After posting a winning record in 2022 and advancing to the second round of the playoffs, head coach Brian Daboll and Big Blue will be eager to build on this success. They’ve made some key acquisitions and have plenty of young players who could step up and make an impact, but Sunday night’s game could set the tone for the whole season.
Here are some of the biggest stories to watch as the Giants look to kick off their season with a win…
Can the Giants finally end the Cowboys’ recent dominance over them?
The Giants won just one divisional contest last season and, with a tougher schedule, they’ll probably need to improve upon that if they’re going to make the postseason again. However, wins over the Cowboys have proved elusive in recent years with the Giants having beaten them just once in their past 12 meetings.
Dallas beat the Giants by seven and eight points in the two meetings last season, but these games weren’t as close at the score would suggest because it was a two-possession game until late in the fourth quarter each time. Can the Giants ride the home field advantage in this first game to get a jump on their divisional rivals?
Will the Giants be able to protect Daniel Jones?
Dallas has an excellent pass rush, led by All-Pro Micah Parsons, who had 13.5 sacks last season. In the first meeting between the teams last year, Jones was under constant pressure and ended up being sacked five times. While the Giants did a much better job of protecting him in the rematch, he was still sacked three times.
Right tackle Evan Neal will be important to the Giants’ pass protection this year. He had some struggles during his rookie season but showed progress from midseason onwards. If the Giants can rely on him to be more consistent in his second season, that should make Jones’ life easier.
Another factor is that rookie John Michael Schmitz will be starting at center, so he’ll play an important role in setting the protections. Any growing pains from Schmitz could lead to protection breakdowns that could cause a game-changing play.
Can the Giants win the turnover battle?
As with any game, this matchup could be settled by who wins the turnover battle — and there was an interesting comparison between these teams in that area in 2022. The Cowboys led the league in creating turnovers, but their defense is facing off against a Giants offense that had the second-lowest turnover count in the NFL last season.
On the other side of the ball, the Cowboys were in the middle of the pack in terms of how often they turned the ball over, whereas the Giants were poor at forcing turnovers, so the Giants will be hoping to make more impact plays on defense in 2023.
The second meeting between these teams last season was the only time in the past 11 games that the Cowboys defense failed to produce a turnover, but they were able to overcome that and win anyway. A patient and conservative approach may be advisable, but the Giants will still need to put up points to keep up with the Cowboys offense.
Will the Cowboys be able to run the ball effectively?
Giants fans might be glad to see Ezekiel Elliott is now in New England. Over the course of his career, Dallas went 10-3 against the Giants with Elliott in the lineup as he scored 11 touchdowns and posted four 100-yard games. The Cowboys ran the ball effectively against the Giants in both games last season and had a top-10 rushing attack overall.
With Elliott gone, Dallas will now build their rushing attack around Tony Pollard, who rushed for over 1,000 yards last season. However, there’s not much experienced depth behind him. Can the likes of Dexter Lawrence, Leonard Williams and new linebacker Bobby Okereke slow down the Dallas running attack and force them to take risks through the air?
How will the Giants’ inexperienced secondary perform together against Dak Prescott and the Cowboys’ passing attack?
The Giants will be starting rookies Deonte Banks and Tre Hawkins at cornerback, along with Jason Pinnock, who is opening the season as a starter for the first time in his career. The Cowboys boast pass-catching weapons such as CeeDee Lamb, Brandin Cooks, and Michael Gallup, and Pollard is also a threat out of the backfield who could look to exploit the more inexperienced starters.
This will put extra pressure on Adoree’ Jackson and Xavier McKinney as the veterans in the secondary, and Okereke as the man in charge of getting everyone lined up correctly. If the youngsters can all step up, this secondary could have a bright future.