By Shawn S. Lealos
The Dallas Cowboys opened the 2015 NFL season with high expectations. They then turned around and squeaked out a win against their division rival New York Giants thanks to a last minute Tony Romo rally. Coming out of their bye week, the Cowboys now hope to repeat their Week 1 victory with their rematch on the road against the Giants; but this time, Dallas will be without Tony Romo to lead the way. Here is a look at the New York Giants heading into this big rematch.
When the season started, Dallas came in as a huge favorite to win the NFC East and the New York Giants hoped to keep pace with the revamped Philadelphia Eagles. However, after six weeks, the Eagles and Giants sit atop the NFC East with 3-3 records, although the Eagles just beat the Giants on Monday Night Football and own the tiebreaker. Dallas sits half a game back at 2-3, and they have the tiebreaker over both teams right now. A win by the Giants this week would eliminate that Cowboys’ tiebreaker and shake up the NFC East.
New York Giants On Offense
The New York Giants live and die by Eli Manning. For most of the season, win or lose, the Giants have played well on offense. Even in the season opening loss to the Cowboys, Eli Manning led his team down to take the lead with just over a minute remaining, a feat that would have beaten almost any team in the NFL. Things fell apart for the Giants on Monday night against the Eagles, where they turned the ball over three times, committed 12 penalties and couldn’t convert on third downs.
That was not normal for the Giants this season, Manning is playing very well. With 11 touchdowns and only four interceptions on the season, this is one of his better years. He is averaging 263 yards per game and that is even with Odell Beckham Jr. disappearing on occasion. Beckham, the Giants best receiver, leads the team with 38 receptions for 489 yards and four touchdowns on the season. Those are nice numbers, but he has only eclipsed the 100 yard mark twice this year. He also has only caught 63 percent of the passes thrown his way, which makes one wonder what those numbers would look like if he converted more receptions.
The one problem with the Giants is their running game. Rashad Jennings is still the lead back but has only run for 243 yard and one touchdown on the season. His backup Andre Williams has added 127 yards and one touchdown, but the two only combine for 61 rushing yards a game. That puts way too much pressure on Manning to win games on his own.
New York Giants On Defense
The New York Giants defense is why they are only .500 this season. Eli Manning did everything he needed to do to beat the Dallas Cowboys in the opening game of the 2015 NFL season, but it wasn’t enough because the Giants defense couldn’t stop Romo and the Cowboys with only one minute remaining in the game. They gave up 27 to Dallas in Week 1 and have come off back-to-back games where they gave up 27 points, one a win and one a loss. They won’t finish better than .500 if they don’t start limiting points on the board.
The Giants rank 28th in the NFL in total defense. giving up 391.5 yards per game and 22.7 points per game. The one advantage they have coming into the Cowboys game is that they are good against the run, giving up only 93 yards a game on the ground on average. Dallas will start Matt Cassel at quarterback in his first game in Dallas against a Giants defense that gives up 298.5 yards through the air. If Dallas limits Cassel like they limited Brandon Weeden, this is a good matchup for the Giants.
New York Giants’ Players To Watch
Odell Beckham Jr.
The star on the New York Giants offense is still Odell Beckham Jr. The explosive second-year star has led the team with 38 receptions on 60 targets with 489 yards and a team high four touchdowns. He ranks ninth in the NFL in receptions, 14th in receiving yards and eighth in touchdown receptions. He has done all this and still hasn’t looked as good as he did as a rookie. When he is hot, he is almost unstoppable.
While the New York Giants defense has been really bad so far this season, they have a shining star in rookie Uani’ Unga. No one could have expected this from Unga. The young man went to college at BYU, but went undrafted in 2014 due to a knee injury. He made the Giants’ practice squad in December of 2014 and made his first career start this season in the Cowboys game. In that game, Unga intercepted a Tony Romo pass. Since then, he has been a highlight for the Giants defense, leading the team with 42 total tackles. He also has two interceptions, two forced fumbles, and five passes defensed.
The Dallas Cowboys opened the season as favorites over the New York Giants and came away with a last minute come-from-behind win. This rematch sees the Giants as the favorite, thanks mostly to the loss of Tony Romo from the Cowboys offense. While the Giants defense is bad enough to lose any game, their offense should be good enough to overpower an injured Cowboys offense and win the rematch between the NFC East rivals.
Shawn S. Lealos is a freelance writer who graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2000 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism. He writes for a variety of national publications and has over 15 years of sports journalism experience. Follow Shawn on Twitter @sslealos. Examiner.com.