The Giants might as well count on a trip to Dallas in early September every year. Sunday will mark the third season in a row that Big Blue opens its season at AT&T Stadium against the rival Cowboys.
Both the Giants and Cowboys appear most likely to win the NFC East this season after Dallas went 13-3 and the Giants finished 11-5 a year ago. Every game of the season is important, but the two-game series between these teams may be most vital of all.
Read on for three keys to Sunday night’s matchup on NBC/4.
Banking on Beckham
Odell Beckham Jr. had not practiced through Thursday as he recovers from a sprained ankle suffered Aug. 21. The status of the Giants’ top receiver, who has snagged 288 receptions and 35 touchdowns over three seasons, appears destined to be a game-time decision.
Without Beckham, veteran Brandon Marshall will be leaned on more heavily in his Giants debut. The same can be said of rookie tight end Evan Engram and second-year wideout Sterlind Shepard.
Zeke on a leash
For at least one more week, Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott will put off serving a six-game suspension levied by the NFL. The reigning rushing champ is Dallas’ top weapon, but one the Giants are equipped to handle.
Elliott averaged 79 yards rushing per game against Big Blue, compared to 114.1 against all other teams in the regular season and playoffs. Look for the Giants’ vaunted front four to rise to the challenge again.
The Cowboys were the only team in the NFL last season to hold opponents to fewer than 1,400 rushing yards. While the Giants weren’t far behind, Dallas’ offensive line is far capable of creating room to run than the Giants.
Regardless, Paul Perkins and company will be expected to run serviceably enough to alleviate pressure on quarterback Eli Manning. If the Giants can surpass 100 yards on the ground — they averaged 103 against Dallas last year — that should be enough.