Three keys for the Giants to come away with a "W" Sunday night vs. Dallas:
The rival Cowboys aren't the same team that the Giants defeated in the season opener.
Since then, Dallas has won 11 consecutive games to build the best record in the NFL and has a chance to clinch the NFC East with a victory on Sunday night when the two sides meet again at MetLife Stadium. But at the same time, the Giants aren't the same either. Big Blue had a six-game winning streak of its own until falling last week in Pittsburgh. At 8-4 and in control of the first Wild Card spot, the team looks to get back to its winning ways.
"I think you develop as the season goes on," coach Ben McAdoo said. "You have a chance to harden your team. We're both two different teams."
With that in mind, here are three keys to victory for the Giants on Sunday night:
MIND THE GAPS
When asked about Ezekiel Elliott this week, Giants players repeated one word over and over: gap. And they weren't talking about Michael Strahan's toothy grin, though they could use him with Jason Pierre-Paul sidelined.
Rather, they were discussing the importance of gap control against the NFL's leading rusher who has a 242-yard cushion on Tennessee's DeMarco Murray, a former Cowboy and the 2014 rushing champion.
Elliott, the fourth overall pick out of Ohio State, has averaged 4.9 yards per carry for 1,285 yards and 12 touchdowns in his debut season. Quarterback Dak Prescott, the Cowboys' other rookie standout, is also a threat with five rushing touchdowns to go along with his 19 scores through the air. It will be strength vs. strength in this department. The Giants' defense is fifth in rushing yards allowed (91.4) and third in yards per carry (3.6). Elliott's lowest output was 51 yards on 20 carries against the Giants in his first NFL game, something players in the locker room at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center have not forgotten – just like being the only team to beat Dallas.
ELIMINATE UNFORCED ERRORS
From the holding penalty by left tackle Ereck Flowers in the end zone for a safety to Eli Manning's interception in the red zone, the Giants didn't do themselves any favors last week in losing their first game since Oct. 9. When a team is struggling to move the ball – the Giants have fallen to 26th in total yards per game (327.4) – it makes overcoming the setbacks even more difficult. The Cowboys may not force a lot of turnovers with just 11 takeaways on the season, but they also don't beat themselves with only nine giveaways. Only New England, Detroit and Buffalo have fewer with eight apiece. "We've got to play our best game this week," linebacker and defensive captain Jonathan Casillas said.
WIN THE MONEY DOWNS
The Giants last week went 4-for-11 on third down and 0-for-3 on fourth down, including Manning's second interception. Entering that game, the Giants had converted nine straight fourth downs over the previous four games. They are now 27th in the NFL on third down, converting just 35.1 percent of their attempts.
Conversely, the Cowboys' best defense is their offense. No team is better at controlling the clock, where Dallas leads with an average time of possession of 32:20. The Cowboys rank fifth on third down (46.1) and first on fourth down (100.0), where they have converted all seven of their tries this season. This goes back to their run game and productivity on first down. On average, the Cowboys have 7.48 yards to go on second down, the best mark in the NFL. The Giants are 31st at 8.42 yards.