The New York Giants host the Dallas Cowboys in an intriguing, and perhaps more important than might have been believed before the season began, NFC East matchup on Monday night. Here are seven storylines to be aware of.
The Giants are actually favored
The Giants are the favorites on Monday night, per DraftKings Sportsbook. Per Odds Shark, this is the first time the Giants have been favored against Dallas since Dec. 30. 2018. Favored by 7.5 points that day, the Giants lost, 36-35.
MetLife Stadium was a towel-waving madhouse at the beginning — and most signficantly — at the end of Sunday’s victory over the Carolina Panthers.
The Cowboys, as they say, travel well. In recent years, they have traveled so well to East Rutherford that there have been more Cowboys fans than Giants fans in MetLife Stadium when the teams have played in New Jersey. Of course, the Cowboys have generally been playing for something meaningful while the Giants have been playing simply to cross the game off the schedule and get the season over with.
I’m guessing the atmosphere is going to be just a bit different on Monday night.
The Giants’ surprising start has allowed fans to dream. 3-0? Maybe 4-0? Could the Giants, tied for worst team in football with the New York Jets from 2017-2021, actually start the season that well?
Well, they can ... until, of course, they can’t.
I don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade, but the last time the Giants started a season 3-0 or better was 2009. They started that year 5-0. How did they finish? 8-8 and out of the playoffs.
Parsons leads the NFL in sacks after two games with 4.0. A year after being named an All-Pro and winning AP Defensive Rookie of the Year honors, Parsons is taking early aim at Defensive Player of the Year. Monday night, he will be taking aim at Daniel Jones.
The Giants, of course, had an opportunity to draft Parsons a year ago. They chose, instead, to trade down from No. 11 to No. 20, add draft capital and select Kadarius Toney. At the time, that move was widely praised. It hasn’t exactly worked out. Toney can’t consistently stay on the field and Parsons is, arguably, the game’s best defensive player.
Remember, though, that the trade with the Chicago Bears allowed the Giants to have two top-10 picks this time around. The Giants used the second of those on Evan Neal, who figures to be lined up against Parsons quite often on Monday.
In an excellent, and somewhat scary, breakdown of Parsons’ abilities, SB Nation’s Mark Schofield pointed out that Pro Football Focus charting shows Parson has been aligned on the edge in 95 of 120 defensive snaps so far this season.
You have to suspect that when he is aligned on the edge Monday that will usually be against Neal rather than Andrew Thomas. With the Giants’ struggles on the interior offensive line in the first two weeks, perhaps Dallas defensive coordinator Dan Quinn will line Parsons up inside to try and take advantage of that.
Either way, dealing with Parsons — if they can — will be a priority for the Giants.
The Giants are almost certain to be without Leonard Williams, their best defensive lineman. Williams suffered a sprained MCL Sunday against the Panthers and appears likely to miss a game (or games) for the first time in his eight-year NFL career.
That’s the bad news.
The good news is the Giants might have No. 5 overall pick Kayvon Thibodeaux for the first time on Monday. Thibodeaux has been out since suffering a sprained MCL of his own in Week 2 of the preseason. The rookie said last week he thought there was a possibility he would play Week 2 against the Panthers. That didn’t happen, but the guess here is that Thibodeaux in on the field Monday.
Edge defenders Jihad Ward and Oshane Ximines have played exceptionally well through two weeks in place of Thibodeaux and Azeez Ojulari (calf), but the Giants are a better and deeper defense with those two young edge defenders than without them.
Who’s catching the ball?
The Giants’ wide receiver situation has gotten, shall we say, intriguing.
Only two snaps last week for the highly-paid (overpaid?) Kenny Golladay. Only seven snaps the week before for Toney. David Sills playing 67 of 73 offensive snaps last week against the Panthers. Who thought Richie James would lead the Giants in receptions and receiving yards after two weeks? He does, with 11 catches for 110 yards.
“Regardless of where you’re drafted, how you got here, how much money you make, we believe in everybody goes out there and competes, and we play the guys that earn the right to play that week,” head coach Brian Daboll said on Monday.
So, who’s it going to be this week?
One thing we know. Over the long haul, the passing attack has to be more productive.
The Giants are 31st in the league in passing yards per game (159.0) after two weeks. They are 2-0, but winning while averaging far below 200 yards passing per game is not sustainable. By the way, how is it possible that the Chicago Bears are averaging 76.5 yards passing per game?
This is the same Cooper Rush who has been hanging around the league as an undrafted player looking for a real opportunity, almost exclusively with Dallas, since 2017.
Yes, this is the same Cooper Rush who was on and off the Giants’ practice squad a couple of times in 2020. The same Cooper Rush the Giants cut that year in favor of Clayton Thorson, a fifth-round pick by the Philadelphia Eagles in 2019 who has never thrown an NFL pass.
Rush hasn’t just been a bystander in those two victories. He has been a significant contributor. Against Minnesota last year, he went 24 of 40 for 325 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. Last week against Cincinnati, Rush went 19 of 31 for 235 yards and a touchdown. He went 3 of 3 for 30 yards on the game-winning drive in the final two minutes.
So, yeah, he can play a little bit.