8:15 PM EST, ESPN – Line: Giants -1, Over/Under: 39
Bitter NFC East rivals meet for the first time this season, as the Dallas Cowboys and unbeaten New York Giants renew hostile acquaintances under the bright lights of Monday Night Football from MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Entering this campaign, Jerry Jones proclaimed that his Cowboys (1-1, T-3rd in NFC East) needed to be “viable” in the playoffs for 2022 to be viewed as a success, which of course is a not-so-subtle way of stating that losing on Wild Card Weekend for a second consecutive year would NOT be acceptable. Of course, Dallas was the favorite to claim the division crown once again, and by extension were viewed as one of the few legitimate contenders in a weaker NFC, though those expectations took a MAJOR hit in their 19-3 defeat at home to the Buccaneers in the season opener. After struggling mightily to move the football throughout the first half and trailing 12-3 midway through the third period, (Pro-Bowl Quarterback) Dak Prescott broke a bone in his right thumb on the crown of a defender’s helmet while following through on a pass deep in his own territory. Scans revealed the fracture not long after the affair, as the franchise passer underwent surgery later in the week, with his timetable to return immediately becoming the primary topic of discussion in Northern Texas. Initially thought to be out for eight weeks, reports have indicated that it could be closer to six, though Jones (who has secretly been a doctor all along) stated that his Quarterback could be back on the field in as little as four weeks’ time. Needless to say, however long Prescott may be out of action, this is a serious problem for the Cowboys, who have been a completely different team without the 29-year-old to lead them; he missed eleven games back in 2020, with his team going 4-7 during that span, missing the playoffs altogether in (Head Coach) Mike McCarthy’s first campaign with the franchise. Furthermore, since he was drafted 135th overall back in the 2016 NFL Draft, Dak has piloted an Offense that has averaged 25.8 points per game on 382.8 total yards, including 251.1 through the air en route to compiling a 54-36 record (including playoffs), which translates to a win percentage of .600. However, in the thirteen games in which he has been sidelined due to injury, the attack has only been able to muster 20.9 points on 328.0 total yards, including 217.3 via the pass with a 6-7 record (.461). Jones would then reward Prescott with a lucrative, four-year/$160 million contract during the following Summer, further underlying how vital he is to their success. Now, we are all well aware of how important the Quarterback position is these days, though it’s not necessarily the end of the world as McCarthy’s troops proved in last weekend’s 20-17 upset of (reigning AFC Champion) Cincinnati.
Indeed, had the Cowboys fallen to 0-2 last weekend then it would have been an untenable situation for McCarthy (pictured), who is int he midst of a crucial third season with the franchise that hired him back in 2020. Granted, not having Prescott at his disposal for roughly half of his tenure in Arlington has been a BIG problem for the 58-year-old, but fortunately for him, he had Cooper Rush to call upon. OF course, Rush replaced Prescott for a primetime Halloween bash at Minnesota last season, torching the northmen for 325 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 24-of-40 passing in a surprising 20-16 victory. The Central Michigan product returned to Dallas once again last Sunday, setting the tone early with back-to-back 75-yard touchdown drives to open their ledger. Rush was 6-8 for 110 yards on those first two possessions, including a nine-yard score to (unheralded Receiver) Noah Brown for the first touchdown, while (versatile Tailback) Tony Pollard rushed into the end zone for the second. And that would be the majority of the offense for the day for the home side, who apart from a field goal right before the end of the half, would punt on five of their next seven drives, with a lost fumble making things a bit interesting. (Defensive Coordinator) Dan Quinn’s troops did a tremendous job of corralling the Bengals’ explosive attack, holding them to just three field goals on their first eight possessions before tying the score 17-17 with a late touchdown with just under four minutes left to play. Thankfully, Rush would save the day; starting from their own 35-yard line with fifty-seven seconds remaining in the affair, the backup passer hit (Sophomore Wideout) CeeDee Lamb for eight yards, followed by a 12-yard hookup with Brown, before going right back to Lamb for ten yards, with a three-yard rush from Pollard pulling the hosts a little closer as Rush spiked the ball to stop the clock for a potential game-winning field goal. (Place Kicker) Brett Maher did exactly that, stepping up to calmly drill the 50-yarder to claim victory. In the end, Rush completed 19-of-31 attempts for 235 yards and a touchdown, finding Brown on five occasions for ninety-one yards and that score, while Lamb reeled in seven receptions on eleven targets for seventy-five yards. Pollard would add ninety-eight yards from scrimmage and a rushing touchdown. As for the Defense, Quinn’s troops relegated Cincy to just 254 total yards, wreaking havoc int he backfield with six sacks of Joe Burrow, along with thirteen pressures and nine hits of the Quarterback. (Reigning Defensive Rookie of the Year) Micah Parsons was DOMINANT, with a pair of sacks, five hits of the passer, and as many pressures. Now, they’ll be looking to disrupt the momentum of the Giants in the first division battle of the campaign for both teams. The Cowboys have won nine out of ten straight-up (8-2 against the spread) in this rivalry and are 7-3 in their last ten trips to the Meadowlands (6-4 against the spread). Furthermore, Dallas is 49-38 (.563) all-time on Monday Night Football, including 9-3 (.750) against New York in such contests, with their latest encounter coming back in 2019, a 37-18 drubbing of Big Blue at MetLife Stadium.
Meanwhile, 2022 has seen a renaissance in East Rutherford, where the Giants (2-0, T-1st in NFC East) are off to their first 2-0 start since 2016, which was coincidentally the only time that they’ve qualified for the playoffs in the last decade. Now, they have designs on extending their unbeaten start to 3-0 for the first time since 2009. So, what in the name of Phil Simms has gotten into Big Blue, you ask? Well, after suffering their fifth consecutive losing campaign, the Mara Family opted to clean house, relieving (General Manager) Dave Gettleman and (Head Coach) Joe Judge of their duties after a 10-23 stretch. Despite a lengthy search, New York didn’t have to look far for their replacements, hiring the Buffalo tandem of Brian Daboll and Joe Schoen, who played sizable roles in rebuilding the long-struggling Bills into Super Bowl contenders. Accepting the first head coaching job of his career, Daboll (pictured below) certainly warranted the attention; the 47-year-old spearheaded the seismic development of Josh Allen, raising the Quarterback from a small-school project into a perennial MVP candidate in just four years’ time. The Maras were clearly taken with his ability to develop offensive talent, with hopes that he would find a way to maximize the potential of an Offense that has been invested in heavily with poor results; under the previous administration, the Giants have ranked next-to-last in both points scored and total offense in each of the last two seasons. Though it’s only been two games, the attack has sported a much different look, even if it has yet to truly take off; Daboll’s troops have averaged 20.0 points per game (15th Overall) on 462.5 total yards (20th Overall), including a whopping 170.5 yards via the run (5th Overall). Of course, having a healthy Saquon Barkley has made a wealth of difference. Drafted second overall in the 2018 NFL Draft, the versatile Tailback is supremely talented, amassing a league-best 3,469 yards from scrimmage in his first two seasons in New York, earning Offensive Rookie of the Year honors in 2018. However, in the two years that followed he would participate in just fifteen games with a torn ACL relegating him to just two appearances in 2020. Entering the final year of his initial rookie contract, the pressure is on for 25-year-old to return to form if he wants to continue donning that blue helmet. Thankfully, he has fantastic in the early goings of the campaign, trampling the Titans for 164 rushing yards and a touchdown in a thrilling 21-20 in the season opener, before posting a more modest eighty-six yards from scrimmage in last weekend’s 19-16 victory over the Panthers. Barkley is the kind of weapon that Daboll can really put to use, which could only mean good things for their other prominent figure on Offense: Daniel Jones.
If there has been a poster boy for the Giants’ struggles over the past three years, it has undoubtedly been Jones, who after being widely considered a reach at sixth overall back in the 2019 NFL Draft, has done little to dispel that notion, winning just 32.4% of his starts, and leading the league in turnovers from his position at Quarterback. Coming into this season, Jones accounted for fifty touchdowns in comparison to forty-nine turnovers, including TWENTY lost fumbles, which were by far and away the most in the NFL during that span. Daboll and his coaching staff have their work cut out with this kid, but there have been signs of encouragement through the first two games, with Jones completing a career-high 70.9% of his passes for 364 yards, three touchdowns and an interception, while rushing for another forty-five yards on twenty-one carries. After offsetting a pair of passing touchdowns with an interception and a lost fumble in that narrow victory at Tennessee, he played a much cleaner game in last weekend’s close win over Carolina, completing 22-of-34 passes for 176 yards and a score. There wasn’t much to write home about in an affair where the two sides combined for seven field goals, but the young Quarterback does deserve some credit for managing the game well against a tough Defense that warded off the run and spent the bulk of the afternoon in his face; Jones was sacked three times, hit on nine occasions, and pressured on a total of ten drop backs, though relented from making the crucial turnover that has defined his career to this point. After the Panthers tied the game early in the fourth quarter, the hosts did their best to sit on the football, bleeding just over seven minutes of game time with thirty-seven yards on eleven plays, setting up the go-ahead 56-yard field Goal from (Place Kicker) Graham Gano. It was the veteran’s fourth field goal of the afternoon, and his second over fifty yards in the final stanza alone. In the end, it was far from a stellar showing for the Giants, who totaled just 265 yards of offense on eighteen first downs, rushing for 103 yards on thirty-three carries, and converting and 6-of-18 third downs. With that said, they did control the football for a commanding 36:05, thanks in large part to the efforts of their Defense, which relegated the visitors to just 275 total yards and 2-of-12 on third down, while forcing three fumbles, two of which were secured by Big Blue. Looking ahead to tonight’s renewal of hostilities with the Cowboys, the Giants have lost nine out of the last ten meetings, though that lone win came in the 2020 season finale with the aforementioned Prescott sidelined due to injury. Jones is 1-4 in five encounters, completing 61.2% of his passes for an average of just 155.2 yards on 6.01 net yards per attempt, with three touchdowns and two interceptions, while taking twenty-one sacks and losing FIVE fumbles. As a franchise, New York is 26-47-3 (.362) all-time on Monday Night Football.