The Giants.com staff debates Big Blue topics heading into Sunday's game:
Evan Engram will lead all players in receiving yards on Sunday against the Cowboys.
John Schmeelk - Fiction:
Engram will lead the Giants in receiving yards, but I think the Giants have to be very careful to make sure this isn't the game that Dez Bryant breaks out. Bryant has had a down year and has struggled to get consistent separation, but he made a couple of big plays last week against Washington. Janoris Jenkins, who has shut Bryant down in their last few matchups, is not in the lineup. Ross Cockrell will probably match up with Bryant and he will have his hands full. Tackling Bryant after making catches will be a key for the whole defense.
Dan Salomone - Fact.With Sterling Shepard questionable with a hamstring injury, Engram reverts to being the clear-cut first option. The rookie really has been all season, as he leads the team in targets by a wide margin. He also showed what kind of professional he is becoming after taking some criticism and rebounding with his best game to date last week in Oakland. I think he has another big outing. On the other side, Dallas has had only one 100-yard game by a receiver this season.
Lance Medow - Fiction:In 12 games this season, Evan Engram has tied for the lead or led all players in receiving yards three times: Week 2 vs the Lions; tied with Sterling Shepard and Robert Woods in Week 9 vs the Rams; and last week against the Raiders. While the Cowboys secondary is an attractive matchup on paper, Dallas is likely getting star linebacker Sean Lee back Sunday and his versatility allows him to defend against the run and tight ends in coverage. The Giants secondary is banged up with Janoris Jenkins on injured reserve and Eli Apple nursing multiple injuries, and that makes for a favorable match-up for Dez Bryant. In the past, Jenkins has shadowed Bryant and been very effective against the Pro Bowl wideout but, in his absence, New York is going to need someone else to step up and contain one of the most dangerous playmakers in the league.
Jason Witten has been the Giants' toughest NFC East opponent over the last decade.
John Schmeelk - Fiction:I would put Tony Romo ahead of Witten just in terms of the Cowboys, even though he is now retired. I would also put DeSean Jackson ahead of Witten since he has made some backbreaking big plays against the Giants as a member of the Eagles and Redskins. Jackson's punt return for a touchdown to beat the Giants was more backbreaking than anything Witten has done against the Giants.
Dan Salomone - Fact.No player has more receptions (153) or receiving yards (1,548) against the Giants, ever. Eighteen of those catches came in their 2012 meeting in Arlington, the most ever in a single game by a tight end. He's the ultimate pro and never misses a game, much to the chagrin of Giants defensive coordinators.
Lance Medow - Fact:In 29 regular season games against the Giants, Jason Witten has accumulated over 1,500 receiving yards, highlighted by three 100-yard games, and 14 total touchdowns, including four in the last six games. In Week 1 against New York, no surprise, Witten found the end zone among his seven receptions for 59 yards. He's given the Giants' defense plenty of headaches over his career and even set the single-game NFL record for receptions by a tight end on October 28, 2012, against the Giants with 18 catches for 167 yards. Let's face it, Witten has had the Giants' number. The stats and the eye test solidify that case.
Keep an eye on these five players as the Giants get set for Sunday's game
The Giants need to force two turnovers in order to defeat Dallas.
John Schmeelk - Fact:The Giants have struggled to score with long fields. It is imperative for the defense to set the offense up with good field position, and that happens with takeaways. Dak Prescott has thrown five interceptions in the past three weeks, and he isn't shy throwing contested balls to Dez Bryant. With all the Giants injuries, there is no bigger key each week than winning the turnover battle and it will be no different against Dallas on Sunday.
Dan Salomone - Fact. Points have been hard to come by for the Giants this season, to say the least, so the best way to generate some point production is by playing on a short field. That's where the defense comes into the fold. Five of the Giants' eight interceptions have come in the last four games, and they'll try to carry that over to the fourth quarter of the season.
Lance Medow - Fact:The Giants have collected at least two takeaways in just three of their 12 games this season, and it's no coincidence they won two (against Denver and Kansas City) of those three contests. Against Denver, one of the New York's two touchdowns was thanks to a Janoris Jenkins pick-six, and against Kansas City, the Giants' lone touchdown was off a Damon Harrison interception that handed Eli Manning and company the ball at the Chiefs 26-yard line. Given the offense has struggled to put together lengthy drives consistently this season, New York has had to find ways to shorten the field, and collecting takeaways is the best way to accomplish that feat. They'll need to be opportunistic against the Cowboys and capitalize off any of Dallas' mishaps to walk away with the win.
DeMarcus Lawrence is currently the best pass rusher the Giants face this season
John Schmeelk - Fact:We've had this question for a bunch of weeks, and I am finally going to say "fact." DeMarcus Lawrence leads the NFL in sacks with 13.5 and is coming off a two-sack performance against the Redskins. He has also forced four fumbles. There is great competition here from the likes of Joey Bosa, Brandon Graham, Melvin Ingram, Von Miller and Khalil Mack. In fact, some of those guys are probably better players and pass rushers year-to-year. Lawrence, however, has gotten home more than anyone else so far this season, so I will go with him.
Dan Salomone - Fiction.Joey Bosa of the Chargers has 22.0 sacks in 24 career games, and he would probably have more if teammate Melvin Ingram wasn't getting to the quarterback first a lot of the time. Bosa, who recorded three quarterback hits, 2.0 sacks and a forced fumble on the Giants in Week 5, has helped the Chargers become a top-five pass defense while getting them back into the playoff hunt after a 0-4 start.
Lance Medow - Fiction:Last week, we debated whether Raiders' pass rusher Khalil Mack is the best defensive player the Giants face this year, and I said "fiction". My answer is the same here. While DeMarcus Lawrence is having a breakout campaign with 13.5 sacks, and has been an extremely disruptive player this season, he has just three sacks in the last five games. When you take into consideration some of the other pass rushers the Giants have faced, including Chargers' pass rushers Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa, it's hard for me to put Lawrence ahead of those two. Ingram and Bosa have combined for 20 sacks, five forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and a touchdown. They posted four sacks, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery against Eli Manning and the Giants in Week 5. You also can't overlook Denver's Von Miller, the Rams' Aaron Donald and Kansas City's Justin Houston, all of whom the Giants also already played against this season.