Mathematically, the second game of the season isn't a "must-win" for postseason purposes. But history says the playoffs are usually a long shot for teams that start 0-2.
The Cowboys are seeking a more complete performance after an ugly 16-8 loss at Carolina. Their division rivals, the New York Giants, fell to Jacksonville in Week 1.
Which team bounces back and avoids that 0-2 trap? The DallasCowboys.com staff gives their gut feelings for Cowboys-Giants on Sunday Night Football at AT&T Stadium:
Bryan Broaddus: Both teams are going to work hard defensively not to allow the other to run the ball. I believe that Dallas is going to have to open things up, especially on first down. If that's the case, I really do like the matchup of Cole Beasley against B.W. Webb in this game. With Landon Collins committed to the run, that should leave Beasley in several one-on-one situations. Dak Prescott needs to wear this matchup out, so it would not surprise me one bit to see Beasley with double-digit targets and receptions on Sunday night. Cowboys need to stay ahead of the chains, and the combo of Prescott and Beasley could provide that. Dallas wins, 24-13.
Lindsay Draper: All week long, both Cowboys coaches and players have reiterated that the less-than-thrilling performance in Week 1 was strictly from of a lack of execution. Well, with a little bit of film and a lot of discipline – execution in fundamentals can be an immediate fix. Does it seem likely to have a completely different look and game in just one week of practice? Not really. Is it possible? Absolutely. That's why I'm putting them, and my gut, to the test. I go with a win this week, because they say they're capable of getting this offense rolling with a few fundamental fixes. If, for two weeks in a row, the offensive rhythm goes unchanged – we will have to revisit my gut and have a "Come to Jesus Meeting" in Week 3.
Nick Eatman: I feel like I've been riding the fence on this one all week long. Yes, I can see the Cowboys bouncing back at home with a strong win. But, something just tells me the Giants' offense has improved enough to make this one more difficult. I like a turnover by Kavon Frazier, a sack from Taco Charlton and a touchdown this week from Michael Gallup. However, I do think Saquon Barkley will provide enough balance for the Giants' to be dynamic offensively again. And while the Cowboys' defense is now the best aspect of this team, I have a hard time thinking they will limit them under two touchdowns. I can't really see the Cowboys getting more than that. So, this is more about the Giants' improvement than the Cowboys' struggles, but I'm going to say New York, 17-16.
Rob Phillips: Both offensive units have the same directive: Do whatever they can to make things easier for their quarterbacks. The Giants drafted Barkley to take the pressure off Manning, and the Cowboys desperately need to get Elliott more touches and balance things out for Prescott. I do believe the Dallas offense will be more efficient Sunday at home. To me, the most important key is affecting Manning enough so he can't hit those home-run plays downfield to Beckham and others. The Cowboys' defense allowed only one big pass play last week – a 19-yard completion by Cam Newton – and they've got to continue that pressure Sunday. In what I expect to be a low-scoring game, one or two explosive plays can make all the difference. Gut Feeling: Cowboys grind out a win to get to 1-1.
David Helman: Look, here's the thing: even if you aren't a believer in Prescott, it's a proven fact that he isn't as bad as he looked on Sunday against Carolina. He might not ever be a top-flight quarterback in the NFL, but we know he can make the plays he missed in Week 1, because we've seen him do it a million times. The Cowboys don't need Dak to be great to win games, they simply need him to be good enough. He wasn't good enough against the Panthers, but I think he can be better this time. This Giants front isn't as good as Carolina's, so I'm optimistic that Elliott can be a bit better. New York's secondary is going to be a challenge, but if Zeke is doing his thing, then there should be plays there for Dak to make. He's just got to make them. The Giants' offense has a ton of talent, but I like the Cowboys' chances to disrupt the passing game. And I think their linebackers will play a better game to help limit Barkley. The Cowboys can limit the Giants to 20 points or fewer, it's just going to be on Dak to score more than that. This week, I think he bounces back in a Cowboys win – something like 23-17.
Mickey Spagnola: This game will come down to which team's offensive line performs the best. Which one can protect their quarterback the best. Look, a lot of blame has been placed on Dak's shoulder's after the season-opening loss. But I suggest you go out there playing quarterback when and get sacked six times, hit another 10 times and then hurried out of the pocket an 'inordinate' amount of times. See how accurate you are throwing the football. I say this Cowboys offensive line bounces back. Those guys are better than the Carolina performances, even if Joe Looney is starting at center for Travis Frederick and rookie Connor Williams will be starting just his second NFL game, making the transition from tackle in college to guard with the Cowboys. Cowboys will score just enough to win, 19-17.