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Scouting Report: Key matchups, numbers to know vs. Cowboys


The New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys have identical records and will play on Thanksgiving. The two teams met in Week 3 on Monday Night Football, when the Cowboys defeated the Giants, 23-16, with Cooper Rush at quarterback. The Cowboys are coming off one of the most dominant performances of any team this season, beating the Vikings, 40-3, last Sunday.

When the Cowboys have the ball…

Numbers to know

65.6%: Red Zone touchdown rate – 7th best in the NFL

Much like the Lions last week, the Cowboys are an effective team in the red zone. They have 13 rushing touchdowns between Tony Pollard (6), Ezekiel Elliott (6) and Dak Prescott (1). They average 25.1 points per game (seventh in the league).

440.3: Average yards per game over the past three games – would rank first in the league if done over an entire season

The Cowboys' yardage metrics are all near the middle of the league because they were without their starting quarterback Dak Prescott for half their games this season. Since Prescott has returned they have been a much more dynamic and balanced offense.

+7: Turnover ratio – tied for 3rd best in the NFL

Dallas only has nine giveaways, which is tied for second-fewest in the NFL. Their two fumbles lost is tied for the fewest in the NFL. The Cowboys also have two red zone takeaways.

82: Penalties committed by the Cowboys this season

Dallas is averaging over eight penalties per game, including 14 offensive holding penalties and 12 false starts.

46.9%: First half run rate – 5th highest in the NFL

The Cowboys also have the sixth-highest 1s- and-10 run rate (58%) in the NFL. At their core, they are still a team built around their running game.

14: Sacks allowed – tied for fewest in the NFL

The Dallas offensive line has some new pieces but they have played well this year. According to Pro Football Focus, the Cowboys have allowed a 29.8% pressure rate this season, which is the ninth-lowest in the NFL. According to PFF, rookie left tackle Tyler Smith has allowed five sacks this season, which leads the team.

Players to watch

Dak Prescott: Prescott missed five games earlier this year with a thumb injury. Since returning, the Cowboys are 3-1. He has topped 200 yards passing and the Cowboys have scored at least 24 points in every game. He is averaging 226 passing yards per game with eight touchdowns and four interceptions. Prescott has been a dangerous downfield passer this year, going 8-of-15 on throws that travel 20+ yards in the air for 270 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions.

Tony Pollard: Pollard has emerged as the Cowboys' top running back. He leads the team with 701 rushing yards and is averaging 5.94 yards per carry. Pollard has the speed and quickness to consistently make big plays. He has 21 rushes that have gone for 10+ yards, and six rushes that have gone for 20+ yards (tied for fourth). According to PFF, of running backs with at least 100 attempts, he ranks 13th in missed tackles forced per carry (.22).

Pollard is also involved in the passing game, with 21 catches for 243 yards. He scored his only two receiving touchdowns last week against the Vikings, with a 68-yard touchdown catch a wheel route and another 30-yard catch and run on a swing pass into the flat.

Ezekiel Elliott just returned from a knee injury and ran it 15 times for 42 yards in his first game back against Minnesota last week.

Ceedee Lamb: Lamb has consistently been the Cowboys' top target this season, with 58 catches for 751 yards and five receiving touchdowns. He has 29 more receptions than Dallas' next leading receiver and more than 350 more receiving yards. He is averaging 12.9 yards per catch. Since returning from his knee injury, Dalton Schultz has been a consistent target for Dak Prescott, logging 20 catches on 25 targets for 199 yards and a touchdown.

Keys for the Giants' defense

* Contain big plays from Tony Pollard and Ceedee Lamb

* Don't let Dallas control the game with their rushing attack

* Dominate the interior of the trenches (Center and left guard) with Leonard Williams and Dexter Lawrence.

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

When the Giants have the ball…

Numbers to know

45.7%: Percentage of pass plays the Cowboys run a stunt or twist – highest in NFL

No team uses more movement up front than the Cowboys. In passing situations, they will line up five men at the line of scrimmage in a wide alignment, often times all defensive ends, and send them crisscrossing on their way to the quarterback. According to PFF, they blitz at a slightly above league average rate (29.6%) but get pressure on opposing quarterbacks at a league high 42.4% rate. The Cowboys also lead the league with 42 sacks.

136.1: Rushing yards allowed per game – 7th worst in the NFL

Dallas also allows 4.73 yards per rush play, which is the sixth-highest rate in the NFL. Their movement on the defensive line to get pass rush can often work against them in the run game, with huge gaps appearing at the line of scrimmage. In Week 8, the Bears ran for 240 against the Cowboys and in Week 10, the Packers ran for 207. Consider that 51.4% of opposition runs have gone for 4+ yards against the Cowboys, which is the highest rate in the NFL. Middle linebacker Leighton Vander Esch and safety Donovan Wilson lead the team with 67 tackles each.

34.6%: Third down conversion defense – 7th best in the NFL

On third downs of more than six yards, teams are only converting on 14.5% of their attempts (ranks third) and on third downs of 10+ yards opponents are just converting 9.3% of their attempts (fourth).

17: Completions allowed of 20+ yards – fewest in the NFL

The Cowboys do not allow big plays over the top. They allowed a pair of big plays to Christian Watson against the Packers, but otherwise the Dallas defense has kept opponents in front of them. Their pass rush has also made teams get rid of the ball quickly, making long developing plays down the field difficult to execute.

Players to watch

Micah Parsons: Parsons has migrated to more of a full-time edge rusher throughout the season. According to PFF, he has played 157 snaps in the box as a stack linebacker, but he has spent 413 playing on the edge. He splits his time on the right and left side nearly equally. He leads the Cowboys with 10 sacks, and also has 19 quarterback hits, three forced fumbles, and two passes defended. According to PFF, he is second to only Za'Darius Smith in total pressures this season with 53. PFF also has him ranked fourth in pass rush win rate (23.7%). His 47 tackles rank third on the Cowboys.

DeMarcus Lawrence: Lawrence has six sacks this season, including three against the Giants in Week 3 and one in each of the team's last three games. He also has eight quarterback hits, eight tackles for loss and two forced fumbles. He is also considered a very strong run defender. The Cowboys have other effective pass rushers in Dorance Armstrong (seven sacks), Dante Fowler Jr. (five) and rookie Sam Williams (three). They will also blitz their safeties, with Donovan Wilson getting to the quarterback three times, and Jayron Kearse two.

Trevon Diggs: One of the best ball hawks in the NFL, Trevin Diggs has three interceptions. He has also given up fewer big plays than he has in past seasons. According to PFF, he has allowed just two touchdowns and fourteen plays of 15+ yards. He has only been flagged for two penalties this season. His interceptions might be down but he is allowing fewer catches.

Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn will mix up his coverages but Cover-3 is still his favored look, using a variation of it on more than 40% of their snaps, according to PFF. They will also use Cover-2 (19.6%) and Cover-1 (24.5%).

Keys for the Giants' offense:

* Run the ball successfully to move the football (repeat three times)

* Do not get into 3rd-and-long when Dallas can unleash their pass rush

* Protect the football

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