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Game Preview: Giants begin critical NFC East stretch

JOE-JUDGE-SIDELINE

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Studying statistics before attempting to analyze and predict what will happen tomorrow when the Giant clash with the Dallas Cowboys will almost certainly lead to confusion and doubt. Because the numbers signal any number of possibilities.

What is certain is that they are impatient to earn their first victory of season in what is the initial 2020 NFC East clash for each team.

The Giants are 0-4, which is not the start they anticipated, but it's one that does not leave them in too deep a hole because each of the other three teams in the division has just one win. That includes Dallas, which is 1-3 only because of a 20-0 fourth-quarter comeback vs. Atlanta that required an extraordinary onside kick recovery.

Beginning tomorrow, the Giants will play five of their six NFC East games in the next 36 days, a stretch that could propel them into the thick of the division race. But Joe Judge is practicing the tunnel vision all coaches use as their default setting when asked to discuss a larger picture.

"I think one win makes a difference every week, and right now, everyone in our division is 0-0 this week," Judge said. "Our focus every week is win one game at a time. We play this game like it's its own season. We play each play like it has a history and a life of its own. That's our only focus this week is the Cowboys."

That hasn't been a pretty sight for the Giants recently. Dallas has won six consecutive games in the series, all with their current offensive coordinator, Jason Garrett serving as the Cowboys' head coach. With Sterling Shepard on injured reserve, no member of the active roster has defeated Dallas wearing a Giants uniform, a streak the current team is determined to end.

"It doesn't need to be said how much this game means, how much this game has meant for years," safety Jabrill Peppers said.

"We're hungry for a win right now, and that's all that matters," wide receiver Golden Tate said.

Does that include those stats? Dallas has allowed an NFL-high 146 points, including 90 in the first half. But the Giants have scored a league-low 47 points – 22 in the first half, three in the first quarter. They are tied for 31st with an average of 278.0 yards a game and they have scored just two touchdowns in 10 trips inside their opponents' 20-yard line.

"I think the biggest thing we're all trying to do is just simply execute better, both in the run game and the pass game," Garrett said. "You certainly want to do the things you're good at, and we're trying to discover what those things are, again both in the run and the pass game. You want to make sure that you're finding ways to keep the defense off balance, whether it's using tempo, which we've used a lot of this year, whether it's using formations and movements, or just the combination of run and pass and different ways to do that. We're all trying as a coaching staff to do a great job of putting our players in a good position. Then we have to execute once the ball turns over."

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

The teams share some traits. The Cowboys are tied for the NFL lead with nine giveaways and their minus-seven turnover differential is the league's worst. The Giants have eight turnovers and are minus-four.

Dallas has rushed on an NFL-low 31.4% of its offensive plays. The Giants are second at 32.4%.

But while the Giants' passing game is trying take flight, moving the ball through the air has been the Cowboys' strength. They are first in the league in both total yards a game (509.5) and passing yards (407.8). Quarterback Dak Prescott leads the league with 1,690 yards this season, the most passing yards by a player in his team's first four games of a season in NFL history. Prescott – who passed for 450 yards in Week 3, 472 yards in Week 3 and a career-high 502 yards last week vs. Cleveland is the first player in NFL history with at least 450 passing yards in three consecutive games.

With another performance of at least 400 passing yards this season, Prescott will become the fourth quarterback with four games of at least 400 passing yards in a single season in NFL history. The Giants won't want to let that happen tomorrow.

"I think they're definitely an explosive offense," defensive lineman Leonard Williams said. "Dak Prescott is a really good quarterback. Ezekiel Elliott is one of the top running backs in the league. They also have some great guys at the skill position and the receiving corps, and a pretty good, established offensive line as well. There's some moving parts to their o-line right now, but overall, I think they have a lot of great skill players on offense. They definitely move the ball around a lot.

That line has been weakened by injuries. The Cowboys announced yesterday that two-time All-Pro Left tackle Tyron Smith will undergo neck surgery and miss the rest of the season. Center Joe Looney, who started the first four games, is out with a knee injury. Right tackle La'el Collins has not played this year because of an injured hip.

Defensively, in addition to allowing a league-high point total, the Cowboys are 30th in yards allowed (430.5) and last week gave up 307 rushing yards to Cleveland. The Giants ran for a season-high 136 yards against the Rams but are still 31st in the NFL with a 76.5 per-game average.

"It was really the first time we were able to consistently run the football in a game," Garrett said. "That obviously makes everything else be much better. You continue to persist with it regardless, but you're more likely to keep running the ball when you keep having success. We were able to do that. I think using some tempo helped us. I think we were controlling the line of scrimmage as well as we have in the running game all year long."

"I feel like we are starting to click," said running back Devonta Freeman, who had 33 of those yards in Los Angeles and will play his third game in a Giants uniform tomorrow. "Everybody is starting to do their job. To have a successful run game it's going to take all 11. Once we play unified, the sky is the limit for us. We can just continue to get comfortable with different looks, different schemes. There hasn't been a preseason, you can expect a lot of things to be slower and take time. It's a process. I definitely think you just need all 11 guys. That's what we went out there and did last game. We're going to build off that and just keep going and try to get better. All of us have been working hard all week long. Just try to get better every day."

Just like the entire team, which is focused on a single statistic: getting win number one.

*The Giants trailed in the regular-season series with Dallas, 68-45-2. They last defeated the Cowboys on Dec. 11, 2016, 10-7. The Giants have swept the season series 13 times, while Dallas has 23 series sweeps, including each of the last three years. The Giants are 20-37-1 in Dallas (5-6 in AT&T Stadium).

*The "Bud Light Giants Gameday" radio pregame show will begin at 2:10 p.m. on WFAN 660 AM/101.9 FM and will stream live on Giants.com, the Giants mobile app, and "Giants TV" streaming app.

"Giants Postgame Live" presented by Mercedes-Benz can be heard immediately after the game - also on WFAN 660 AM/101.9 FM and streaming on Giants.com, the Giants mobile app, and "Giants TV" streaming app.

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