Ezekiel Elliott is back in the saddle as the Cowboys host the Giants to open the season
After seeing the Cowboys win the division with a 10-6 record in 2018, the Giants, who finished last with a 5-11 record, will look to break a three-game losing streak that dates back to last season.
Dallas fans got great news on Wednesday, however. After spending the entire offseason searching for a new contract, star running back Ezekiel Elliott signed a six-year, $90 million deal with the team, which could prove to be bad news for the Giants.
New York at Dallas
Kickoff: Sunday, Sept. 8 at 4:25 p.m. ET
Spread: Dallas -7
Three Things to Watch
1. The return of Ezekiel Elliott
Elliott will have some obvious rust on Sunday after not going through any official activities during the offseason. But that does not mean that he won’t make an impact.
In his career, the 6-foot, 228-pound rusher has 4,048 yards and 28 touchdowns on the ground while also adding 1,199 yards and six touchdowns receiving. In four career appearances against the Giants, Elliott has produced 386 total yards (340 rushing, 46 receiving) and two touchdowns, both of which came on the ground.
After losing key defenders such as safety Landon Collins and nose tackle Damon Harrison, who are both rock-solid against the run, it’ll be interesting to see if this Dallas offense can have its way with New York’s defense.
2. How long can Eli Manning fend off Daniel Jones?
More than likely, we are not going to see Jones make his regular-season debut on Sunday. Giants owner John Mara is hoping that Jones can sit for the entirety of his rookie season, but that idea could fall apart if Manning struggles in Week 1.
The Cowboys have an abundance of talent on defense (Leighton Vander Esch, Jaylon Smith, DeMarcus Lawrence and Byron Jones, to name a few) and Manning will be without last year’s top receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who is now with the Cleveland Browns, and new arrival Golden Tate, who is suspended the first four games.
That development is not an automatic recipe for disaster, but it is certainly close.
Jones showed well during the preseason. In three games, he completed 24 of 29 passes (82.8 percent) for 349 yards and one score. He did put the ball on the ground three times, however, so ball security could be an issue if he’s forced into action in the near future.
3. Amari Cooper versus Janoris Jenkins
After battling plantar fasciitis throughout the offseason, it looks like Cooper will be a full-go against the Giants in Week 1. While that’s good news, the former Alabama standout will more than likely be going against Janoris Jenkins for much of the day.
Cooper only faced off against New York once during his first half-season in Dallas, but the G-Men held him to only five catches for 31 yards while also forcing him to fumble once. Jenkins was a major reason for that success, so it’ll be interesting to see if Cooper can have somewhat of a bounce-back performance this time around.
It is hard to imagine a scenario where the Giants walk away with a win on Sunday. Sure, it is possible, especially if Ezekiel Elliott struggles getting back into a groove, but New York has one of the worst rosters in the NFL.
Even with the potential distraction of Amari Cooper’s and Dak Prescott’s contract extensions looming, Dallas walks away from Week 1 with a double-digit victory over the Giants, who could battle the Redskins for last place in the NFC East this season.
Prediction: Cowboys 27, Giants 17
— Written by Clint Lamb, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @ClintRLamb.