their favor.
We all saw the struggles of the coverage units during the Preseason. Jarryd Hayne of the 49ers was made to look like a Hall Of Fame caliber return man; it was rather hard to watch at times. Which brings us to the Giants’ new Return Specialist…
Whatever you may think of him after comments he made about Cowboys practice, his proficiency as a return man is difficult to argue. He is dangerous when he gets the ball so it is paramount that the Cowboys are disciplined on their coverage teams and maintain gap integrity.
This is where you hope guys like Dunbar, Keith Smith, Heath, McCray, and Gachkar make a difference on the Special Teams units as Harris returning a Punt for a touchdown could change the entire outlook of this game.
I do not see the same threat with Beasley returning Punts if he is chosen to do so on Sunday.
Slight Advantage Giants
I don’t like to guess scores, but I feel the Cowboys should win this game by at least ten points. It is hard for me to believe the Giants Offensive Line will keep Eli clean on a consistent enough basis to make up for their defense.
The Cowboys can get into trouble through sloppy Special Teams, Turnovers, and not stopping the Giants’ run game. Where they can thrive is by simply executing on offense and keep the Giants from making big plays.
When it comes down to the Giants and Cowboys, Dallas is the better team on paper and hopefully they play like it come Sunday Night.