Posted on September 8, 2017, by Travis Pulver

When NFL fans stay up late to watch a game they want to see superstars play. They want to see a hyper-competitive game. What they want to see is just what the NFL is giving them for the Sunday Night Football season opener this year—the New York Giants visiting the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium.

For a while, it looked like this one might be minus some of the star power fans want to see. But the Cowboys caught a break with Ezekiel Elliot being allowed to play this week. While it appears unlikely Odell Beckham Jr. will play, the Giants have yet to rule him out.

Via @NYDNSports

Does that make this one a no-brainer for the Cowboys? Or can the Giants overcome the absence of their best offensive player?

While it would be easy to say no, the Giants offense scored enough for New York to win both games against Dallas last season. But it was the defense that deserves the credit for each win.

To be fair, Odell Beckham Jr. played a significant role in each win with eight total catches for 167 yards and a touchdown. But the defense limited Ezekiel Elliot in the first game and frustrated Dak Prescott in the second game.

If the Giants are going to win, they will likely need to do both this time. Since they are expected to be as good as they were last year, it is entirely possible.

However, the big unknown in this game is not whether OBJ will play, but how good or bad the Dallas defense will be. Last season, they were great in short spurts. If they could put an end to a drive quickly, they were okay. But when teams started to sustain drives, they were done for.

Lucky for them, the Giants offense is terrible. The offense line is average on its best days, and their running game is terrible. That allows teams to focus on stopping Eli Manning and the passing game. Lucky for the Giants, Dallas is not very good at stopping the passing game. They tried to address that in the offseason and ended up getting almost a completely new secondary.

Are they going to be good enough? We’ll get our first real look at them Sunday night.

But the real question may be whether the Giants will have players good enough to exploit the Dallas secondary if OBJ ends up not playing. They are high on rookie tight end Elvin Engram, and Sterling Shepard showed some real promise last season. The team is hopeful Brandon Marshall still has a few tricks left up his sleeve.

So—eh, the answer to that is a maybe (at best).

Giants head coach Ben McAdoo has made it clear he is ultra-confident his defense can stymie the Dallas offense yet again.

“All backs run the same when there’s nowhere to run,” McAdoo said (ESPN). The comment came in reference to the Cowboys running back situation, and it shows how confident he is in his squad.

Via @DicassSports

If Dallas fans want to be honest with themselves—he should be confident. Why should anyone believe that a Cowboys offense can get it done this year when they couldn’t last year?

The Prediction

This game will be a good contest with or without Odell Beckham Jr. But the Giants will be hard-pressed to win without him. However, Eli Manning and the rest of the New York offense are not good enough against any team let alone a questionable Dallas defense. Without OBJ providing the Giants offense with the occasional big play, they don’t stand a chance.

The Giants defense will keep them in the game, but in the end, the better team—the Cowboys—will win and cover the four-point spread.

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