GI­ANTS VS. COW­BOYS

SUN­DAY, 8:30 P.M. ET, AT&T STA­DIUM, AR­LING­TON, TEXAS uTV:

USA TODAY Sports Weekly - - NL WEST - Odell Beck­ham Jr., Eli Man­ning Aldrick Rosas, Ezekiel El­liott Matchup to watch: Gi­ants DE Ja­son Pierre-Paul vs. Cow­boys RT La’el Collins. Player to watch: Gi­ants S Lan­don Collins. Num­ber crunch­ing: 26.3/17.8. Mor­ris Dak Prescott, 2. Who’s miss­ing? Taco C

An­nounc­ers: Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michele Tafoya

About the Gi­ants: For an of­fense that in­cluded high-level tal­ents QB and WR New York’s was shock­ingly un­pro­duc­tive last sea­son, rank­ing 25th in the NFL in to­tal of­fense and 26th in scor­ing with 19.4 points per game. It didn’t look any bet­ter in the pre­sea­son, as the first unit scored only one touch­down. If the game comes down to a field goal, the Gi­ants are con­fi­dent in K a free agent from South­ern Ore­gon who won the job with a per­fect pre­sea­son that ended with four field goals, in­clud­ing a game-win­ning 48-yarder on the fi­nal play against New Eng­land.

About the Cow­boys: The de­fend­ing NFC East cham­pi­ons en­ter the sea­son with con­fi­dence and one of the NFL’s most po­tent of­fenses, but they could be with­out one of their top weapons. RB is sup­posed to sit out Sun­day’s game as he be­gins a sixgame sus­pen­sion stem­ming from a do­mes­ticvi­o­lence ac­cu­sa­tion, but be­cause his case has been ap­pealed and could end up in court, he might be able to play. If he sits, the ques­tion be­comes what ef­fect his ab­sence has.

Com­ing off a solid 2016 sea­son, Pierre-Paul ap­pears to be back to his dom­i­nant pre-hand­in­jury level with his pre­sea­son per­for­mance. In the limited play­ing time given to the starters, JPP rang up 11⁄ sacks, two tack­les for loss, three quar­ter­back hits, an in­ter­cep­tion and a safety. He’ll be a huge early test for Collins, play­ing the right side for the first time af­ter mov­ing from left guard. Gi­ants safety Lan­don Collins can dom­i­nate a game at will.

In a game filled with stars, the third-year strong safety might be the best player on the field. Collins has de­vel­oped into one of the league’s most im­pact­ful de­fend­ers, a ball­hawk who fills the de­fen­sive stat sheet with all sorts of big plays and can dom­i­nate a game from the safety po­si­tion. He’s al­ready in peak form, hav­ing roared through the pre­sea­son in full de­stroyer mode.

WHO WILL WIN AND WHY

The Cow­boys of­fense vs. the Gi­ants de­fense is a clas­sic strength-against-strength matchup. The Cow­boys ranked fifth in the league in scor­ing (26.3 points per game) in 2016, and the of­fense looked strong in its pre­sea­son work — es­pe­cially QB who fin­ished with a 138.5 passer rat­ing. But the Gi­ants, who last sea­son were sec­ond in scor­ing de­fense (17.8 ppg) and held the Cow­boys to un­der 20 points twice, were im­pen­e­tra­ble in the pre­sea­son.

KEYS TO THE GAME

1. Ground con­trol: El­liott didn’t get much pre­sea­son work be­cause of nag­ging in­juries, but back­ups and

both av­er­aged more than 5 yards per carry, pro­vid­ing hope the run game will be fine even if the young star can’t play.

Dal­las’ al­ready sus­pect de­fense heads into the opener miss­ing a few key pieces. That means more is ex­pected from DE Dal­las’ top draft choice, and LB at­tempt­ing an epic come­back from a dev­as­tat­ing knee in­jury.

The Gi­ants added long­time star WR dur­ing the off­sea­son to help draw cov­er­age away from Beck­ham. Those two are joined by up-and­com­ing WR Ster­ling Shep­ard and firstround TE Evan En­gram.

4. Shaky pro­tec­tion: The Gi­ants’ big­gest of­fen­sive is­sues are up front, where LT

strug­gles be­came a flash­point for a line that left Man­ning run­ning for his life and pro­vided lit­tle help for the rush­ing at­tack.

Andy Fried­lan­der

WIL­LIAM HAUSER, USA TO­DAY SPORTS

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