Here are 10 storylines to follow as the Giants take on the Cowboys Sunday at 8:30 PM ET:
1. REMEMBER WHEN
Everyone outside of the Quest Diagnostics Training Center may have forgotten the only team to beat Dallas this season, but the people inside it have not. The Giants defeated the Cowboys, 20-19, in the season opener at AT&T Stadium. Since then, the NFC East rival has won 11 in a row and can seal the division title with a win on Sunday night. Meanwhile, the 8-4 Giants had their six-game winning streak snapped last week in Pittsburgh, but they still hold the first Wild Card spot with Tampa Bay (7-5) and Washington (6-5-1) on their heels.
"We've got to play our best game this week," linebacker and defensive captain Jonathan Casillas said. "They do have one loss, so let's not forget that. Everybody is talking about how good Dallas is and they're the best team in the league. You've got to give them the credit, which the credit is due. But they have one loss, just in case anybody forgot about that."
2. LIFE WITHOUT JPP
Just as the pass rush was heating up, Jason Pierre-Paul underwent surgery this week for a core muscle injury that he suffered against the Steelers. The veteran defensive end was the reigning NFC Defensive Player of the Week at the time, having recorded a career-high three sacks against the Browns. Since Week 6, the Giants are tied with the Panthers for first in the NFL with 23 sacks.
3. THE REPLACEMENTS
After Pierre-Paul (809 snaps) and Olivier Vernon (792), the following defensive ends have seen the most action on the roster this season: undrafted rookie Romeo Okwara (181), Owa Odighizuwa (121) and Kerry Wynn (86). Coach Ben McAdoo said it will be "all hands on deck" to fill Pierre-Paul's void, which includes seven sacks, eight passes defensed, three forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery that he returned 43 yards for a touchdown.
4. VEREEN, PUGH TO RETURN?
Left guard Justin Pugh, who has missed the last four games with a knee injury, said he's close to returning to game action but is officially listed as questionable on the injury report for Sunday. The Giants have started four different players at left guard this season: Pugh, Brett Jones, Adam Gettis, and now Marshall Newhouse.
Meanwhile, running back Shane Vereen was designated for return from injured reserve last week, opening a 21-day window for the Giants to activate him or keep him on I.R. for the remainder of the season. Vereen was placed on injured reserve on Sept. 27 after injuring his triceps in the Giants' Week 3 loss to the Washington Redskins. "Hopefully he's going to be there for us," offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan said, "and certainly he could be a weapon that can help us get back to where we need to be."
5. GIANTS INJURY REPORT
Out: S Nat Berhe (concussion), LB Mark Herzlich (concussion), Pierre-Paul (core muscle)
Questionable: Pugh (knee), DT Johnathan Hankins (quadriceps), WR Dwayne Harris (ankle), Odighizuwa (knee), CB Coty Sensabaugh (ribs)
6. COWBOYS INJURY REPORT
Out: CB Morris Claiborne (groin), OT Chaz Green (back), S J.J. Wilcox (thigh) Questionable: DE DeMarcus Lawrence (back), DE Jack Crawford (foot), LB Justin Durant (hamstring), CB Orlando Scandrick (foot/not injury related), OT Tyron Smith (back), S Barry Church (forearm)
7. OFFENSIVE STRUGGLES
After Eli Manning's second of back-to-back games with fewer than 200 passing yards and a 56-yard output by the team on the ground, the Giants have fallen to 26th in total yards per game (327.4) and are tied for 23rd in points (20.4). Those are well below their 2015 numbers when they ranked eighth in yards (372.3) and sixth in points (26.3).
8. GETTING CRUZ INVOLVED
In Cleveland, it was rookie Sterling Shepard who didn't get targeted once. In Pittsburgh, it was Victor Cruz. The veteran wide receiver, who had one catch in each of his previous three games that went for 46, 48 and 37 yards, spoke to McAdoo this week about getting more involved in the offense. After all, Cruz did make the game-winning catch in Week 1 at AT&T Stadium.
9. ZEKE & DAK ATTACK
Rookies Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott made their NFL debuts in Week 1 against the Giants, but they have come a long way since then as they currently stand first and second, respectively, in Pro Bowl voting by fans. Elliott leads the NFL with 1,285 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns. Meanwhile, Prescott has the third-best passer rating in the league at 108.6. Only Tom Brady (113.1) and Matt Ryan (112.3) are better in that regard.
10. DON'T FORGET DEZ; WITTEN AND BEASLEY, TOO
Because of the rookie tandem, future Pro Football Hall of Fame tight end Jason Witten and wide receivers Dez Bryant and Cole Beasley have been somewhat of an afterthought this week. Despite his catch streak coming to an end at 130 games last week, Witten is second on the team with 52 receptions for 553 yards and two touchdowns. Beasley is first with 60 receptions for 670 yards and five touchdowns, while Bryant leads the team with six touchdown catches despite missing three games.
These five players could make a key impact in Sunday's matchup with the Cowboys