Game week is finally here as the regular season is now upon us.
Surprise, surprise, the Cowboys and Giants are squaring off in Week 1 of the season. For the sixth time in the last eight years, these two division rivals will open the season against each other. The Cowboys are 4-1 in the previous five openers against the Giants.
But does history really matter in games like this? We’re about to find out on Sunday when the season kicks off at 3:25 p.m. at AT&T Stadium.
In preparation, let’s look at the big picture for both teams.
Here are five quick storylines for each team to get us ready for the action.
- The Giants traded away Odell Beckham Jr. to the Browns in the offseason. But his absence has left a bigger hole at the receiver position, especially veteran free agent Golden Tate suspended for the first four games. The Giants are about to see how bad they will miss a Pro Bowl-caliber receiver in the lineup.
- On a more positive note at receiver, Sterling Shepherd, the team’s most experienced receiver, says he is fully healthy after suffering a fractured thumb and will start against the Cowboys Sunday.
- Eli Manning is back for his 16th consecutive season as the Giants starting quarterback. The team sent shockwaves around the league by drafting Duke’s Daniel Jones with the NO. 6 overall pick. But Jones will back up Manning, a two-time Super Bowl winning QB who is 13-16 in his 29 starts vs. Dallas.
- The Giants have one of the NFL’s most dynamic players in Saquon Barkley, who won the Offensive Rookie of the Year Award last season. So what does a sophomore season include? While most fantasy football owners had him as the best player on the board, let’s see how that translates to the field. We know he can run and catch the ball, evident by his 14-reception game against the Cowboys last year in Week 2.
- Head coach Pat Shurmur knows there is a perception nationally that his team will struggle again in 2019. HE hears it, but isn’t concerned. “I like the way we built our team and I like some of the changes we made personnel-wise," Shurmur said. "I also feel like in our second year in our system we are smoother in how we operate. That’s why I think like that. I don’t care what everybody outside thinks.”
- Is there bigger news around the league than Ezekiel Elliott’s holdout? Maybe so, but not in terms of the Cowboys and this matchup with the Giants. As of Tuesday afternoon, the two sides were still negotiating terms of a new contract extension. The bigger question now is if Zeke will be in game shape and able to contribute against the Giants.
- Either way, Tony Pollard’s role with the Cowboys will be something to watch. Remember, the team drafted him in the fourth round to offset Zeke’s rugged style of play with a change of pace. If Zeke does return, it’ll still be worth watching to see how new offensive coordinator Kellen Moore incorporates Pollard to the mix. If he has to start, now that would be quite a story as well. He’s looked good in few carries he received in preseason but getting the ball for four quarters in a regular-season game should be on another level.
- Amari Cooper, who like Zeke and Dak Prescott, awaits a new contract as well. But the bigger question for Cooper is how he performs having missed so much time with a foot/heel injury. Cooper said this week that he “feels fine” but it sounds like this will be the type of injury he has to manage all year.
- Cooper isn’t the only key player returning from injury. All eyes will be on All-Pro cornerback Byron Jones, who hasn’t practiced much with a hip injury that required offseason surgery. DeMarcus Lawrence (shoulder), Tyrone Crawford (hip) and Zack Martin (back) have all missed considerable time but are expected to practice this week.
- Welcome Back! Let’s not forget about a pair of Pro Bowlers, including a future Hall of Famer that are returning in 2019. Jason Witten and Travis Frederick are back in the starting lineup. Will they have rust? Will they be fresh? Maybe a combination of both. The Cowboys are hoping that the return of both players can help in the red zone, where the offense struggled last year. New OC Kellen Moore should have made red-zone offense a huge priority in his preparation for his first season calling plays.