The Dallas Cowboys will need offensive coordinator Scott Linehan to generate lots of points to beat the New York Giants in the regular season opener.
By now, you’ve heard all the talk you can stand regarding the fact that the New York Giants beat the Dallas Cowboys, champions of the NFC East in 2017, twice last year. In fact, the G-men were the only team to beat Dallas in a meaningful regular season game last season.
You’re probably sick and tired of the drama surrounding NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Cowboys star running back Ezekiel Elliott, even if you’re relieved that the ’17 NFL rushing champion will play against New York on Sunday night.
Having said all of that, let’s shift gears towards some actual football talk. Let’s highlight some elements that actually pertain to the season premier of Sunday Night Football, shall we?
This game is pretty simple, at least when it comes to projecting a Dallas victory, which I’m not at all prepared to do.
Attention offensive coordinator Scott Linehan: Your Dallas Cowboys offense needs points on Sunday night – a lot of points.
No longer is quarterback Dak Prescott – or Elliott, for that matter – a wet-behind-the-ears rookie just getting acclimated to the professional game. While the odds of the Dallas Cowboys having a stronger debut this season than last are rather good, it remains to be seen if America’s Team can put enough points on the board to dictate a football game against Big Blue.
In simply sticking to last season’s results, the issue really wasn’t whether or not the Dallas defense could contain two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback Eli Manning. This up-and-down franchise quarterback threw interceptions in both contests while combining for exactly 400 yards passing in the two meetings.
That’s not exactly back-breaking material.
At issue last season was Dallas’ lack of offense in both games.
I distinctly recall former Cowboys head coach Jimmy Johnson reflecting on his pregame preparations for the NFC Championship Game following the 1992 regular season.
Citing words of prophetic wisdom from then-defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt, Johnson said that his defensive guru wanted just 20 points to have a shot at victory against the San Francisco 49ers.
That was the imaginary mark set by the coaching staff that might just catapult the young Cowboys into Super Bowl XXVII.
Dallas beat the 49ers by a score of 30-20.
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Last season, the Giants scored exactly 20 points in the season opener at AT&T Stadium, while the Cowboys scored 19 and squandered an opportunity to steal the game at the very end.
During the Week 14 rematch at MetLife Stadium, the Dallas Cowboys offense put up a meager seven points in what was then just their second loss of the season. The Giants took that game 21-7.
This has to change, and Linehan knows it.
Fortunately, those odds are in his favor, at least in terms of points scored. He’s got a veteran quarterback now who lines up behind the best offensive line in football. He’s got arguably the best running back in the league and maybe the best collection of pass catchers the NFL has to offer right now.
There won’t be rookie inexperience in this game or miserable weather conditions, two intangibles that played a key role in both games last year.
This year it’s about scoring points and forcing Manning to throw towards a hobbled Odel Beckham, Jr. and new wide receiver Brandon Marshall, an aging veteran whose caught more than one-thousand yards in the air in just one season since 2013.
Again, the Dallas Cowboys defense will need to be protected by an offense that has to play keep away because that defensive tackle rotation is looking mighty lean and will likely remain that way at least until David Irving returns from a four-game suspension in October. The absence of Damontre Moore, also suspended, hurts the pass rush even more.
In other words, the Giants might be poised to score some points against a short-handed Dallas defensive front and a completely renovated secondary full of youth and new faces.
Then again, a highly suspect Giants offensive line might very well balance things out, but we already know that New York can win a low scoring game, right?
Instead of scoring less than 20 points in this game, Scott Linehan and his Dallas Cowboys offense need to be thinking more along the lines of 27 or more to start this season 1-0.