Cowboys, Giants begin battle to contend in NFC East, beyond

Cowboys, Giants begin battle to contend in NFC East, beyond

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Expectations, understandably, are rising this season for both the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Giants ahead of their opener under the “Sunday Night Football” lights in East Rutherford, N.J.

Dallas has one of its most talented collections of players in recent memory and wants to avoid underperforming in the playoffs, in owner Jerry Jones’ eyes. New York arrived on the playoff scene ahead of schedule last year and is bringing back the same core with some improvements on both sides of the ball.

Both teams must contend with the Philadelphia Eagles, who beat them out for the NFC East title on their way to a Super Bowl appearance a year ago. On Sunday, they just have to contend with one another.

“All the divisional games are certainly big, and a matchup with a lot of tradition and history,” Giants quarterback Daniel Jones said. “Yeah, it’s a big deal, but it’s about what we do, it’s about how we play and taking care of our business first.”

New York started last season 7-2, stumbled down the stretch, eventually made the playoffs and beat the Minnesota Vikings in the wild-card round before losing to Philadelphia.

The Giants decided Daniel Jones had proven himself as their franchise quarterback and locked him in for $40 million per year over four years. Then they settled a rift with star running back Saquon Barkley by giving him a one-year pact worth up to $11 million, following Barkley’s best season since his rookie campaign.

The Giants added inside linebacker Bobby Okereke and traded for Arizona linebacker/safety Isaiah Simmons, who’s yet to live up to his potential as a former eighth overall draft pick. Rookie wide receiver Jalin Hyatt and veteran tight end Darren Waller will give Jones more to work with in the passing game.

“Like I’ve said before, growing up in a house with my parents, NFC East fans, I know the history,” Waller said this week. “I know how heated and competitive these games have been over the years and I know what I’m about to step into on Sunday. I am honored to take the field.”

Fans of those other NFC East teams relish the fact that it’s been 27 years and counting since the Cowboys won a Super Bowl — or even reached an NFC Championship Game. Last season, Dallas never lost consecutive games but fell to San Francisco in the divisional round.

“It means so much to have the whole thing come together in the playoffs when you got a team like that and raise its level of competitiveness, raise its level of execution, raise its level of intensity and play playoff football,” Jerry Jones, now 80, said in a radio appearance on 105.3 The Fan. “That’s what I want.”

Despite a surprise trade for Trey Lance of the San Francisco 49ers late last month, the Cowboys are again rolling with Dak Prescott as the starting quarterback. He was criticized for throwing 15 interceptions a year ago, but the Cowboys are confident he will “own” a revamped offense with head coach Mike McCarthy taking over play-calling.

Tony Pollard is RB1, with Ezekiel Elliott going to New England. The Cowboys locked up guard Zack Martin and cornerback Trevon Diggs, among the best at their respective positions, and they’re buoyed by a defensive front seven led by linebacker Micah Parsons and defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence.

“No one’s done anything. It’s the first game, so there really are no comparables,” McCarthy said. “There’s reputation based on what you did last year. Doesn’t mean much. … Execution is obviously the key.”

The Cowboys have won 11 of the past 12 meetings with the Giants, including another prime-time visit to New Jersey last September, a 23-16 Monday night victory.

Dallas offensive lineman Tyler Smith (hamstring), safety Donovan Wilson (calf) and defensive end Sam Williams (foot) missed Wednesday’s practice. Seven backups were limited for the Giants, including WR Wan’Dale Robinson (knee).

—Field Level Media

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About the Author

Anthony Barnett
Anthony is the author of the Science & Technology section of ANH.