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Keys To The Game: Down & Distance Will Play A Big Role In Season Opener

FRISCO, Texas – Having studied my notes, here are the two biggest keys I'll be watching during Sunday's game. I think these two big aspects will go a long way in determining who starts their season off with a win.

Dallas Cowboys Win If:

This game will not come down to how Dak Prescott plays but how his teammates play around him. There is not a team in the league that is better equipped to handle a rookie quarterback playing than the Cowboys. Just go through the lineup position by position and note the talent around him. Whether it is the offensive line, Jason Witten or Dez Bryant – Prescott will have superior options to work with. This is not to say that Prescott won't have to make some plays along the way for the victory, but the entire game will not be on his shoulders.

Since the injury to Kellen Moore and now Tony Romo, Scott Linehan has been working to learn about Prescott and what makes him comfortable as a quarterback. We have seen Prescott operate under center like in the Miami game, and then later out of the shotgun against Seattle with nice success. My expectations for Prescott are that Scott Linehan will be aggressive in his play calling, because the rookie has given him that confidence from what he has seen in these preseason games.

Prescott is where he is today because of his teammates and the confidence they have in him. You can see it in the way they play around him. If the Dallas Cowboys win this game it will be because they did their jobs better than then the New York Giants and Dak Prescott benefitted from that -- because it will take the pressure off him.

New York Giants Win If:

The Cowboys' game plan is to put Dak Prescott in as many situations as possible where its' a manageable down and distance. Scott Linehan is going to want to control the line of scrimmage with the running game, and that means plenty of Ezekiel Elliott. If they're able to accomplish that, then it will be better for Prescott to have those run-pass options – which, as we saw in the preseason – is where he tends to have his most success.

Where the Giants can hurt Prescott is if he has to deal with long yardage situations and is forced to have to make tight window throws in order to convert. The Giants secondary is not afraid to gamble in coverage, which means the more passes they have to face, there's more likelihood that one of those passes comes down as an interception.

From what I observed from their preseason games, I thought the Giants did a nice job of defending the run even with Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon on the edges. Both are difficult to deal with from the aspect that they're rangy in the way that they play with their hands to keep blockers off their bodies. As you try and widen them, they find ways to not let tackles hook them -- which makes it hard to capture the corner to get the ball outside.

If the Giants control the Cowboys offensive line, then they control this game and get the victory.


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