The New York Giants and the Dallas Cowboys square off in a Week 1 contest between divisional rivals. In that game, the Giants are considered the underdogs. They were one of the worst teams in the NFL last season and they’re going up against the NFC East champions.
However, that doesn’t tell the whole story. The Giants do have some advantages heading into the first week of the season and those advantages could help lead them to an upset victory.
But what exactly are those advantages?
Here are four reasons why the New York Giants will beat the Dallas Cowboys in Week 1 of the regular season.
4. Saquon Barkley
Saquon Barkley is the best running back in football. There, I said it. I’m not just saying it because he’s from my hometown area either (Nazareth stand up!)
It took him one year to do it and after what he did last year, it’s hard to argue against him. Barkley ran for 1,307 yards and seven touchdowns on 261 carries. That’s a 5.0 yards per carry average. The only other person with 200-plus carries that averaged 5.0 per carry last season was Christian McCaffrey.
Barkley also racked up 91 receptions for 721 yards and four more touchdowns. This immediately made him one of the most versatile weapons in the NFL.
People love to point out that defenses will game plan for him now and stack the box. However, if you don’t think they were doing that by midseason last year you’re insane.
Saquon Barkley proved he can handle a heavy workload and with his legs fresh from a full offseason, he’ll be at an all-time high dangerous in Week 1. The Dallas Cowboys defense is extremely good, but Barkley’s a different kind of animal. If nothing else, he’ll open up the passing game and give the Giants a few big plays to set them up in good field position.
A defense can never rest when Saquon Barkley’s on the field.
3. Ezekiel Elliott
Speaking of elite running backs, the Dallas Cowboys have one of the best at the position as well. However, Ezekiel Elliott is dealing with a contract dispute. At the time of writing this, he still hasn’t signed, although reports are that the deal is almost done.
The idea is apparently to sign him as quick as possible so he can be ready for Week 1. Even if he is though, this is an Ezekiel Elliott that hasn’t trained with the team at all in camp or the preseason. Will he be in the right shape and state of mind? Will he be able to get back into the groove of the offense immediately?
Those are all big questions and they aren’t even the biggest ones. The biggest is simple, will he even play? Elliott’s deal might be close to done but it’s not done yet. There’s a big chance he’s not signed by the first week of the season. Even if he is, there’s a big chance the Cowboys decide to sit him out Week 1.
They could feel like Elliott isn’t ready to play with the team. If they just signed him to a big deal they’ll want to protect him. Throwing him into a game when he hasn’t even practiced with the team all year seems irresponsible. Expect the Cowboys to be cautious with him.
Without Ezekiel Elliott the offense is drastically different. Dak Prescott has proven himself in the NFL. Let’s not pretend like his numbers dip significantly without Elliott though.
Without him, the Giants could pounce.
2. Eli Manning
Seriously. I’m serious about this one. Believe me, not many people have been harder on Eli Manning in his career than I have. I always felt like he was overrated and way too turnover prone. I’ll gladly tell anyone that listens that if it wasn’t for that defense, the Giants don’t win those Super Bowls.
That being said, Eli Manning is a first ballot Hall of Famer and you’re only fooling yourself if you think otherwise.
He’s declined over the last few years pretty significantly. However, he’s still good for some big performances every once in a while.
The New York Giants drafted Daniel Jones as his replacement this year, but Manning still has the starting job – for now. Don’t be surprised if he goes out there and proves why.
We’re not that far removed from Manning being considered an elite quarterback. I’m not saying he’ll go out there and make it look like he’s in his prime, but he can do enough to help the Giants win.
Oh, and it helps that the offensive line is deeply improved.
Give him more time in the pocket and maybe he doesn’t look so bad anymore.
1. Defensive Weapons
The New York Giants defense absolutely has its problems. They also have a lot of highlights though.
Dexter Lawrence is an exciting rookie that automatically improves the defensive line. Alex Ogletree has proven his worth at linebacker as well. Meanwhile, Antoine Bethea and Jabrill Peppers create a strong safety duo and Janoris Jenkins is a playmaker at cornerback.
Without Elliott, the New York defense can focus on trying to terrorize Prescott.
Not having to worry as much about the run makes things much easier and they can shine in a Week 1 contest, surprising the football world.