Michael Ainsworth/Associated Press
The Dallas Cowboys have work to do on offense, but their defense looks playoff-ready.
Ezekiel Elliott rushed for 78 yards and a touchdown, and the Cowboys defense shut down the New York Giants offense on their way to a 20-13 win Sunday.
The Cowboys have given up just 32 points over the first two weeks. They’re now in a three-way tie with Washington and the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC East.
The Giants, who have struggled their way to 28 points through two games, are the only winless team in the division. They attempted a last-ditch comeback but could not recover a second onside kick after nabbing one earlier in the fourth quarter.
The Giants Can’t Win with Eli Manning at QB
If you hadn’t watched the game, you might think Eli Manning played OK. He completed 33 of his 44 passes. Pretty good. He threw for 279 yards. Not bad. Only one turnover. Ain’t half bad for an Eli Manning performance.
Those who watched, however, saw the latest in a growing list of disappointing performances. Manning had no interest in throwing the ball down the field the entire contest. Running back Saquon Barkley recorded 14 receptions on a team-high 16 targets. Odell Beckham Jr. was second with nine targets, but only four of them hit the mark for a mediocre 51 yards.
The yardage only began to pile up in garbage time, when the Cowboys had built up a 20-3 lead. The Giants didn’t get into Cowboys territory once in the first half and failed to get on the board until there was 4:34 remaining in the third quarter.
Manning has averaged less than seven yards per attempt in 12 of his last 14 starts. He hasn’t averaged eight yards per attempt in nearly two full calendar years.
Part of that isn’t Manning’s fault. The Giants surrounded him with perhaps the worst offensive line in football last season, and this new, expensive iteration isn’t doing much in 2018. He was sacked six times Sunday, and the Cowboys recorded eight quarterback hits.
There are issues beyond Eli. It’s just clear Eli isn’t part of the solution.
A year ago, Ben McAdoo essentially lost his job for benching him in favor of Geno Smith. A good number of the Giants fans would likely prefer Smith over Manning right now.
Dak Prescott Still Has a Long Way to Go to Prove Himself
The good: The Cowboys offense didn’t have to do much. Their defense did most of the work in a relatively easy win.
The bad: The Cowboys offense didn’t do much.
Front and center with the struggles is Dak Prescott, who threw for 160 yards and a touchdown. Prescott has just 330 passing yards through two weeks and one touchdown. Dating back to last season, he has four straight sub-200-yard games and has been under the mark in eight of his last 10.
Last year, most wrote it off as Prescott struggling without the stabling force of Ezekiel Elliott. Well, Zeke is back and Dak is still doing nothing through the air.
Prescott, like Manning, has no interest in pushing the ball down the field. He hit Tavon Austin for a 64-yard pass in the first quarter but then abandoned the deep pass afterward. His remaining 15 completions went for a grand total of 96 yards.
That pass and Prescott’s 45 yards on the ground were his only highlights in another dink-and-dunk spectacular.
The Eagles Have No Competition in NFC East
What the first two weeks have really shown us, though, is that the Philadelphia Eagles should waltz to their second straight division title. Carson Wentz is returning soon to help fortify a banged-up roster, and the talent coffers are far deeper there than anywhere else in the division.
The Cowboys have had two promising defensive showings in a row. Yet they’re not a real threat unless Prescott can start turning into a star rather than a caretaker.
Washington’s aging running back carriage, Adrian Peterson, turned back into a pumpkin Sunday. No team is going anywhere with Alex Smith needing to throw the ball 46 times, as Washington did in a nine-point offensive showing in its loss to the Indianapolis Colts.
The Giants have some promising pieces but have no quarterback and an offensive line that appears to be a high-cost bust. Top to bottom, this might be the worst division in football.
The Cowboys travel to Seattle next Sunday to play the Seahawks. The Giants play the Houston Texans on the road.