Normally, a Sunday night trip to Dallas would generate plenty of anxiety and anticipation.
But these aren’t your typical Cowboys.
And this matchup isn’t your typical one either. The loser will be 0-2 and possibly face the start of a downward spiral.
Big Blue’s Defense has to take advantage of the opportunity.
The Giants will make their usual high profile trip to Dallas this weekend facing a Cowboys team that isn’t running on all the same cylinders as they did last season.
Ezekiel Elliot is the main target of the Giants’ defense Sunday night just as his was with Carolina, which limited him to 79 yards last weekend. The Cowboys have two new starters on the offensive line, but they still can be a plowing unit.
Quarterback Dak Prescott is adjusting to life without security blanket Jason Witten and gamebreaker Dez Bryant. His new core has some familiar names, but they lack the firepower of his former targets.
Bryant also was constantly under pressure, had limited lanes, and sacked six times, creating an uneventful 19—for-29, 170-yard afternoon that produced eight points.
Reportedly, owner Jerry Jones already is searching for a fall guy, and offensive coordinator Scott Linehan appears to be the prime target.
So, the task for the Giants’ defense looks rather simplistic – stop Elliott and Prescott.
Jacksonville’ Leonard Fournette rumbled his way to 41 yards early in the first half last week before he left with a knee injury.
“They’re two totally different teams,” said Giants’ linebacker B. J. Goodson. “Two totally different personnel so it’s obviously different and Zeke is obviously a big part of the offense.”
Head coach Pat Shurmur knows it will be about the run with Elliott and Prescott.
“It starts with the run for them,” Shurmur said. “Certainly they’ve got an outstanding running back. I don’t know about the narrative about their O Line, but they look pretty good blocking to me, especially in the first week. They’ve got an outstanding run game. When you have the threat of the quarterback as a runner, that adds another element to it because the so-called zone read game shows up and they don’t worry about him running with the football.”
Goodson, who combined with Kerry Wynn for the team’s lone sack last week, will need to apply some heat to Prescott, who easily could get his passing game in gear with a pass rush. Shurmur hinted that Olivier Vernon could be ready for this week to help enhance their rush.
Without Witten and Bryant, Eli Apple and Janoris Jenkins should be able to control the passing game and prove that last week’s showing wasn’t a fluke.
The Giants’ defense had a solid second half last week and helped keep the game within reach.
Now they will need to lockdown Dallas’ running game or be on the run themselves.