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The New York Giants Won’t Be So Lucky When They Play The Cowboys This Time

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Things should be a little different this time around between the Cowboys and the Giants

New York Giants v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

It’s hard to believe, but there was a time when the 2016 Dallas Cowboys were winless. It was an abrupt way to start the season. With no Tony Romo, the team wasn’t able to do what they’ve been doing so consistently over the last several years – beat the New York Giants on opening night. Even though it was just one week into the season, a dark cloud of doubt crept near as fans were left wondering what type of football team the Cowboys were going to be this season.

Well, after 12 games, we all have a pretty good idea now. The Cowboys have won every game since and now sit atop the league with the NFL’s best record of 11-1. Some of us still look back at that opening weekend and wonder “what if?” What if Terrance Williams was able to get out of bounds? What if the defense could have stopped the Giants running game one first down earlier? The thought of being undefeated at this point in the season brings about both excitement and a lot of extra anxiety as all those close wins the team has had over the last month would have taken some years off our lives. But that’s moot. The Cowboys aren’t undefeated and they have the Giants to thank for that. While it is the Giants who have more to lose as they continue to fight for a playoff spot, Dallas will enter this game with a chip on their shoulder.

These teams know each other all too well so we’ll see a lot of things we’ve seen before, but don’t expect this game to play out like it did in Week 1. Here are some things that won’t be duplicated on Sunday night.

Ezekiel Elliott won’t be held to 51 yards

In their first meeting, New York sent a message that the Cowboys new rookie running back delight was no match for their revamped defensive line. With free agent sensations Damon “Snacks” Harrison and Olivier Vernon added to the Giants front, the impact was immediately felt. Both players had key tackles behind the line of scrimmage.

As well as they defended Elliott in the first game, Zeke is a different runner now. He’s more patient and has learned to read his blocks better. Since his 51 yard output, Elliott has averaged 112 yards a game which is good enough to lead the NFL in rushing. And it’s not just the experience of Elliott that has strengthened the Cowboys running game. Ronald Leary has stepped in for the injured La’el Collins and has had an outstanding season. Its poetic justice for the soon to be free agent who should land himself a nice pay day this offseason. But for now, it’s the Cowboys who are reaping the benefits.

The Cowboys offense will score more than one touchdown

The ascent of Dak Prescott and Zeke have helped the Cowboys offense become a scoring machine. Dallas currently sits at third in the league with 27.8 points a game. But points didn’t come easy for the Cowboys the first time these teams squared off. The offense only found the end zone once and had to settle for four Dan Bailey field goals. After stalling in the red zone against the Giants, the Cowboys have improved dramatically and are now ranked fourth in the league with a red zone efficiency of 66 percent.

The offense offers a slew of red zone weapons including:

  • Jumbo Joe Looney run package. The Cowboys have 20 rushing touchdowns this season and 18 of them have occurred in the red zone. This offense is on pace to have more rushing touchdowns than the last two seasons combined. If you build it, he will run.
  • Dak Prescott will take off running. The rushing touchdowns haven’t been all Zeke as the other rookie sensation had helped out a little. Prescott has five rushing touchdowns this season which ties Don Meredith for most ever in a single season by a Cowboys quarterback. That’s a 50-year old record that will fall once Dak scampers off for one more.
  • The uncoverable Cole Beasley. Dez Bryant is known for being a huge red zone receiving target for the offense, but he’s not alone this year. Beasley has already tied his career high in touchdown catches with five, but only one of them has been for greater than six yards. He’s a legitimate threat inside the ten-yard line.

The Giants offense is struggling

Over the last two games, the Giants offense hasn’t been able to eclipse the 300-yard mark in offense. In both instances, Eli Manning hasn’t reached 200 yards in passing. One of those games was against a tough Pittsburgh team, but the other one was against…Cleveland.

The Giants were a great offensive team last season, finishing fourth in points scored. But this season, they are 24th in scoring and offer very little of a rushing attack. New York is second worst in running the ball, only averaging 77 yards a game. The Cowboys run defense is second in the league, holding teams to just 82 yards a game. This doesn’t bode well for the Giants. If the Cowboys make them one-dimensional, it could make for a great opportunity to get Eli Manning to do Eli Manning things. Last week, Troy Aikman, was heard saying, “I’m really not sure who Eli was throwing the ball to.” Let’s hope we hear something similar from Cris Collinsworth this week.

Who’s back

Shane Vereen will return to the Giants offense. He’s been out since week three, but he was alive and well when these teams met the first time. Vereen made good use of his touches, rushing for 38 yards on six carries and adding another 23 yards on three catches. He’ll provided a much needed boost to the offense.

Who’s not

Jason Pierre-Paul will be missing as he is out six weeks with a sports hernia. That’s a big loss for the Giants defense and you know the Cowboys will test that right side of the line.

Bad luck

Lucky Whitehead will not play on Sunday night for violating team rules.