Losing at home is a bummer. Losing the season opener stinks. Losing the first game of the year after a dreadful 3-13 previous campaign is … well, that just hurts.
But take heart, New York Giants fans, because Sunday’s 20-15 defeat wasn’t some beatdown at the hands of a mediocre team. The Jacksonville Jaguars enter 2018 with Super Bowl aspirations after finishing as AFC runners-up in the winter.
And Big Blue didn’t look too bad, either. Saquon Barkley shined on a long touchdown run, Odell Beckham Jr. appears to be back to his incredible self, and the defense surrendered only one offensive TD.
A visit to Dallas against the rival Cowboys (0-1) on Sunday night offers more reason for optimism than Week 1. Here’s why.
Barkley was bottled up for much of the game against Jacksonville, but a 68-yard scamper in the fourth quarter showed why the Giants took him No. 2 overall in April’s draft. There’s a sense he could do that on any given play.
Beckham, back after missing 11 games last season with a broken ankle, snagged 11 passes for 111 yards in Sunday’s loss. Eli Manning clearly was happy to feed his top target.
The pair combined to gain 238 yards from scrimmage, slightly more than the 232 Dallas’ entire offense accrued in a 16-8 loss to the Carolina Panthers. It’s clear which offense has more reason to be confident going into the matchup.
Pressure on Prescott
Dak Prescott was under heavy fire against Carolina last Sunday, absorbing six sacks from a team that entered the year with moderate concerns about its pass rush. With his offensive line far from full strength, this could be the new normal for the Cowboys quarterback.
Even with edge rusher Olivier Vernon (high ankle sprain) looking unlikely to make his season debut for the Giants, defensive coordinator James Bettcher’s blitz-heavy attack is bound to keep Prescott off balance again.
Tough on the run
The Jaguars racked up 137 yards rushing on Sunday, but that number is a little deceptive. Quarterback Blake Bortles gained 41 yards on one play, so the Giants held their foes to an average of 3.6 yards per carry on the other 27 attempts.
Granted, Prescott is a capable runner in his own right, but his career long is 21 yards — not exactly a monster run. But the fact that running back Ezekiel Elliott, the focal point of the Cowboys’ offense, was held to 69 yards is another reason to think the Giants can win the ground war. Elliott historically hasn’t been at his best against the G-Men, either, averaging 3.9 yards per rush.
Giants 31, Cowboys 21