EAST RUTHERFORD N.J. – With high hopes that November will be more successful than their winless October, the Giants host the Dallas Cowboys on Monday night seeking to end a pair of negative streaks – they have lost four games in a row and five straight to Dallas. The 4-3 Cowboys are coming off their bye week.
Their most recent game was a 37-10 thrashing of Philadelphia on Oct. 20, a victory that ended a three-game losing streak (during which they played without several key contributors due to injury). The Giants opened their season with a 35-17 loss in Dallas. They trail in the all-time regular-season series, 67-45-2. This will the Cowboys’ second straight road game in MetLife Stadium; they lost to the Jets, 24-22, on Oct. 13.
What is the Cowboys’ biggest strength?
Their rushing attack. Dallas has the NFL’s top-ranked offense (league-leading averages of 437.9 yards a game and 6.7 yards per play) and it all starts with its potent ground game, which is fourth in the league with a per-game average of 146.0 yards. The key player, of course, is running back Ezekiel Elliott. After missing training camp and the preseason while his contract extension was negotiated, Elliott rushed for 53 yards on 10 carries in the opener. But he is now in top condition and in the last two games, he accounted for 40% of the team’s touches, including 11 receptions, and ran for 105 and 111 yards. Elliott runs behind one of the NFL’s premier offensive lines, and his continued production on the ground opens up play action opportunities for quarterback Dak Prescott and the receivers.
Which player is key to the Cowboys’ offense?
Elliott could be the answer here in any Dallas scouting report, but Prescott – who has started each of his 55 career games – deserves mention. Prescott has thrived under first-year offensive coordinator Kellen Moore. His completion percentage (70.6, fourth in the league) and average gain per attempt (8.9, third) are the best of his four-year career. The Giants know better than anyone how good Prescott can be. His 14 touchdown passes against them are five more than he has against any other opponent. And on Sept. 8, Prescott compiled a perfect 158.3 passer rating by completing 25 of 32 passes for 405 yards, four touchdowns, and no interceptions. Not coincidentally, that was the only game this season which the Giants did not record at least two sacks.
What is the strength of the Cowboys’ offense?
A lot to choose from. The starting offensive linemen have been selected to a combined 15 Pro Bowls and left tackle Tyron Smith is a two-time first-team All Pro. Amari Cooper leads the team with 38 catches for 621 yards and five touchdowns. Elliott and Prescott are invaluable. But we’ll give a shout out to Jason Witten, who, after a year as a Monday Night Football analyst, is back to being…Jason Witten, the most prolific receiving tight end in history. He is currently among the top 10 at his position in targets (31), receptions (26) and yards (263). Witten has an instinct that enables him to find open areas. His career totals are 1,174 catches, 12,678 yards and 70 touchdowns.
Which player is key to the Cowboys’ defense?
Jaylon Smith, who is one of the NFL’s best middle linebackers. A big, explosive, fast and violent player, Smith leads the Cowboys with 68 tackles (43 solo). Smith is blitzing more than he has in the past and has 2.0 sacks. He has also forced two fumbles. The Giants are going to have to account for Smith and weakside backer Leighton Vander Esch on every snap.
What is the strength of the Cowboys’ defense?
It has speed everywhere. Up front, Robert Quinn leads the team with 6.0 sacks despite missing the first two games and DeMarcus Lawrence has 3.5 sacks. Both use their speed to blow by offensive linemen. The aforementioned Smith and Vander Esch are fast players at the second level. In the secondary, cornerback Chidobe Awuzie caught up to Saquon Barkley on the running back’s season-long 59-yard run in the opener, and Byron Jones and Joe Thomas are also players who will lose few footraces.
What is the strength of the Cowboys’ special teams?
If kicker Brett Maher can see the goalpost, he has a chance to make a field goal. He was named the NFC Special Teams Player of the Week after Dallas’ victory against Philadelphia, when he kicked three field goals, including a 63-yarder that is the longest in franchise history. He is the only player in NFL history with three field goals of 60 or more yards. As a rookie last year, he succeeded on six of seven attempts from 50-plus yards, and his nine field goals from that distance since the start of the 2018 season are the most in the NFL. In three games vs. the Giants, Maher has attempted only three field goals, none longer than 37 yards, and he pushed a 34-yard try wide right.
Based on the scouting report, what must the Giants do to win the game?
Start fast and play with the lead. The Cowboys’ favored formula is to jump in front and then run the ball and wear down their opponents. In their three losses, they couldn’t follow the formula because they faced a combined first-half deficit of 47-9. Against Philadelphia, Dallas led at halftime, 27-7, and finished the game with 189 rushing yards. The Giants will greatly help their cause if they score early points.
Statistics you should know:
*The Giants and Cowboys have combined for nine Super Bowl victories, which is the most in NFL history for two division rivals. Dallas-Washington, New England-Miami and Pittsburgh-Baltimore are division foes with eight combined wins.
*Dallas’ offense leads the NFL by converting 51.9% of its third-down opportunities (42 of 81) and its defense is second (to New England) by allowing opponents to convert 26.3% of their chances (21 of 80).
*The Cowboys have an NFL-high four games with at last 450 yards of total offense this season.
*Prescott’s 21 rushing touchdowns broke the franchise record for quarterbacks that had been held by Hall of Famer Roger Staubach.
*Dallas is 46-34 on Monday night. The Giants are 25-39-1, including 9-10 at home.
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