Last season, the Giants had the Cowboys’ number. Until the Dallas starters all got the final week of the season off against the Eagles, the Giants had been the only team to hand them a loss — and they did it twice.
One week into the new season, 2017 is already different. Not only did the Cowboys dominate the Week 1 matchup, but the Giants looked completely lifeless on offense. A 46-yard drive in garbage time got the offense above the 200-yard mark, and if not for a field goal in the third quarter, they would have been shut out.
Then again, the Giants were missing their most valuable weapon on offense: Odell Beckham Jr. The dynamic wide receiver missed just his second game since 2015, and just like the first time, the Giants couldn’t get much going on offense. Eli Manning especially missed his top receiver. Manning threw for just 220 yards and was picked off once Sunday night. Two seasons ago against the Vikings, he totaled just 234 yards without Beckham in a 49-17 blowout loss.
The Cowboys’ secondary is young and lost its most veteran player, Orlando Scandrick, to an injury in the second half. And yet, Manning averaged just 5.8 yards per throw and got no help. Not from new Giants receiver Brandon Marshall, who almost went catchless until a last-minute reception. Not from the running game, which gained just 35 yards. And certainly not from the offensive line, which gave up three sacks and had Manning tap dancing all night.
It’s still unclear if Beckham will be ready to go for the Giants’ next game, a Monday Night Football clash with the Detroit Lions. His status has been the same ever since he injured his ankle in the team’s second preseason game. “Day-to-day for OBJ” has such a familiar ring to it by now, it might as well be a presidential slogan. But it is clear the Giants, and Manning in particular, need their spark plug back.
Panic index: “OBJ is gonna play” will be the Giants’ new slogan soon enough, if not this week then before too long. Manning will get his favorite target back, and Marshall, Sterling Shepard, Evan Engram, etc. should be able to get open more easily.
Manning, for his part, isn’t sweating the offense’s Week 1 woes:
Eli Manning on the Giants offensive problems: "We'll bounce back. We just need to slow down, everybody take a breath."— Ralph Vacchiano (@RVacchianoSNY) September 13, 2017
But Beckham’s presence won’t fix the offensive line. And that should be a legitimate concern for the Giants right now.
Kirk Cousins’ terrible opening week could screw up two franchises
Cousins hasn’t been able to come to terms with Washington on a long-term deal, and back-to-back franchise tags have forced him to take big money up front while gambling on himself to earn the league’s next massive quarterback contract. On Sunday, the franchise’s inability to come to terms with its young passer looked like a positive.
Cousins put together a solid Brock Osweiler impression against the Eagles, needing 40 passes to gain just 240 yards. Despite getting paid nearly $24 million this season, he was outplayed by passers like Tyrod Taylor and Jared Goff. His team managed just one offensive touchdown.
But that’s not just bad for Washington. The San Francisco 49ers currently start the most-caretakerest of quarterbacks in Brian Hoyer, and a Cousins-to-Santa-Clara move has been rumored ever since his former offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan took the head coaching job out west. With the quarterback and his current team nearing a breaking point in contract negotiations, the 49ers were in a prime position to swoop in and hand Cousins a starting job.
If Cousins can’t snap out of this early slump, it throws a wrench in that plan and casts a pall over what looked like a rare free agent quarterback opportunity. Washington may save money over the long term by locking him down but could be stuck with a lemon. San Francisco may have to head back to the drawing board with C.J. Beathard — a man who threw for fewer than 150 yards per game as a senior at Iowa — as its passer of the future.
Panic index: Low. Cousins was bad to start 2016, throwing a pair of interceptions in a 19-10 loss to the Giants last fall. He rebounded for a 4,900-yard, 25-touchdown season that forced Washington to lock him down for one more franchise-tagged season.
The Falcons are suffering from a Super Bowl hangover
If there was one Super Bowl-losing team in the history of Super Bowl-losing teams that needed to have a great performance in Week 1 the following season, it was the Falcons. They blew the biggest lead in Super Bowl history and spent an entire offseason hearing about it.
Despite bringing back nearly every key contributor, the threat of a Super Bowl hangover still loomed large in Atlanta. If there’s a team that’s going to have one, the Falcons are a prime candidate. Their history shows that there’s been plenty of pain and suffering in the past. What better way to add to the terribly long list than having a disappointing season after the most disappointing Super Bowl loss of all time?
In Week 1, the Falcons were struggling with a Bears team that tossed a bunch of money this offseason at Mike Glennon, who last started a game in 2014. Glennon entered the game with a 5-13 record as quarterback. His top receiver, Cameron Meredith, was already lost for the year. His other, Kevin White, suffered yet another injury and left the game. And yet, the Bears came within 5 yards of pulling the upset.
The Falcons got the victory, even after a rookie running back from North Carolina A&T, Tarik Cohen, was making the defense look silly at times. But it was not a performance that would leave Falcons fans confident going into Week 2 against the Packers.
Panic index: The Super Bowl hangover is more myth than reality. There have been teams to succeed the season after going to the Super Bowl. The Falcons are stacked with talent, and it was the first week of the season. Let’s not get too concerned ... yet.
The Saints’ defense is bad again
Every offseason, it’s the same old story in New Orleans. The Saints are going to fix things and stop lingering around the bottom of the league on defense. Well, if Week 1 is any indication, this is yet another season of that empty promise.
The New Orleans defense let Sam Bradford complete a ludicrous 84.4 percent of his passes for 346 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions. It also gave up 129 yards on the ground, most of which were from rookie Dalvin Cook. The defense had three unnecessary roughness penalties called against it in the first half, which surely didn’t help.
If you’re a Saints fan, it’s hard to look at this defensive performance and not be worried that the rest of the season is going to look as familiar as the last three.
Panic index: New Orleans added plenty of defensive talent this offseason. Maybe it will just take them some time to jell on the field, but it’s completely fair to be uneasy in the Big Easy.