Eli Manning and Tony Romo have been franchise quarterbacks for their respective teams since 2006. Throughout the course of their rivalry, we have seen some epic showdowns that have often come down to the final play. They meet again Sunday in Dallas.
There is always a lot on the line in any division matchup, but it's difficult to argue that these teams are not in different places to enter 2015. The Cowboys have legitimate Super Bowl aspirations after advancing to the Divisional Playoffs round and losing on a controversial rule. The Giants are hoping to get healthy enough to field a respectable team without Jason Pierre-Paul and Will Beatty to begin the regular season.
Here are the three keys to the game for both the Giants and Cowboys:
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1. Manufacture pressure using extra pass rushers
The last time the Giants matched up with the Cowboys, Romo had an incredible amount of time in the pocket. He picked the Giants' defense apart. The Giants enter Week 1 with a banged-up secondary and without Pierre-Paul -- who was resposnsible for two sacks and five total pressures against the Cowboys in 2014. The old regime liked to rush four and drop seven into coverage, but new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo believes in sending extra pass rushers. He will have to on Sunday.
2. Spread the defense and play fast
When the Giants' offense was at its best in 2014, it used 11 personnel -- featuring three wide receivers, one tight end and a running back. More importantly, it used a no-huddle offense and attacked the defense by spreading the field. The Cowboys lack the depth in the secondary to match up against a spread-out attack.
3. Use the tight end to help protect Eli Manning
In order for the Giants to get the no-huddle passing game working, they will need to keep Manning upright. The Cowboys have a potentially fearsome pass rush heading into Week 1 -- Tyrone Crawford, DeMarcus Lawrence and rookie Randy Gregory could create havoc up front. The Giants should use a tight end to chip and help provide protection on the edge. The Giants are starting a rookie at left tackle and a journeyman at right tackle.
1. Use the run to open up the pass
The Cowboys' 2014 blueprint for success was fueled by their ability to use the running game to open up passing lanes and control the clock. If they abandon the run early, it will allow an aggressive defensive scheme to sell out to stop the pass. The Cowboys have not named a starter at running back, but if either Darren McFadden or Joseph Randle has the hot hand in the first quarter, the Cowboys should stick with one at running back.
2. Get Dez Bryant going early and often
Over his last three meetings against the Giants, Dez Bryant has racked up 16 catches for 323 yards and two touchdowns. The Giants have found out that both starting cornerbacks, Prince Amukamara and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, are no match for Bryant in single coverage. If the Cowboys can get the running game going early, Bryant should see plenty of favorable matchups on play-action pass attempts throughout the game.
3. Force the Giants to go long
The Giants' offense is founded on quick-breaking timing routes that are designed to get the ball to their skill position players in space. If the Cowboys shrink the field, and disrupt the timing by bumping the receivers and sending pressure, they can force Manning out of his comfort zone.