Last updated: September 5th at 1:00pm ET.
Team Totals: Cowboys 26.25, Giants 19.25
Pegged by offshore wagering site BetOnline.ag as the NFL’s lone Week 1 starting quarterback who actively works against his own team total, Eli Manning travels to JerryWorld, where Cowboys fans will be especially amped after getting their holdout franchise running back signed and returned to the team. Manning could be benched at a moment’s notice for preseason star Daniel Jones, while Eli is set up to fail facing Dallas’ zone-based defense after managing a 7:12 TD-to-INT ratio versus zone coverage over the last two years (Sports Info Solutions). Over his last six starts against the Cowboys, Eli has averaged just 238 passing yards, 1.3 touchdowns, and 1.0 picks per game. This is a wonderful spot to fire up Dallas’ D/ST, which will remain an elite play in both Weeks 2 (Redskins) and 3 (Dolphins). … Despite his quarterback’s probable struggles and the Giants’ probable negative game script, Saquon Barkley remains a top-three RB1 play against the Cowboys’ zone, which hemorrhaged the NFL’s fifth-most running back catches (6.3) last season, including eighteen to Barkley in these clubs’ two 2018 affairs. Odell Beckham’s departure is a concern for Barkley’s ceiling – he averaged 4.6 fewer PPR points per game sans OBJ last year – but Barkley’s floor is as high as any fantasy back’s due to his colossal usage.
2018 NFL leader in average yards of separation at target (4.4) Evan Engram is poised for a third-year breakout after finishing No. 6 among 30 qualified tight ends in yards per route run (1.83) despite playing hurt for most of last year (MCL, hamstring). Dallas’ zone is vulnerable to tight ends – it served up the NFL’s fourth-most catches to the position in 2018 – and Engram had its number in both meetings on stat lines of 5/81/1 and 7/67/1. Engram is a cinch top-five TE1 play with a realistic shot at leading all tight ends in Week 1 scoring. … Sterling Shepard is the final fantasy-viable Giant, staying in the slot during Golden Tate’s four-game ban to avoid stationary Cowboys outside CBs Byron Jones and Chidobe Awuzie. At least until Tate returns, Shepard will be an underrated WR3 play each week. He has the most-established rapport with Eli among all Giants pass catchers. … After trading Beckham and losing Corey Coleman (ACL), the once-proud G-Men will embarrassingly trot out some combination of special teamers Cody Latimer and Russell Shepard and journeyman Bennie Fowler at Nos. 2 and 3 receiver.
The Cowboys are a stack-able Week 1 offense against the Giants, who last year finished dead last in the NFC in sacks, then traded top pass rusher Olivier Vernon to Cleveland. A “see-it, throw-it” passer who struggles with anticipation, contract-year QB Dak Prescott is more effective against man-coverage looks, and Giants DC James Bettcher ran man coverage at the league’s seventh-highest rate last season. Because man-based defenses demand pass-coverage players to turn their backs to the offense, dual-threat quarterbacks can capitalize on scrambles. And they did just that against Bettcher’s 2018 scheme, which yielded the league’s seventh-most QB rushing yards per game. … Although midweek reports ticketed August holdout Ezekiel Elliott for just 20-25 Week 1 snaps, I’m skeptical he will be that limited in an offense with which Zeke is quite familiar, especially if this game stays close. Elliott trained his tail off in Cabo by all accounts, and new OC Kellen Moore was on staff as quarterbacks coach last year. The big changes Moore is expected to implement primarily involve pre-snap motion and deception, which should not heavily impact Zeke. Even if exciting rookie Tony Pollard mixes in for 8-10 touches, I am projecting Elliott for 17.5 after 2018 Cowboys running backs collectively averaged 27.5. And this game’s expected positive script bodes well for Dallas’ Week 1 backfield to reach 30 touches or more. The Giants were ransacked for 122.0 rushing yards per game after trading interior dominator Damon Harrison to the Lions last year.
Amari Cooper’s idle August appears to have been precautionary on Dallas’ part; he is back to practicing fully and says he’s experiencing no pain in his foot. Public concerns over the injury remain likely to lower his DFS ownership and make Amari a critical component of aforementioned DFS-team stacks. Another man-coverage predator, Cooper has seen a league-high 67% bump in target rate versus man looks over the last two years (SIS). … After a monster camp and preseason, Michael Gallup appears primed for a year-two leap. Gallup topped 50 yards in only 6-of-18 games as a rookie, but five came after Dallas’ pre-Week 9 trade for Amari, and the Cowboys are missing nearly 30% of their targets from last year’s team. I’m treating Gallup as an upside WR4/flex in season-long leagues and sneaky DFS-tournament play. He should draw primary coverage from rookie CB DeAndre Baker while inconsistent Janoris Jenkins chases Cooper around. … Randall Cobb is tough to push as any kind of fantasy asset with spent ankles and hamstrings and a pedestrian 68/665/5 (9.8 YPR) receiving line over his last 16 games. Cobb made no waves in camp and projects as a low-volume role player in the slot between Cooper and Gallup. … I’m in wait-and-see mode as to Dallas’ playing-time distribution at tight end. Back from a failed season in the Monday Night Football booth, 37-year-old Jason Witten was reportedly outplayed by Blake Jarwin in camp. Sophomore block-first TE Dalton Schultz quietly logged over 40% of Dallas’ 2018 offensive snaps.
Score Prediction: Cowboys 28, Giants 13