The NFC East division has long been one of the most common divisions featured consistently on Sunday Night Football, and that remains to be the case in week one of the 2023 season with the New York Giants set to host the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night. With a lot of optimism heading into the second year of Brian Daboll’s tenure as the Giants head coach, New York will have a prime opportunity to show what they are about this season in week one.
Finding success in the regular season has not been much of a problem for Dallas, and with Dak Prescott back to lead the 4th-ranked scoring offense in 2022, there is no reason why they can’t have regular season success again. With Ezekial Elliot now out of the picture, Tony Pollard will be the primary back for a Cowboys team that was 9th in rush play percentage last season. Another change for Dallas is that Brandin Cooks has joined the starting receiving corp next to CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup.
On defense, the Cowboys are still led by Micah Parsons and Leighton Vander Esch. After finishing 6th in average yards allowed per game last season, Dallas also went out and acquired Stephon Gilmore to help bolster their secondary. Gilmore’s first game in a Cowboys uniform will be against a Daniel Jones run Giants offense that finished 18th in points per game in 2022.
New York may not have had the most explosive offense in 2022, but they still reached the second round of the playoffs, just like Dallas. Much of the Giants' offensive success last season came from a solid year by Saquon Barkley, who helped New York average 146.3 rushing yards per game. Daniel Jones also continued to develop as the season went on, and the Giants' front office got him two new weapons for this year in Darren Waller and Jalin Hyatt.
Arguably, the most exciting aspect about the Giants is their defense, run by defensive coordinator Wink Martindale. New York was 22nd in points allowed per game last year, but with weapons like Dexter Lawrence, Leonard Williams, and Kayvon Thibodeaux, I think we see this defense post a much higher sack percentage than 6.23%, which was their mark last season that ranked them 21st in the league.
New York is listed as (+3.5) point home underdogs in this game, and I’ll be backing them for my first play. According to VSIN, divisional home underdogs since 2009 are 21-4 ATS in week one, so the Giants fit perfectly into that trend. Not only do they fit in the trend, but overall, the Giants were 11-3 ATS when listed as underdogs in 2022, and they are even better on both sides of the ball this season.
The one area of defense that Dallas struggled the most with last season was run defense, and New York wants to run the ball. Dallas finished 22nd in average rushing yards allowed per game last season, and in both games, they played against the Giants, Saquon Barkley was able to find the end zone.
Dallas also wants to establish the run on offense, but I think Wink Martindale’s defense is in a much better spot to defend the run this season. According to PFF, New York has the 9th best d-line in the league, and there is room for growth if their younger players continue to grow. Dak Prescott has typically been able to pick on the Giants' defense, but he will be met with much more resistance Sunday night, especially if rookie Deonte Banks can live up to the hype.
Isaiah Hodgins Over 29.5 Receiving Yards (-115): Hodgins played ten games with the Giants, including the postseason last year, and he went over this number in eight of them. The wideout became one of Daniel Jones’ most trusted receivers, as he was even targeted nine times in his first career playoff game. Hodgins also now faces a Cowboys secondary that allowed the 9th most receiving yards to wide receivers and was last in passer rating allowed against WRs in man coverage in 2022.
Tight end Darren Waller found his way onto the injury list today with a hamstring injury, and Wan’Dale Robinson is likely out for the game, so Jones could lean on Hodgins often in passing situations.
New York Giants (+3.5)
Isaiah Hodgins Over 29.5 Receiving Yards (-115)