The NFC East is no stranger to dominating the league and in 2022, it once again rose to power in the conference. The division sent three teams to the playoffs, had none under .500 and represented the NFC in the Super Bowl. There’s no domination within the division though, as the last 20 years have seen a new division winner each season.
So if tradition holds, either the Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants or Washington Commanders will dethone the Philadelphia Eagles in 2023. The Giants won a playoff game, but that was against another team that seems to be much worse than their actual record. Are they ready to take the next step?
We caught up with Giants Wire’s managing editor Dan Benton so he could represent the fanbase in a back and forth of enemy intel exchange. After the customary shots being fired, we got into the current state of each team and what to expect out of Sunday night’s matchup.
Cowboys Wire: So it's been a fun offseason of the media pretending Daniel Jones is of the same caliber as Dak Prescott. What say the Giants' faithful who have watched Prescott-led team win 10 games in a row over the G-Men?
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Jones and Prescott are absolutely not the same caliber of quarterback. I think it’s foolish to suggest the two are because, in reality, Jones has surpassed Prescott on the QB tier list. One is trending up and the other is very much trending down. In fact, the very same things that most used to criticize Jones earlier in his career have become staples of Prescott’s game. He’s become injury-prone and turnover-prone, and it’s no surprise Trey Lance was thrilled to be traded to Dallas. He’ll be starting by the end of the season.
Giants Wire: Daniel Jones is healthy and no longer turns the ball over. Dak Prescott has become injury-prone and turnover-prone. How do fans in Cowboys land square that in their own minds after years of hammering home that exact criticism of DJ?
New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones (8)
For starters they avoid smoking the crack that leads to such jumping to conclusions off of one season compared to an entire body of work. For starters. Look, Cowboys fans get how starved for attention the Giants’ fanbase has been, so congratulations on your nine-win regular season. Daniel Jones did a great job of avoiding turnovers because he simply stopped being aggressive.
A mind-number 66% of his passes were 9 yards or less. He went deep less than 1 out of every 20 passes. Brian Daboll put the training wheels on him.
It was a great first step towards being respectable, but hold off on the anointing oil. As for Prescott, he had a career 1.7% INT ratio through seven seasons before last year’s fluky campaign. Giants fans are like the Kingsford commercial where the guy’s been inside all winter and finally is back outside. Get you guys a burger, stat.
Cowboys Wire: When looking at the two teams, the Giants have a clear advantage at tight end and on the defensive interior, while Dallas' advantages seem to be at wideout and corner. Are there any position groups for NY that stand to surprise?
(AP Photo/Adam Hunger)
I’d say the cornerback group actually stands to surprise. Rookies Deonte Banks and Tre Hawkins, who each sport RAS scores among the highest from the NFL draft over the past 30 years, are way ahead in their development. That’s not to say they won’t be without some rookie hiccups — they will — but there’s a reason they earned starting roles in Wink Martindale’s defense, pushing veteran Adoree’ Jackson inside. And some might be shocked to hear it, but I see an avenue where Hawkins actually turns out to be the better of the two rookies. He’s built like and has the makeup of a potentially elite corner and as long as he stays hungry, I can see him reaching that ceiling.
Giants Wire: Mike McCarthy has taken over the play-calling in Dallas. How different will the offense look under his direction and what are some of the changes we can expect to see?
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It will be interesting. I’m not a fan of McCarthy keeping all the starters out the entire preseason, it’s led to worsening Week 1 performances year after year. Whenever the offense gets going though there are going to be a ton of more horizontal concepts incorporated which will widen the lens for Prescott to hit a slew of targets who are going to be YAC monsters in 2023.
Dallas averaged an abysmal 4.7 yards after the catch in 2022, that should jump at least a half a yard this season. Also, there will obviously be a much deeper rotation of running backs with Tony Pollard, Rico Dowdle and Deuce Vaughn all being vastly different players.
Cowboys Wire: What's the sense of how things will change in Year 2 of the Brian Daboll regime? What's been the most obvious evolution?
New York Giants head coach Brian Daboll
The comfort level the players are experiencing on both offense and defense is the biggest change in Year 2. That may seem like an obvious answer and a natural evolution, but consistency and continuity haven’t existed in New York since Tom Coughlin was still the head coach. When national and local pundits talk about that they often single out Jones, but it’s really the whole team who benefits.
Instead of having to learn new systems, playbooks and terminology, the players can just react naturally this season and not have to overthink everything. That will lead to a decrease in the number of mistakes and more solid all-around play. Obviously, that will pay greater dividends for certain players (Jones) but everyone who is returning for their second season under this regime stands to gain. Expect to see more fluid, sharp football from the Giants as the season moves along.
Giants Wire: Dalton Schultz (and Jason Witten before him) was a major thorn in the Giants' side. What do the Cowboys have in Jake Ferguson and Luke Schoonmaker, and do you think they'll yield similar results?
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I think they’ll be security blankets. Neither is going to be a target magnet as Dallas simply has a slew of more athletic options in CeeDee Lamb and Brandin Cooks as lead dogs and then a formidable cluster of backups in Michael Gallup, and the much improved duo of speedster Kavontae Turpin and second-year man Jalen Tolbert. They will be sticky handed but I don’t expect any shattering statistical outputs from either this season. Ferguson will get the majority of those targets early in the season and that will likely shift to a more even split as the year goes on.
Cowboys Wire: We always talk about who is going to make the leap, but who on the Giants do you think is going to regress?
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That’s a tough question because the Giants are such a young team that most players are still in the earlier stages of their careers. An extra year of development coupled with the aforementioned consistency should help them all improve. But if I had to pick someone it would probably be Adoree’ Jackson, who was pushed inside and is playing at a new position and in a new role. He experienced some issues this summer and I imagine that will continue, especially early in the season. Statistically, I could also see Saquon Barkley regressing, although that will be due to the Giants not relying so heavily on the run.
Giants Wire: How confident are you in the Cowboys OL if Tyron Smith and Tyler Smith can't play on Sunday night or try to play through injury?
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Not very, to be honest. The Cowboys changed offensive line coaches and then sat their starters the entire preseason, and now the left tackle and left guard aren’t 100%. Tyler Smith was Tyron’s backup but he’s the worse off of the two. I think rookie Asim Richards would’ve been fine playing next to Tyron, but if it’s him and Chuma Edoga on the outside? I’m afraid.
Final Score Predictions
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Giants Wire: I certainly don’t expect the Giants to come out and blow the doors off the Cowboys because that’s rarely the nature of these games. I anticipate this one to be close for all four quarters with a late drive ultimately deciding the outcome. A couple Dak Prescott turnovers and a nice late scoring drive by Danny Dimes helps the Giants start out 2023 on the right foot. Giants 26, Cowboys 24.
Cowboys Wire: The Cowboys are a legitimate Super Bowl contender, there’s so much talent on this team it’s scary. But in this game? With no live bullets being fired, a gimpy left side of the line and the atmosphere of a Giants fanbase who haven’t gone into a season with hope in several seasons? I think this season starts with an L for the Cowboys. Giants 21, Cowboys 17.