The New York Giants are the only team to beat the Dallas Cowboys in 2016 but things have changed since that September matchup. The Giants will be without Jason Pierre-Paul as they try and make it two-for-two against Dallas at MetLife Stadium this Sunday. Johnathan Hankins didn’t practice Wednesday and appears headed for a ‘questionable’ designation.
The wear and tear of spending more time on the field than 30 other defenses could not have caught up to the Giants at a worse time — with the league’s best offensive line and ball-control offense lying in wait.
Talent wins in the NFL and the Cowboys offense has it in spades. Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliot are exceptional rookies who’ve performed like All-Pros. Dez Bryant has played his best football the past four weeks after missing a month earlier this season with a hairline fracture in his knee. As great as they are, everything for Dallas starts up front.
NFL Honors ballots may need adjusting so the Cowboys’ entire offensive line can receive MVP consideration. Behind Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, Zack Martin, Ronald Leary and Doug Free, Dallas leads the league in time of possession (32:29 per game) and are second in rushing (155.8 pg). If you’re wondering, the Giants are 31st in both categories (26:50 ToP, 77.5 yds rushing).
Smith (13th), Martin (12th) and Frederick (9th) are each rated by Pro Football Focus as Top 25 offensive linemen this season. You can’t go wrong picking any one of them but with Ereck Flowers’ struggles at left tackle, Tyron Smith would be my Big Blue addition. No matter the complexity of an offense or weapons it possesses, a team that doesn’t keep its quarterback upright or open holes in the run game isn’t going to be successful.
Here’s the case for the rest below.
Dak Prescott, QB
Prescott’s having a monster rookie-season, completing 67 percent of his passes with 19 touchdowns to two interceptions. Unless he falls off a cliff over the next few weeks, his 108.6 quarterback rating is on pace to annihilate Ben Roethlisberger’s rookie-record (98.1).
Ezekiel Elliot, RB
12 games played, more than 1,200 yards rushng and 12 touchdowns, Elliot hasn’t rushed for less than 83 yards in a game since the Giants held him to 51 in his NFL debut.
Dez Bryant, WR
Bryant’s numbers are skewed because he’s missed time, but his last four games projected over a 16-game season (84/1,408/16) prove he’s still elite when healthy.
Jason Witten, TE
The ageless Witten is having another strong season. He isn’t an elite tight end anymore and probably was never quite that, but put him on the Giants and he’s the team’s best pass-catcher and blocker at the position. Still.
Zack Martin, RG
Odell Beckham Jr. was the flashy first-round pick for the Giants in 2014, Martin would’ve been the practical one for an offensive line in need of youth and talent. Not that many are complaining, but Martin is already one of the league’s top guards.
Travis Frederick, C
According to PFF, Frederick hasn’t surrendered a sack this season and is the Cowboys top-rated lineman.
Sean Lee, LB
Lee’s motor is still going strong in his seventh season. He’s on pace for a career-high in tackles.