NASCAR: Chase Elliott continues road course dominance on the Roval

Chase Elliott punched his Round of 8 playoff ticket in style, winning his fourth consecutive NASCAR Cup Series road course event.

The new sensation of NASCAR racing in the rain was countered with the familiar sensation of Chase Elliott visiting a road course’s victory lane.

Elliott defended his title at the road course at Charlotte Motor Speedway, leading 27 of 109 laps to capture victory in the Bank of America Roval 400. The No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet has now won each of the last four races held on road courses. Only four-time champion Jeff Gordon has done better in that regard (six from 1997-2000).

“We definitely don’t show up just expecting to be good,” Elliott said of his team’s road course dominance. “We show up trying to be better than we were last time. I thought we did that today. I thought our car was better than it was here last year.  I thought I was better than I was last year. Didn’t pile drive the barriers this time. That was good. (We were) able to finish it off the right way, which is always encouraging.”

Elliott previously took home the win at Daytona Internation Speedway’s road course in August after sweeping the traditional pair at Sonoma and Watkins Glen last season. NASCAR will return to that pair and the Charlotte Roval (half-oval, half-road course) next season, but NASCAR has placed three additional road courses on the 2021 schedule, including the Circuit of the Americas, Road America, and the course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

But Elliott is more concerned about the upcoming Round of 8, as he tries to make his first championship round since making his full-time NASCAR entry in 2016.

“(I’m) excited to have the opportunity. I think it’s going to be a really big challenge for us to move on, as I think it is for everybody in this round unless you just have a bunch of wins,” he said. “I think today’s win is big.  Getting those extra five points can be the difference.  We just have to bring our A-game, push ahead, really try to execute three solid weeks.”

Elliott’s streak appeared to be in jeopardy after the second stage. He had finished second to Ryan Blaney, but a loose wheel on the ensuing pit stop forced him to revisit as the field went back to green, shifting him back to 38th. But a mere 30 laps later, Elliott had the lead back from teammate Alex Bowman.

He had to let it go shortly after with a caution emerging for debris on the track, but he later passed Erik Jones with 17 laps to go, holding it for the rest of the way. His final trek included another restart after Brennan Poole’s stalled car brought out another college, but he was able to clinch the victory by a healthy 3.895-second margin over Joey Logano. Jones finished third ahead of previous playoff clincher Kurt Busch, while Blaney, the winner of the inaugural race in 2018, rounded out the top five.

Elliott’s success echoed his endeavor from a year prior, when he overcame a wreck in the treacherous first turn of the Roval to capture the victory. This time, he dealt with the loose tire and rain in the forecast, forcing teams to use a special tire with more grip throughout the afternoon. Unlike the relatively flooded Xfinity Series event, the Charlotte rains were relatively calm throughout the race, though there will still numerous spins and on-track incidents that helped determine the rest of the playoff picture.

The Cup Series’ Round of 8, the last elimination stage before the final at Phoenix, gets underway at Kansas Speedway’s Hollywood Casino 400 next Sunday afternoon (2:30 p.m ET, NBCSN).

Race Notes

  • Defending Cup Series Kyle Busch was eliminated from contention. Contrasting pit strategies allowed Busch to take the lead with 19 laps to go, but he lost it to his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Jones a lap later. Busch was running in the top ten before fuel woes forced him to pit on the penultimate lap. Busch is the first defending champion to miss the Round of 8 since elimination rounds were introduced in 2014.

 

  • Elliott joined Kurt Busch (Las Vegas) and Denny Hamlin (Talladega) as Round of 12 race winners who clinched through a race victory. Logano, Martin Truex Jr. (7th on Sunday), Alex Bowman (8th), Kevin Harvick (11th), and Brad Keselowski (18th) all joined them through points. Harvick maintains the series’ point lead, 13 tallies ahead of Hamlin.

 

  • Among those eliminated was Clint Bowyer, days after he announced he would retire from the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford to join the Fox Sports booth. Bowyer lost his power steering early in the race, but still managed to earn a 10th-place finish. He was sent to the infield care center due to exhaustion but was checked out shortly after. Bowyer is one of five drivers to post top-ten finishes in each of the first three visits to the Roval (joining Elliott, Blaney, Logano, and Bowman)

 

  • Aric Almirola (16th) and Austin Dillon (19th) were likewise eliminated from championship contention.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Giants: Good news and bad news in devastating loss to Dallas

New York Giants, Daniel Jones

The New York Giants took the Dallas Cowboys to the final moments of the game in week five on Sunday afternoon, but they ultimately weren’t able to walk away with a victory.

Thanks to several late-game missed calls by the referees, the Giants were fighting two teams. Backup quarterback Andy Dalton tossed a 19-yard pass to Michael Gallup on the right boundary, but the referees missed an obvious holding call on the play. The blown call would have put the Cowboys an additional 10 yards back, giving them a 2nd-and-20 chance as they fought for field goal position with 35 seconds left on the clock.

However, it wasn’t written in the stars for the Giants, who are now 0-5 on the year.

Good news and bad news for the New York Giants:

GOOD NEWS:

The good news, the offense finally showed some life, putting up 34 points against the worst defense in the NFL (minus the pick-6=27).

At the very least, the offense was able to get going and show that they can take advantage of good matchups. Quarterback Daniel Jones threw for 222 yards but was unable to get into the end zone. Running back Devonta Freeman scored a touchdown, and Evan Engram also found his way into the end zone on an end-around.

However, it was kicker Graham Gano who carried the team offensively, scoring 14 points and going 4/4 from range. He had a long of 55 and was the first kicker in the Super Bowl era to hit three field goals in the same game of 50+ yards.

Defensively, the only positives came from Kyler Fackrell and Dalvin Tomlinson. Fackrell finish the day with a tackle for a loss, one pass defended, and a pick-6 in the first quarter. Tomlinson had two tackles for loss, one sack, and one quarterback hit. Otherwise, the remainder of the team was problematic and allowed 37 points to the Cowboys.

BAD NEWS:

There was plenty of bad news from the loss to Dallas. The offense might have put up 27 points, but Daniel Jones failed to throw a touchdown for the third consecutive game. He had his issues, missing a number of throws, but in order to overcome high scoring opponents, they must do the same.

It was an unfortunate game for Jones, who desperately needed a solid performance to quiet the haters. On the final drive of the game for the Giants, he failed to get his team into field goal position and take the lead. While his running game was far better than in recent weeks, with Freeman averaging 3.5 yards per carry, Jones did have several fantastic throws to Darius Slayton on the sideline, including a one-handed snag on a perfectly placed ball. It is fair to mention that the referees gave Dallas multiple calls, including an offensive pass interference that would’ve secured a good cushion late in the game.

Overall, the Giants once again put up a solid effort, but moral victories are unacceptable at this point in the season. Something needs to change, and the lack of talent has been obvious on both sides of the ball. While the defense has been more consistent, allowing 37 points to a team that lost Dak Prescott is borderline embarrassing.

My primary concerns are as follows — lack of discipline, still major issues at CB2, and in the slot against better WRs, bad pass protection at times, Daniel Jones’ decision making, and Jason Garrett’s scheme completely falling flat after the first half.

Yankees’ Masahiro Tanaka could leave MLB after end to 2020 season

New York Yankees, Masahiro Tanaka

New York Yankees‘ right-handed pitcher Masahiro Tanaka reportedly may leave Major League Baseball to return to the Japan league. The 31-year-old is a free agent this offseason and the Rakuten Golden Eagles may have the best offer for him. According to several reports, the club is offering between $20-25 million per year. The length of the contract is unknown. The contract would also be a major record for a contract in Nippon Professional Baseball.

Tanaka has already played for the Golden Eagles from 2007 to 2013 before he signed his seven-year, $155 million dollar contract with the Yankees that expired this year. In 2013 with the Golden Eagles, Tanaka had a tremendous year where he held a 24-0 record and 1.27 ERA.

Tanaka is definitely going to pick up some major looks this offseason because of his free agency, and because of the interests from the Golden Eagles, it will only give Tanaka more attention during the winter.

After seven years with the Yankees, Tanaka held an overall 78-46 record and a career 3.74 ERA. Throughout a total of 1054.1 innings pitched for the Yankees, Tanaka fanned 991 batters. Except for this season, Tanaka was known for his dominance in the postseason, being a big reason that the Yankees did well in 2017 and 2019.

Despite having a heartbreaking ending to a solid seven-year career with the Yankees, Tanaka will definitely have his options this offseason. There are numerous teams (still including the Yankees) that are in desperate need of quality starting pitching. Other big free agents this offseason are Trevor Bauer, Marcus Stroman, Mike Minor, and Jake Odorizzi. Even though this free-agent class is not as special as last year’s, it’ll be interesting to see where some of the big names end up.

Four plays that decided the New York Jets’ Sunday fate vs. Arizona

Another painful loss awaited the New York Jets in their return to MetLife Stadium. ESM takes a look at the plays that changed the game.

There was a new quarterback and new men on the offensive line thanks to injuries. But the New York Jets were forced to endure the same result.

Kyler Murray tallied 401 yards of offense, with 131 of his passing haul going to DeAndre Hopkins. Their Arizona Cardinals tallied a 30-10 road win over the hapless Jets at MetLife Stadium. The Jets (0-5) earned a nominal bright spot in the form of Jamison Crowder, who reached triple digits in receiving for the third time this season (116 yards on 8 receptions).

As we do each week…someone’s got to do it…ESM looks back on four big plays, one from each quarter, that are shaping the Jets’ present and future for better or worse…

1st Quarter: Chase Hit

The Jets’ defense rose to the occasion in the early going, forcing Arizona into a three-and-out on their opening drive. A Joe Flacco-led offense was struggling to get things rolling, but Braden Mann helped the defense out with a 54-yard punt that situated the Cardinals on their own 11. Alas, it only signaled the start of New York’s demise.

Arizona would embark on a scoring drive, needing only eight plays to go 89 yards. The Cardinals (3-2) faced only one third down on the drive, and that was only when they needed a single yard at the cusp of the Jets’ 30. It also brought forth a 29-yard touchdown run from Chase Edmunds, giving the Cardinals a lead they would never relinquish.

Alas for the Jets, long drives and defensive lapses, even if they’re brought forth by short three-and-outs from the offense, have become far too common. When the inevitable purge comes to both the roster and staff, members of the defense should not be exempt.

2nd Quarter: 4th-and-Done

The Jets should be commended for their reckless abandon on fourth down in recent weeks. They know that the playoffs are but a pipe dream and more than likely will be destined for a high draft pick. With all due respect to Mann, a serviceable draft pick to date, he shouldn’t be seeing the field once the Jets cross their own 40. The same could go for Sam Ficken if it’s a long situation, though he continued his perfect streak in the early going with a triple in the first half.

Faced with a single yard to go on the Arizona 13, the Jets opted for an unusual option, handing the ball off to tight end-turned-fullback Trevon Wesco. The intention was pure…Wesco’s brief time in the backfield yielded a couple of first downs last season…but the execution simply wasn’t there. Starting the 6-foot-6-inches Flacco in place of the injured Sam Darnold, the time was perfect for a quarterback sneak. Flacco even showcased some hidden rushing talents to the tune of 20 yards on a quartet of carries. Instead, they tried to force nearly the exact same play, only this time with Le’Veon Bell. The Jets’ willingness to take risks is admirable, but ended a 14-play trek with no points on two failed rushes only adds to their plethora of embarrassment.

3rd Quarter: Manhattan Jam Crowder

The Jets have been through a lot this season, and there’s still a dozen weeks left on the horizon. Their most consistent silver lining has by far been Crowder, who had one of his strongest games of the season. He came up particularly big in the third quarter, first accounting for Flacco’s longest pass of the day at 52 yards, setting the Jets up in Arizona territory. Three plays later, Crowder dodged a pair of Cardinal defenders to earn an 11-yard touchdown that narrowed things to a single possession.

New York has been through a lot this season, much of it showing just how far they are from mere playoff contention, much less a Super Bowl. But the veteran Crowder is making himself essential as a presumed purge lures on the horizon.

4th Quarter: Buried by Kingsbury

Sunday’s second half featured plenty of instances where one could declare “only the Jets!”. For example, an untimed down at the end of the third quarter led to a false start. That duplicated an incident in the second quarter when they took a delay of game after an interception (on a red zone drive that eventually led to Ficken’s field goal). But a neutral zone infraction after Arizona’s final touchdown (a 37-yard hookup between Murray and Hopkins) led to Kliff Kingsbury opting to go for two despite owning a 30-10 led that became the final margin. Who knows what the Jets did to Kingsbury, who pair of NFL passes came in New York, but it was enough to try and help anyone who had Arizona -21.5 out and goes to show how far the Jets have fallen.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

 

CC Sabathia torches Yankees decisions in ALDS

New York Yankees, Yankees, CC Sabathia

The New York Yankees are still wondering what went wrong in the American League Division Series against the Tampa Bay Rays. They dropped the best-of-five affair 3-2, including a heart-breaking 2-1 loss in the fifth game, one that featured a masterful performance by Gerrit Cole on three days’ rest.

The Yankees made some questionable decisions and calls throughout the series, most notably benching Gary Sanchez for Kyle Higashioka and opting to use Deivi Garcia as an opener in Game 2 and J.A. Happ as the “bulk” reliever that same night. Unfamiliar and unhappy with the role, the latter was hammered and allowed four runs in 2.2 frames.

Also, the Yankees chose to throw closer Aroldis Chapman for a big workload in Game 4, handicapping him for Game 5. The closer’s pitch selection to Mike Brosseau, the guy that homered in the 1-1 game to give the victory to the Rays, was also questioned.

CC Sabathia, a recently retired New York Yankees’ great, was among the voices who torched the organization for its curious decisions.

Sabathia said on his most recent “R2C2” podcast with Ryan Ruocco that the Yankees should have used a traditional starter on Game 2, citing Garcia, Happ and Masahiro Tanaka as options.

“We tried to play their game and they beat us at it and it ended up costing us the series, is how I feel about it,” Sabathia said.

Did the Yankees lose while playing the Rays’ game?

Tampa Bay is known as one of the most analytical-driven organizations in the major leagues, constantly deploying openers, carefully selecting pitching matchups, and more.

“All we talk about is this kid’s [Garcia’s] character and how mature he is and I feel it was a perfect time to let him rock, let Masa rock, let J.A. Happ rock,” Sabathia said. “Any one of those guys start the game and we score five runs, we win Game 2.”

Sabathia was also puzzled for Boone’s usage of Chapman, asking him to get multiple outs on Game 5. “I mean like, he’s gonna get seven outs?” Sabathia said. “What the f—k? I’m sorry, but come on man. What are you doing?”

The Yankees were short on reliable relievers, so they ended up asking more from Zack Britton and Chapman. Having them throw multiple innings and doing so on consecutive days simply didn’t happen in the regular season.

“The way we use our relievers all year because we have so many of them lined up, I hate them to sit down and get up,” Sabathia said. “They never end the inning and get back up. So you want [Chapman] to do that s—t two times and he [doesn’t] ever do that.”

Sabathia didn’t understand Chapman’s pitch selection in the Brosseau at-bat.

“He had him set up for the strikeout if he threw him the slider,” Sabathia said of the final pitch of the at-bat. “If [Chapman] backs up with another slider right there, it’s strike three and he’s on to the next hitter… Gary [Sanchez] put down a slider and [Chapman] shook and threw a fastball. He could have thrown a split up there and struck that guy out.”

New York Jets, Buffalo Bills games affected by NFL schedule shift

One of the New York Jets’ games against Miami has been moved up to next weekend, as the league makes changes during the health crisis.

The future of the AFC East took a major shift on Sunday, as both the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills are affected by the NFL’s continuing attempt to navigate its way through the ongoing health crisis. Eight games in total have been affected by positive COVID-19 tests emerging from New England and Tennessee.

As of press time, the Bills’ Week 5 tilt against the Tennessee Titans is scheduled to go on in its Tuesday slot (7 p.m. ET, CBS) after being moved from Sunday. Tennessee revealed on Sunday that they saw another positive test, forcing another shutdown of their Nashville facility. The Titans have now had 24 positive tests in their organization since September 24.

Consequently, the Bills’ Thursday night game against the Kansas City Chiefs has been moved to October 19, the Monday night of Week 6. That game will remain shared between Fox, NFL Network, and streaming service Amazon Prime with kickoff slated for 5 p.m. ET.

These new changes also affect the Jets, who will now face the Miami Dolphins much earlier than anticipated. The first meeting between the divisional rivals moves up to next weekend with a Sunday kickoff on October 18 (4:05 p.m. ET, CBS). Miami was originally scheduled to take on the Denver Broncos, but the latter’s matchup with the Patriots was instead moved to Week 6 instead. New England and Denver were originally scheduled for Week 5’s Sunday late slot, but they were later moved to Monday. However, Week 5 now serves as de facto Broncos bye week, as they’ll now play the Los Angeles Chargers on their original open date. Miami and Denver’s meeting now moves to Week 11.

Another Jets game affected by the movement is their original Week 6 date with the Chargers. That one now moves to Sunday, November 22, when they originally were set to take on the Dolphins. Jacksonville’s visit to the Chargers in Week 8 has been moved to October 25 during Week 7’s action (4:25 p.m. ET, CBS).

This story will be updated pending further developments.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Knicks Draft Watch: Warriors eye Devin Vassell in potential trade down

New York Knicks, Devin Vassell

It’s no secret that the Golden State Warriors are studying all options, including trading, with regards to their No. 2 pick. The question is will the New York Knicks field an offer to trade up?

San Francisco Chronicle recently reported that Florida State University’s Devin Vassell is on the Warriors’ radar should they trade down.

According to multiple league sources, the Warriors believe Vassell is the top wing defender in this draft and would strongly consider him if they trade back to the 5-10 range. There is an outside chance that Golden State could even take him at No. 2 if it doesn’t receive an enticing offer to move down.

Considered as one of the top two wings in this Draft Class along with Auburn’s Isaac Okoro, Vassell is all over the Draft Boards. He is projected to be selected anywhere from No. 6-12 range.

Vassell could add bench depth for the Warriors who are expected to have the Splash Brothers— Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson— back at full health next season. Vassell has drawn Thompson’s comparisons.

“People like to identify a player in college with a player in the pros. And I always said I thought he was more like Klay Thompson,” FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said in an interview with SB Nation’s Golden State of Mind.

Hamilton cited Thompson’s 41.2 percent three-point clip as a freshman in Washington State while his prized wingman, Vassell, shot 42 percent from deep in his two seasons with the Seminoles.

“And he has a lot of those qualities where he knows the ball is supposed to go going to the basket. He’s extremely confident, he always anxious to take big shots. One of the aspects of his game, I probably didn’t utilize as much as his ability to create his own shot. When we needed him to create his own shot, he was able to go and make fall away fades and step-back jumpers and things that are going to allow him to be even more effective at the next level. He is a shotmaker, there’s no doubt about that,” Hamilton added.

The Knicks currently have the No. 8 pick and are also strongly considering Vassell and Okoro along with Iowa’s combo guard Tyrese Haliburton should they still be available. But it’s also no secret that the Knicks, who are looking for a lead guard, has LaMelo Ball on top of their Draft Board.

Ball has revealed during his Draft Combine media availability that he had conversations with the Knicks before the Lottery.  It was the only team he confirmed he had interviewed. When he was asked if he feels the Knicks would trade up for him, he had an inconclusive answer.

“That I don’t know. Maybe, maybe not,” Ball said.

The following day, Ball curiously withdrew from the Draft Combine nixing other NBA teams’ chance to interview him. He still could or may have selected which teams to talk to outside the Knicks.

The Knicks have the Draft capital and young assets at their disposal to maneuver a trade. But they lack the veteran piece that the Warriors would likely covet.

However, there’s a unanimous belief according to ESPN insider Tim Bontemps last month that the Warriors will try to accumulate trade pieces to position themselves for a potential run at Washington’s Bradley Beal in case he becomes available during next season’s trade deadline.

If that’s the Warriors’ long play, then the Knicks could be in the mix to snag their No. 2 pick in this Draft.

What’s next for Marlon Moraes after UFC Fight Island 5 Loss?

Last night was another rough night at the office for “Magic” Marlon Moraes (23-7-1). UFC Fight Island 5 was supposed to be a bounce back fight for Moraes despite a win in his last outing that came against Jose Aldo at UFC 245.

While Moraes walked away with his hand raised that night, most people thought he lost the fight. Prior to that loss, Moraes challenged for the UFC bantamweight championship against Henry Cejudo back at UFC 238.

In the first round of that fight, Moraes looked like the dangerous contender everyone thought he was. Devastating kicks and combinations flustered Cejudo. However, Cejudo wouldn’t go away. Eventually, Moraes tired, and Cejudo went on to break and finish Moraes in the third round.

Cory Sandhagen (12-2) is a tough matchup for anyone. He was actually the betting favorite last night, but I thought it was going to be a good night for Moraes. I thought his crisp striking would be enough to carry him to a victory.

However, UFC Fight Island 5 proved to be another bump in the road for Moraes. He struggled to land anything against the longer Sandhagen. In the second round, he was caught with a spinning kick and was finished on the ground seconds later for his second loss in three fights.

What’s next after UFC Fight Island 5?

In the eyes of many, Moraes is a fighter who has lost three fights in a row. Granted, the fights were to Cejudo, Aldo, and Sandhagen who are all either former champions or a top contender. Still, three bad performances in a row for Moraes.

The UFC is in an interesting position when it comes to Magic Marlon. Entering last night, he was the number one ranked bantamweight in the UFC‘s rankings. However, I’m expecting a big drop after the performance he had last night.

In looking at the rankings, I think a good next fight for Marlon would be a matchup between him and Pedro Munhoz (18-5, 1 NC). Munhoz is ranked sixth in the rankings currently, but he is also on a two fight losing streak.

To me, it’s perfect match making to pair the two of these top contenders up. One of them is bound to right the ship, while the other will continue to sink. Both of these top contenders could be looking at a sink or swim next fight in the UFC.

Could the New York Yankees make big changes at the catcher position this offseason?

New York Yankees, Gary Sanchez

There is a very real sense hovering around the New York Yankees fan base that a big catching decision could be made this off-season.

While there’s plenty of life and potential left in Gary Sanchez, being benched for Kyle Higashioka, an unproven commodity up to this point, is a tough pill to swallow. Sanchez finished the regular season with a .147 batting average and .616 OPS. He was awful on defense and even worse on offense, forcing the Yankees to make a tough decision and cement Higashioka as their primary starter late in the year.

While I don’t think Higashioka will remain the starter in 2021, he will likely be Gerrit Cole’s personal catcher.

The Yankees elected to go with Kyle Higashioka for a majority of the postseason, considering his dominant defensive performances with Gerrit Cole on the mound (1.00 ERA, .147 BA), but manager Aaron Boone stated he would have felt confident either way.

“It comes down to Kyle earning these opportunities. I feel he is providing enough offensively and doing a great job behind the plate,’’ Boone said of his Game 4 choice. “Honestly, I felt I could have gone with Gary as well and felt good about that. In the end, after contemplating and talking with some coaches a little bit, this is the way I felt I wanted to go.’’

When Sanchez is playing at the top of his game, he’s one of the best catchers in the MLB —  the issue is that his cold streaks last months. Consistency is a luxury at the position, and one bad campaign in an abbreviated 2020 season shouldn’t dishearten Yankee management.

What will the New York Yankees likely do?

With that being said, I do believe that Sanchez will remain the primary starter with the Yankees moving forward, but if they did decide to make a major change at the position, they could find a suitor worth trading for and acquire prospects. That would open up the door to attack JT Realmuto in free agency.

If you are familiar with Realmuto, he’s one of the best hitting catchers in the league. This season, he hit .266 with 11 homers and 32 RBIs, and he’s never hit below .259, which is a stellar contribution compared to Sanchez.

Defensively, he had a 47% caught stealing rate in 2019 and a 25% in 2020. With a larger sample size, I believe his numbers would have remained in the high 30s. In terms of past balls, he allowed just one through 36 games this year.

He will command a ton of money on the open market, but the Yankees have been known to make big splashes in the past. This would demand that Sanchez be traded, and I don’t think the probability is high that will happen. However, it would ultimately be a massive upgrade at catcher and cement the position for years to come.

New York Giants: 1 boom and 1 bust player against the Dallas Cowboys

New York Giantsm Devonta Freeman

With week 5 nearly underway, the New York Giants are preparing to take on the Dallas Cowboys. At 0-4 on the year, the Giants are struggling to earn their first win, and Dallas poses a significant threat based on their offensive statistics.

Ranking 1st in passing attack and 3rd in overall scoring, the Giants matchup poorly on both sides of the ball. They are averaging just 11.8 points per game on offense, but their defense is allowing the 13th most points through four weeks. Offensive coordinator Jason Garrett will need to spark his unit, led by Daniel Jones. The Giants haven’t scored a touchdown in over two games, a problematic situation that desperately needs solving.

Luckily, the Cowboys’ defense is the worst it’s been in franchise history and is allowing 36.5 points per game on average. The Giants have a stellar opportunity to change the narrative and gain some momentum.

One boom and one bust player for the New York Giants against Dallas:

BOOM: Devonta Freeman

The Giants only signed free agent running back Devonta Freeman three weeks ago, and he’s already climbing the depth chart with ease.

The former Falcons’ back played in just 29% of offensive snaps in week three, his first game with the Giants, but that climbed to 54% last week against the Rams. As a primary pass-catching back, Freeman is also capable of running the ball efficiently. I believe that the Giants will try to feed him the rock and get him active on offense.

Establishing a running game is essential, and I believe Freeman and Wayne Gallman will lead the rushing attack.

However, given Freeman’s heightened ability as a pass-catcher, I think his influence will be far greater than any other player offense.

BUST: Evan Engram

What we have seen from tight end Evan Engram through four weeks has been borderline embarrassing. Whether it is an inability to get open or Jason Garrett’s scheme, his usage simply hasn’t matched our expectations.

So far, Engram has 131 yards and 17 receptions. He has yet to score a touchdown and has seen his snap count gradually decrease since week two.

Posting a 56.7% catch rate, just a smidge higher than his rookie season total, I don’t think this is a contest where Engram turns it around.

A lot of his struggles are due to Garrett’s refusal to throw him the ball downfield. Against the Rams in week four, Engram didn’t run a single route over 15 yards. That could be considered malpractice, and the Giants must find a way to get him open in space and push the boundary of the field on a weak Cowboy secondary.