NEW YORK GIANTS AT DALLAS COWBOYS

KICKOFF: Sunday, 8:30 p.m. ET, AT&T Stadium. TV: NBC, Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michele Tafoya.

SERIES HISTORY: 110th regular-season meeting. Cowboys lead series, 62-45-2. The Giants and Cowboys have opened the season against each other in four of the last five years. This will be the third consecutive opener for the teams in Dallas. The Giants are 21-28-1 in Sunday night games, including 10-16-1 in road games.

GAMEDATE: 9/10/17

KEYS TO THE GAME: Dallas RB Ezekiel Elliott, fighting a six-game suspension, will play in the opener. And the Cowboys will hope to do better this year against a Giants run defense that last year allowed 88.6 yards per game and held Elliott, the league’s top rusher, to 157 yards in two games.

The Giants’ offensive line is hoping to gain some momentum against a Dallas defensive front that will be missing defensive linemen Damontre Moore, Randy Gregory and David Irving as a result of league-imposed suspensions.

The Giants, who are looking to uncork their running game, didn’t have much success running behind the starting offensive line in preseason, but there is hope that the additional practice reps will have running backs Paul Perkins, Shane Vereen, Orleans Darkwa and Wayne Gallman a lot more comfortable with their timing in hitting the hole.

In the passing game, there appears to be optimism that receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who has been nursing an ankle sprain, will be ready to go.

Even if Beckham doesn’t play, Giants quarterback Eli Manning has plenty of weapons to use against the Dallas defense. New York added wide receiver Brandon Marshall and drafted tight end Evan Engram, boosting an offense that averaged 330 yards per game last season.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH:

–Giants WR Odell Beckham and WR Brandon Marshall vs. Cowboys CB Nolan Carroll and CB Anthony Brown. Orlando Scandrick is the Cowboys’ best cornerback, but he will be in slot on passing downs, leaving the shaky Carroll and the largely unproven Brown on the outside trying to check Beckham and Marshall. This is a decided mismatch for the Giants, especially with the Cowboys’ suspect pass rush.

–Cowboys TE Jason Witten vs. Giants MLB B.J. Goodson. With Keenan Robinson, the Giants’ best cover linebacker, still in the concussion protocol, Goodson has had to take on coverage responsibilities in the nickel. Safety Landon Collins said Goodson has made a lot of progress in coverage, adding it’s just a matter of matching the speed of the defense. If Goodson isn’t fully up to speed by Sunday night, chances are Collins will be there to help cover Witten, historically a major thorn in the Giants’ side.

GIANTS NOTABLE ROOKIE: Tight end Evan Engram. The first-round draft pick can play multiple positions. Engram, who finished the preseason six receptions for 75 yards, lined up in-line, in the slot, split wide, in the backfield and in motion, giving coach Ben McAdoo options to create mismatches. In his final two seasons at Ole Miss, Engram caught 10 of 17 deep balls thrown to him for 337 yards and three touchdowns — a skill the Giants need over the middle.

COWBOYS NOTABLE ROOKIE: Defensive end Taco Charlton. Charlton was the team’s top pick for a reason. They needed help at defensive end and he was the best person on the board to fill the need. He will not make a Myles Garrett-like impact, which is why he wasn’t picked at the top of the board. But he will play a lot. If he is not the team’s rookie of the year, something will have gone really, really wrong.

FAST FACTS: Giants QB Eli Manning passed for 4,027 yards in 2016, his franchise-record sixth 4,000-yard season. He ranks eighth in NFL history with 48,214 yards and seventh with 320 TD passes. … Giants RB Paul Perkins had 618 scrimmage yards (456 rushing) as a rookie in 2016. … Giants WR Odell Beckham Jr. ranked third in the NFL in receptions (101) and yards (1,367) last season. He has 288 catches, tied for most by an NFL player in his first three seasons. … WR Brandon Marshall makes his debut with the Giants. He ranks third among active players in receptions (941) and second in receiving yards (12,061). … Dallas QB Dak Prescott set NFL rookie records for QB wins (13), interception percentage (0.9) and rating (104.9). … Dallas TE Jason Witten caught 69 passes, his 13th consecutive season with 60. His 1,089 career receptions are second all-time among TEs. … Dallas LB Sean Lee had a career-high 145 tackles in 2016, tied for third in the NFL. He has 273 tackles since 2015, second most in the NFL.

PREDICTION: The presence of Elliott and the injury to Beckham seem to shift the tide in the Cowboys’ favor at home.

OUR PICK: Cowboys, 17-14.

Chris Cluff



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