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Giants vs. Cowboys: 5 storylines to follow in Week 5


The Giants will look to carry momentum from last week's win into Dallas when they take on the Cowboys this weekend at AT&T Stadium.

Joe Judge's squad picked up their first victory of the season last week as they defeated the New Orleans Saints, 27-21, in overtime at the Superdome. Daniel Jones threw for a career-high 402 yards, while Kenny Golladay (six receptions for 116 yards) and Kadarius Toney (six receptions for 78 yards) both enjoyed their strongest performances as members of the Giants.

The Cowboys enter this matchup having won three straight games since dropping the opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Dallas welcomed the Carolina Panthers in Week 4 and emerged with the 36-28 victory behind Dak Prescott's four touchdown passes.

The Week 5 contest will be the first of two meetings between the Giants and Cowboys, and New York's second NFC East game this season. The Giants lost to Washington in Week 2, while Dallas defeated the Eagles in Week 3.

Here are five storylines to follow:

Keep the momentum going

After losing in Weeks 2 and 3 by a combined four points, the Giants were able to get themselves into the win column with a big victory in New Orleans.

The Giants and Cowboys split the series last year, with each team picking up the win on their home field. In the Week 5 showdown at AT&T Stadium last year, the Giants lost on a last-second field goal by Greg Zuerlein, 37-34. A win would bring the Giants within a game of the division lead.

"Look, we're just sticking to the process," Judge said after the Week 4 triumph. "I've been talking about this for the last three to four weeks, even going back into training camp. Everyone wants to come in here right now and have a big emotional reaction, but the fact of the matter is we're going to go back and watch this tape and identify things that we need to correct. It wasn't perfect today. There's things we did well and that we'll need to do moving forward. We can't keep riding this roller coaster every week.

"For us, we need to look at the tape from the last few weeks and understand who we are as a team. To get the results, we have to play a certain way. There are some things from the game today that we were able to overcome. We need to look at the tape and be very honest with ourselves to see what the Cowboys are looking for in terms of mismatches. I've told you guys for a long time, I base these guys off of how they come to work every week, how attentive they are in meetings, and I see a lot of mental toughness from our guys. They're sticking together as a team. Obviously, we come to work each week and give ourselves a chance to have success."

After gaining a season-high 485 total yards of offense against a tough Saints defense last week, the Giants will look to keep the momentum going against the Cowboys (26th in the NFL with 396.3 yards allowed per game).

The team will keep an eye on the statuses of several players, as OT Andrew Thomas, DL Leonard Williams, S Jabrill Peppers, WR Sterling Shepard, WR Darius Slayton and TE Kaden Smith were all listed as non-participants on the initial injury report (Wednesday's practice was a walkthrough, so practice statuses are a projection).

DJ's strong start

Daniel Jones has gotten off to a strong start this season. Through four games, he has completed 66.7 percent of his passes for 1,184 yards. His 296.0 passing yards per game is well above his previous season-best of 232.8 yards set in his rookie season. Jones was named the NFC Offensive Player of the Week for his performance against the Saints after throwing for a career-best 402 yards. This came after he was named Pro Football Focus' Offensive Player of the Week for his outing against Washington in Week 2.

"I thought he handled a lot of things very well with the environment," Judge said about Jones' performance against the Saints. "I thought he did a good job preparing this week with the communication. We made it as tough as we could on the guys this week at practice and I thought that obviously carried over into the game. I thought he did a good job with the players throughout the week with the communication aspect of it, even away from the coaches in different meetings. So, he was able to go out there and make some big throws.

"Obviously, he hit the shot down to John (Ross) for the big play early on. He was consistently able to find open receivers and make good, accurate throws and the right decisions. I say it all the time, he's a guy that you just see it with the way he works, and the performances will keep on coming. He doesn't have to go out there and force the game, he just has to go out there and make the plays that are in front of him."

Jones earned an elite 84.6 overall grade from PFF in Week 4, including an 84.1 passing grade, after leading the Giants back from an 11-point fourth-quarter deficit to score 17 unanswered points. He has earned an 86.9 overall rating on the season from PFF, good for the fourth-highest grade among quarterbacks, while his 88.0 passing grade is behind only Tom Brady (91.5).

Although Jones threw his first interception of the season in New Orleans, it came on a Hail Mary attempt at the end of the first half. The Cowboys lead the league with eight interceptions. Second-year cornerback Trevon Diggs is off to a fantastic start, intercepting five passes over the first four games.

"I think it's a good group, a very talented group," Jones said Wednesday about the Dallas defense. "They play fast, play hard. Talked about some of those guys who've made plays, they've turned the ball over a lot, taken the ball away and affected the game. So, we'll have to be aware of some of those guys and have a plan for them, but it comes down to us doing what we need to do and executing as a unit. "

Saquon's comeback

It's been a long road back from last year's torn ACL for running back Saquon Barkley. But going up against the Saints' stingy run defense last week, the 24-year-old back looked like his normal, spry self. Barkley carried the ball 13 times for 52 yards (4.0 avg.) and the game-winning touchdown in Week 4, while playing a season-high 89 percent of the team's offensive snaps. It was the second time in three games that the running back averaged at least 4.0 yards per carry.

The run game was not the only area in which Barkley was able to make a big impact. The young back was able to make a difference in the passing game as well, catching five receptions for a season-high 74 yards, including a 54-yard touchdown to help close the gap in the fourth quarter. Barkley also performed well in pass protection, earning an elite 83.7 grade on seven pass block snaps.

"You have to stay with the run and commit to it," Judge said after Sunday's game. "Staying with the run doesn't mean you have to do it 50 times, but you have to stay consistent with your gameplan and call plays where you have the runs and plays that come off the runs. I thought Jason (Garrett) did a really nice job today with that. I thought it led to some plays with Saquon in space with screens and catches. Having that catch and run play at the end of the game, that's a guy that's been plugging away, working hard getting better every week. Our team has been improving every week, so I'm proud of the way it's happened. We do not care who gets the points or who makes the plays, as long as it's a Giant."

Barkley will go up against yet another one of the league's top run defenses in Week 5. The Cowboys are No. 6 in the NFL in rushing yards allowed (81 yards per game). Meanwhile, their two rushing touchdowns surrendered is tied for the fifth-fewest. In last week's win over Carolina, the Cowboys gave up 113 rushing yards to the Panthers, but just 57 (on 13 carries) to running back Chuba Hubbard. Opposing QB Sam Darnold found the most success against Dallas, averaging nearly six yards per carry and scoring twice.

"We have to keep going," Barkley said after the win. "We have to keep working every day. We have to keep believing in each other and get ready for next week. Personally, it helps with your confidence to make plays out there especially late in the game. It feels good to get the win. It definitely builds my confidence up. Each week I keep feeling my knee getting better and better. I just have to keep trusting the process and keep going."

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

Spreading the ball around on offense

The Giants were without two of their top offensive playmakers last week as Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton were both out due to hamstring injuries. Despite their absence, Jones was still able to put up career-numbers by hitting several different receivers. Kenny Golladay (116 yards) and Kadarius Toney (78) led the way with six receptions apiece, while Barkley (74) and Evan Engram (27) were right behind them with five each.

Judge told the media on Wednesday he's "optimistic" that Shepard and Slayton could suit up this Sunday. Even if they are unable to go, the team has a ton of confidence in all of the guys in the wide receiver room.

"In terms of having all those guys available at the game when they're all up and healthy, to me it's you want to have as many good players at the game as possible," Judge said Monday. "I think all those guys are very capable of making plays. Whoever the open player is, we want to get the ball to and have them make a play. Very pleased with the way those guys are coming along as a unit and the improvements they're making and the production they're having."

John Ross made his Giants debut against the Saints and instantly made a big impact. The former first-round pick showed off his blazing speed by getting behind the Saints defense for a 52-yard touchdown catch in the first half. Ross finished the game with three receptions for 77 yards and the score

"if you've got speed that can take the top off, they've got to decide on how they want to cover you," Judge added. "Do they trust a guy to lock up man the entire game, the entire field? Do they have to have safety help over the top? Is it one safety, two safeties based on however they see your guys as a threat and the situation of it? Does it help you as far as kind of lightening up the box? It can. It can. Now, some teams will just turn around and just tell their corners, have a nice day and we're going to load the box anyway, so we'll see how they approach it.

Wide receiver D.J. Moore had the most explosive day for the Panthers offense last week, reeling in eight passes for 113 yards and two touchdowns. On the season, the Cowboys' defense ranks 31st in passing yards and 26th in passing touchdowns, despite their success in forcing turnovers.

Slowing down an explosive offense

The Cowboys enter Week 5 with one of the NFL's top-ranked offenses. The unit ranks No. 4 in points, No. 3 in yards, No. 2 in first downs and No. 3 in third-down conversion percentage. The biggest part of their offensive success is due to the strong play of quarterback Dak Prescott. Prescott is averaging 266.5 passing yards per game while throwing 10 touchdowns to only two interceptions. He has completed 75.2 percent of his throws for a passer rating of 116.9.

"I think you talk about No. 4, Dak is one of the top guys in the league, one of the most productive players," Judge said. "He's still a threat with his legs, he's not afraid to run it, but this guy really keeps his eyes downfield, looks to extend plays really more for the pass than anything else. I think when you talk about their offense, you can go ahead and just spin a wheel, there's a weapon at every turn, so you can't focus on one guy. You've got to play good, sound defense as a team and work hard to get them off the field, and that's easier said than done."

Dallas has playmakers up and down their offense, starting with running back Ezekiel Elliott. During last week's win, he carried the ball 20 times for 143 yards (7.2 avg.) and a touchdown. He is averaging 5.3 yards per attempt on the season to go with his four rushing touchdowns. Incredibly enough, Elliott isn't even leading the team in yards per attempt, as that honor belongs to Tony Pollard. Pollard is averaging 6.8 yards per carry on 37 attempts, totaling 250 yards.

The Cowboys already have three different targets with 20+ receptions. Wide receiver Amari Cooper leads the way with 22 catches for 258 yards and three touchdowns, while CeeDee Lamb has 20 receptions for 264 yards and a touchdown. Not to be forgotten is tight end Dalton Schultz, who is tied with Cooper for the team-lead with three touchdowns to go with his 20 receptions for 201 yards. All three of these playmakers, along with the unit's two running backs, pose a serious threat to any opposing defense.

"We already know about the offense," said cornerback James Bradberry. "It's very explosive. They've got a very very good running back. They've got an elite quarterback, elite receivers, so they can score in many different ways…

"Dallas is definitely a tough opponent, so we'll just have to prepare as hard this week just as we did last week."

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