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Giants vs. Cowboys: 5 Players to watch in Week 17


The Giants will look to keep their playoff hopes alive in Week 17 when the Dallas Cowboys come to MetLife Stadium for an NFC East showdown.

After a four-game winning streak propelled them back into the division race, the Giants have lost three consecutive games, capped by last week's 27-13 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. The defense surrendered a season-high 249 rushing yards, 90 yards more than the previous season-high the Giants allowed this season, as the Ravens gained over 430 yards of total offense.

The Cowboys are trending in the opposite direction with three straight wins. Last week, Dallas accumulated over 500 yards of offense on the way to a 37-17 home win over Philadelphia. The Cowboys have scored 30+ points in each of the wins during their current streak (with an average of 36 per game).

This weekend's matchup is a big one with playoff implications for both teams. The winner of this game will win the NFC East if Philadelphia beats Washington on Sunday Night Football.

Here are five players to keep an eye on during this crucial battle:

QB Daniel Jones

Daniel Jones returned to the lineup to face the Ravens after missing the Week 15 loss to the Browns. He threw for 252 yards and a touchdown, his first TD pass since Week 9. The yardage total was his highest since posting 256 against the Buccaneers in Week 8, and just the second time he's topped the 250-yard mark since Week 1.

There is no denying that Jones' mobility has been affected over the last few weeks due to hamstring and ankle injuries. Over his last two games, he has just one rushing attempt after averaging five attempts a through the first 11 games of the season. Jones has also been sacked six times in each of his past two starts after not being taken down more than five times in a game prior to Week 14.

"I'll continue to work with the trainers and trust that program," Jones said earlier this week. "I've played from the pocket the past couple weeks, and I expect to continue to do that until I'm healthy. We'll see what exactly, but I expect the game plan and what I'm asked to do to be fairly similar to what it's been these past few weeks…

"I certainly haven't been as involved in the run game, certain areas of getting out of the pocket, scrambling, things like that. But I feel good. I feel a lot better, and I'll continue to work with the trainers and improve."

In Week 5 against the Cowboys, Jones threw for 222 yards and lost a fumble.

Last week, Dallas allowed Eagles rookie quarterback Jalen Hurts to throw for 342 yards and one touchdown. He was intercepted twice, sacked three times, and ran 69 yards on nine carries (7.7 avg.) and fumbled twice (one lost).

RB Wayne Gallman

Come-from-behind game scripts have caused Wayne Gallman's touches to decrease. After averaging 16.8 rush attempts a game from Weeks 8-13, Gallman has averaged just nine carries a game over the last three contests. Over this stretch, he has put up 4.2 yards per carry while adding five receptions for 42 yards.

In Week 5, Gallman carried the ball five times for 24 yards (4.8 avg.) working behind Devonta Freeman (17-60 with 1 TD and two catches for 27 yards).

"All of the backs we've used this year have done a good job adjusting their games…" head coach Joe Judge said this week. "These are different schemes than they've run in the past. Wayne's (Gallman) done a nice job, Alfred (Morris), Devonta (Freeman), Dion (Lewis), all these guys are running really hard for us right now. We try to use them all similar enough that every time they're in, it's not a red flag of what's going to happen in the game. At the same time, they all have a little bit of difference to them."

The Cowboys allowed 151 rushing yards on 29 carries (5.2 avg.) with one touchdown to Philadelphia. Hurts found room as did Miles Sanders, who was able to add 57 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries (3.8 avg.) to go with four receptions for 27 yards. Entering Week 17, the Cowboys are allowing a league-high 161.1 rushing yards per game and are tied with Houston for the most yard allowed per carry (5.0). Dallas' 19 rushing touchdowns allowed is tied for the seventh-most in the NFL.

DL Leonard Williams

Leonard Williams (50 total tackles) has racked up 8.5 sacks, 11 tackles for loss, 25 quarterback hits and a fumble recovery. His 79.4 overall grade from Pro Football Focus ranks 17th among interior defensive linemen, and is aided by his elite 84.0 run defense grade and solid 68.6 pass rush grade.

Cowboys quarterback Andy Dalton has thrown multiple touchdown passes in four consecutive games (11 TDs, 2 INTs). He has also thrown for 285+ yards in two of those games, including last week's outing in which he completed over 73 percent of his passes for 377 yards, three touchdowns and one pick.

One reason for Dalton's success this season has been his ability to get the ball out of his hands very quickly. Heading into the regular season finale, Dalton ranks third among quarterbacks with an average of just 2.5 seconds from the time the ball is snapped to when it's out of his hands. The quick throws have helped Dalton complete 65.4 percent of his passes, the second-highest mark of his 10-year NFL career.

"You can look as recent as last week with Andy (Dalton) hitting a slant to (Amari) Cooper, and he takes it for a huge gain," Judge said. "Hitting the screen to (Michael) Gallup, huge gain. CeeDee Lamb over the middle, huge gains. They learn how to really use these guys in different situations. I think Kellen (Moore) does a great job of creating matchups, isolating defenders, making you play one on one ball. Andy's very smart to understand where he needs to go with the ball, the ball gets out fast, he doesn't hold it very long. Most of his passes are really completed inside of 20 yards. But that doesn't mean it's not an explosive play."

LB Blake Martinez

Blake Martinez has 140 total tackles, tied with Tampa Bay's Devin White for the third-most in the NFL. The Giants' inside linebacker also has two sacks, eight tackles for loss, five quarterback hits, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, one interception and five passes defensed.

Entering the final week of the season, Martinez ranks ninth among all linebackers with a 75.3 overall grade from PFF. He has earned a 72.2 run defense grade and a 75.7 coverage grade. In the Week 5 loss against Dallas, Martinez recorded seven tackles (four solo) and a fumble recovery.

Dallas RB Ezekiel Elliott is coming off his most productive outing in over a month last week as he topped the 100-yard rushing mark for just the second time this season, finishing with 105 yards on 19 carries. His 5.5 avg. yards per carry was the highest of the season, and he also grabbed four passes for 34 yards. While Tony Pollard didn't do much last week, he is only two weeks removed from his stellar Week 15 performance in which he rushed 12 times for 69 yards (5.8 avg.) and two touchdowns while reeling in six passes for 63 yards.

"They've gotten away from playing a fast-paced tempo. They're not so much a pass-heavy team at this point," Judge said. "Really, the offense always goes through Zeke (Ezekiel Elliott) and the run game. That's what they use to set up those explosive receivers on the outside. Kellen (Moore) has done a really good job of mixing it up, using the screen game and the run game to create some shots down the field. Obviously, this offense can pose a lot of issues."

CB James Bradberry

James Bradberry ranks fourth in the NFL with 17 passes defensed to go with three interceptions, two forced fumbles, and one fumble recovery. Bradberry has the fifth-highest overall grade from PFF among cornerbacks with his 79.4, which includes his dominant 79.4 coverage grade. He's only surrendered only one catch of 25+ yards.

Big Blue enters the final week of the season ranked 16th with its 240.5 passing yards allowed per game, while the 22 passing touchdowns is tied for the seventh-fewest in the NFL.

The Cowboys sport one of the league's most talented wide receiver groups. Last week, CeeDee Lamb (3-65 and a TD), Amari Cooper (4-121) and Michael Gallup (6-121 and 2 TDs) combined for over 300 receiving yards. When you add Lamb's 19-yard touchdown run, the trio accounted for four total touchdowns. Each member of the trio has caught five touchdown passes this season, although Cooper leads the group with his 86 receptions.

"I think all three of these guys could fit into that label of being a top receiver for a team and a feature matchup guy," Judge said. "I think the thing that's unique about these guys, you get a lot of receivers throughout the league who maybe are bigger, faster targets who are down the field threats. Then you get other guys who are maybe kind of smaller, quicker that are catch and run threats. These guys all have good size, they have very good speed, they can build their speed and hold their speed down the field, they have good hands to make contested catches, but they do an exceptional job of extending plays.

View rare photos from the historic rivalry between the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys.


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