Nothing beats tradition, as the New York Giants once again open up a season against the NFC East rival Dallas Cowboys.
The Giants enter Jerry’s World on Sunday Night Football to make an early statement in the 2017 season. With this in mind, here is what to look out for before the opening kickoff on Sunday.
Will Odell Play?
The most intriguing story in the Giants camp is whether star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr will play on Sunday night. Beckham is still recovering from an ankle sprain in the team’s second preseason game against the Cleveland Browns. He took a low hit from Browns cornerback Briean Boddy-Calhoun.
Beckham is trying everything in his power to take the field this Sunday. However, ProFootballTalk reports that Beckham has a 50-50 chance to play this Sunday. It is not entirely surprising, as Beckham has not even practiced as of Thursday.
Giants head coach Ben McAdoo is not worried about his lack of practice. If the team doctors medically clear Beckham for the NFC East clash, then Beckham is playing regardless.
Zeke is Playing; Will Big Blue Defense Have His Number?
Unless you have been living under a rock, Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott is playing this Sunday, despite his six game suspension being upheld.
Moving past that, however, Elliott has been practicing throughout the entire preseason. The thing is, will his mind be right when he’s handed the ball, especially with an impending lawsuit against the NFL? It will remain to be seen how effective Elliott will be.
The next question will be whether the Giants front seven be able to hold Elliott back. The Giants did not want any excuses entering the season opener, they wanted Elliott to play. They want to claim victory with Dallas’ best players on the field.
Although the Giants lost Jonathan Hankins in free agency, they still have Jason Pierre-Paul, Olivier Vernon, and Damon Harrison on the defensive line. The Giants have a lot depth on the defensive line. Jay Bromley and rookie Dalvin Tomlinson will likely alternate at the second defensive tackle position. It could be a lot for Elliott to handle this Sunday.
Will Dak’s Struggles Continue Against Giants?
Dak Prescott is entering the 2017 season with so much hype after winning the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year Award. Not only that, but Prescott enters his second year in the NFL as a team captain for the Cowboys.
With so much hype, there is the recurring fear among all Rookie of the Year winners, and that is the dreaded sophomore slump. Teams have had an entire offseason to study game tape on Prescott. The specific tape that teams will be studying is his performances against the Giants.
In both games last season, the Giants held Prescott to a 51.2 completion percentage for 392 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions. Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo obviously noticed something in Prescott’s play. The defense had his number, forcing incompletions and sacking him three times in their second matchup last season.
Also, let’s not forget that Giants top cornerback Janoris Jenkins locked down Cowboys star wide receiver Dez Bryant in their Week 14 matchup in 2016. Jenkins held him to one catch for 10 yards, but Jenkins would force a fumble on that reception, sealing the Giants victory.
There is a lot on the line for Prescott, and he has to get the massive weight off his shoulders that is the Big Blue defense.
How Will the Giants’ O-Line Hold Up?
Throughout the offseason, the Giants set their sights on improving on the offensive side of the ball. The wide receiver and tight end positions have drastically improved.
The one glaring need that the Giants did not address is the offensive line. The only real addition that the Giants had on the o-line was D.J. Fluker, who has solidified his spot as a backup right guard/tackle. Other than that, this is the same o-line unit as last season.
Ereck Flowers has worked his tail off throughout the offseason to improve his game, and, in all honesty, he is still shaky on the line. Left guard Justin Pugh and center Weston Richburg are the bright spots on the line, with the likes of John Jerry, Bobby Hart, and Brett Jones having to step up to keep quarterback Eli Manning upright.
The one positive entering Sunday Night Football is that Dallas’ defense is their weak point, specifically on the front seven. The Cowboys have lost Anthony Hitchens to a knee injury. David Irving, ex-Giant Damontre Moore, and Randy Gregory have been suspended for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.
If the Giants offensive line were ever going to thrive, then this is the time against a diminished Dallas defense. Giving Manning all of the time in the world to find the likes of Brandon Marshall, Sterling Shepard, and (possibly) Beckham could spell game over for Dallas.
This can all happen if the offensive line can hold back the defense.
Only time will tell what happens on Sunday Night Football, but one thing is for certain. This game will determine who will have the leg up on the NFC East title race between the two perennial favorites.
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