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Players to Watch: Bouncing back on Thanksgiving


The Giants will look to get back in the win column on Thursday when they travel to Dallas to take on the Cowboys in a Thanksgiving matchup.

Big Blue endured a tough loss on Sunday as they fell to the Detroit Lions, 31-18, and saw several players go down with injuries. However, the Giants have quickly turned the page to Dallas, who are coming off their most impressive win of the season.

"Throughout the year, we've shown ourselves as a resilient group, a tough group mentally and physically – this is an opportunity to show that for us," said Daniel Jones. "We're excited for it and we're looking forward to getting down there."

The Cowboys visited the Minnesota Vikings and enjoyed their most lopsided victory of the season, handing Minnesota just their second loss of the year in a 40-3 beating. It was Dallas' second time scoring 40+ points in their past three games.

Here are five players to keep an eye on in the Week 12 matchup.

QB Daniel Jones

Daniel Jones had mixed results in Sunday's loss to the Lions. The fourth-year quarterback completed 27 of 44 passes for 341 yards, all of which set new season-highs, and a touchdown while adding seven rush attempts for 50 yards (7.1 avg.) and an additional score. However, Jones threw two interceptions in the loss, only his third and fourth of the year, and finished with a passer rating of 74.1. The turnovers snapped his streak of six consecutive games without an interception.

"We're all already anxious to get this taste out of our mouths and come back and play a much better football game…" Jones told the media after the loss to Detroit. "I think we're all pretty disappointed with our effort today and how we played – not up to our standard, not up to what we're capable of doing. I think that's the disappointing part of it, and we've got to evaluate that, study it and make sure we can't let those things happen again. Another opportunity here in a few days to correct those things."

Jones and the rest of the offense face a tough challenge this week. The Cowboys enter Week 12 with the NFL's No. 1 passing defense, allowing an average of just 174.5 yards per game, and they rank ninth in passing touchdowns allowed (11). In last week's win over the Vikings, Dallas limited Kirk Cousins to just 105 yards on 12-of-23 passing and no touchdowns. Cousins was also sacked seven times, including two from second-year linebacker Micah Parsons. Parsons leads the Cowboys with 10 sacks on the year.

"They're a good defense," Jones said Wednesday. "They're fast and physical, good pass rush up front and good players in the backend. They're smart, instinctive, and make a lot of plays. We'll have a plan for it. We're confident in our ability to attack them."

RB Saquon Barkley

While everyone on the Giants has already put last week's loss in the rearview mirror, none might be more eager to get back on the field than Saquon Barkley. The fifth-year running back has had an outstanding season but is coming off what was easily his roughest performance. Barkley registered 15 rush attempts for just 22 yards (1.5 avg.) and caught two passes for 13 yards, finishing with 35 total yards from scrimmage. Despite last week's outing, Barkley still ranks second in the league with 953 rushing yards.

"They did a good job up front," Daboll said about the Lions Sunday. "They won up front. (They) made tackles in space. You know, bottled up the run game pretty good. That's obviously a big part of what we do."

Barkley had a productive game in the first meeting between the two teams. He ran the ball 14 times for 81 yards, good for an average of 5.8 yards per carry, and a touchdown and caught all four passes thrown his way for another 45 yards. The Giants will need another solid performance from Barkley on Thanksgiving, as the run game has been the area to attack the Cowboys' defense this season. Dallas comes into this game 26th in both rushing yards per game (136.1) and per attempt (4.7). They have allowed six opponents to top 135 yards on the ground, including two of the last three opponents totaling 200+ rushing yards.

WR Darius Slayton

The Giants lost a key contributor on offense Sunday as rookie wide receiver Wan'Dale Robinson suffered an ACL injury that will sideline him for the remainder of the year. With Robinson gone, the Giants will need others from the wide receiver room to step up. Enter Darius Slayton.

After a slow start to the season, Slayton has been the team's leading receiver over the last seven weeks. Since the Week 5 game against the Packers, the fourth-year wideout has registered 23 receptions for 402 yards and two touchdowns. He has finished with at least 58 receiving yards in all but one game during that stretch, and is coming off a season-high 10 targets last week, which he converted into five receptions for 86 yards.

The 25-year-old played only 14 snaps in the first meeting against the Cowboys and was not targeted in the passing game. This time around, Slayton figures to line up opposite Trevon Diggs for most of the game. Diggs leads the Cowboys with three interceptions and 13 passes defensed, more than double any other player.

DL Dexter Lawrence

Dexter Lawrence has played well in all facets this season. Although he did not register a sack of Lions QB Jared Goff last week, he picked up two total pressures, including one quarterback hit. The fourth-year lineman made an impact in the run game with five total tackles on running plays, including three run stops. Lawrence finished the game with a season-high seven total tackles (three solo) while playing 88 percent of the defensive snaps. It was the sixth time in the last seven games that he played at least 86 percent of snaps.

The 25-year-old is enjoying a breakout campaign with career-highs in sacks (five) and quarterback hits (17) despite having seven games left on the schedule. Both of those numbers are more than twice as many as any other Giant. His 40 total tackles also puts him on pace to break his previous career-best of 54 total tackles set last year.

Last week's win over the Vikings marked the first game in which Cowboys QB Dak Prescott was not sacked. He had been sacked multiple times in three of the previous four games prior to Week 11. The Cowboys' 14 sacks allowed on the season are tied with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the fewest in the league. Cooper Rush started for the injured Prescott in Week 3 and completed 67.7 percent of his passes for 215 yards and a touchdown for a passer rating of 98.2.

"Wherever they found success against us last game is probably something that they're going to try to come back to this week," defensive lineman Leonard Williams said on Monday. "That's something I'm going to try to study and prepare for and watch a lot of what happened to us last game."

ILB Jaylon Smith

General Manager Joe Schoen and the entire front office have made numerous key additions to the roster since the start of the regular season, especially on the defensive side of the ball. One of those key additions has been veteran linebacker Jaylon Smith. The 27-year-old was signed to the practice squad on September 20. 11 days later, the Giants signed him to the active roster, where he has made a big impact.

Smith has recorded at least five tackles in five of the seven games he's played in. Despite missing the first three games of the season, Smith is seventh on the team with 37 total tackles. He racked up six total tackles against the Lions while playing a season-high 87 percent of the defensive snaps. He was not targeted on 19 coverage snaps.

Smith will be important to the defense's success against the Cowboys. For starters, Dallas ranks eighth in rushing yards per game (136.2) led by Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard. Sunday's win was Elliott's first game back after suffering a knee injury back in Week 7. The two talented backs combined for 122 yards and two touchdowns on 30 carries.

Over his last four games, Cowboys tight end Dalton Schultz has caught 20 passes for 199 yards. He appears to be one of Prescott's preferred targets in recent weeks, and Smith is likely to see a lot of the tight end on Thursday.

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