The Cowboys completed a sweep of the Washington Redskins last week and now they have chance to sweep the New York Giants. When these teams faced off in the season opener, a lot of fans felt good about the 19-3 victory. But then as we watched the Giants start the season 0-5, the satisfaction wore off in a hurry. The Giants are having a terrible season. They’ve suffered a lot of injuries to key players and most recently they suffered season-ending dismissal of their head coach, Ben McAdoo. Of course, Cowboys fans have no sympathy for them and right now the Giants stand in the way of what we’re hoping will be a strong finish to the 2017 season.
Here are the five things I will be watching this weekend:
1. What kind of Dak will we get?
The Cowboys offense scored four touchdowns last week against the Washington Redskins. Dak Prescott threw for two touchdowns and no interceptions. But despite the results, many fans are still a little skeptical about what to expect from the Cowboys new quarterback. Struggles in the previous three games created a cause for concern and even though the offense broke out of their slump, the overall performance of Prescott didn’t do much to make us think he was back to his old self. Maybe it was the three-and-outs on their first four possessions of the game? Maybe it was the fact that Prescott only threw for 102 yards? Or maybe it was that hit he took on his hand that could end up having a lingering effect on his throws?
It’s not unreasonable that there is some pause regarding what the team will get from Dak. His performance is so instrumental in the success of this ball club. If Prescott starts looking like the quarterback well all started crush’n on last year, then that will mean good things for the offense. If not, it’s going to be a rough one.
2. An inspired Giants team?
Last week, Eli Manning was benched and that made him sad. But then this week, their head coach was fired and that made him unemployed. The Giants are a hot mess right now, but for some reason there are people worried about their players rallying around their new interim head coach or expect a spark to be ignited by the return of Eli.
That’s great and all, but this is still the New York Giants we’re talking about. Teams with a 2-10 record shouldn’t scare anyone. The offensive line struggles consistently to where they are not able to sustain any type of a ground attack. And whether he’s reinvigorated or not, Manning is going to be spending most of the game under duress. When the Giants have beaten the Cowboys in recent years it’s been despite Eli, not because of him. I will never fear Eli and if he shows up airing it out, I will just grab some popcorn and enjoy the spectacle.
The Giants have some good players on defense and they will win some plays in this game, but it won’t be enough to make up for the ineptness of their offense.
3. The return of Sean Lee
If there is a player returning to the lineup that should be inspiring to his team, it’s Sean Lee. The Cowboys All Pro linebacker was not benched. With close to a month to recovery from that pesky hamstring injury, Lee will be back on the field running the show for the defense. It should be noted that Anthony Hitchens is coming off one of his best games as a Cowboy. After rookie Samaje Perine reeled off two-straight 100+ yard performances for the Redskins, the Cowboys defense held him to just 38 yards.
With Lee added back in the mix, the Cowboys run defense looks to be in the best shape they’ve been in all season. Hitch is ball’n and Jaylon Smith will go back to limited action again, a role where he’s been able to provide higher quality reps.
4. Is this young secondary for real?
Last week the coaches said they were going to shake things up in the secondary, and to the great pleasure of Cowboys fans everywhere, it worked. Chidobe Awuzie played great and so did Kavon Fraizer. The Cowboys would get a lot of snaps from all three of their rookie defensive backs. Take a look at the break down of defensive snaps for all the DBs last week against the Redskins.
Granted, Orlando Scandrick was on the field for 51 snaps, but that’s still a lot of faith the coaching staff put in their young players. And with Scandrick dealing with a transverse process fracture in his back, there will be extra snaps to divvy up. Will the young guys be up to the task?
Normally, this would be something to stress about, but with the Giants offense in so much turmoil right now, this is a perfect venue for these guys to get snaps and continue to hone their craft. If the Cowboys secondary of the future is manifesting before our eyes, I’m going to make sure I have a front row seat.
5. Playoff watch
For those out there that say, “I’m just focus on the Cowboys,” - that’s great. You and Jason Garrett have fun with that. For the rest of us, there’s the festivus, and that means we get to do some scoreboard watching this weekend. If the Cowboys keep winning football games, then that whole playoff thing starts to become more and more likely. But they need some help so additional eyes will be on some other games around the league. While there are a handful of games of interest, there are three really important ones for Cowboys fans.
What a great start to the weekend it would be if the Saints could do the Cowboys a solid and beat the Falcons on Thursday night. Remember, all the Cowboys need is for Atlanta and Carolina to have two losses between them over the next three weeks. It doesn’t matter if they split them up or one team takes both; any combination will do. That is six opportunities to get two losses. I like those odds and I like them even better if we get the first one over with quickly.
Just as we will be pulling for the Saints on Thursday night, we will also be Vikings fans on Sunday. This game will be going on the same time as the Cowboys game, so hopefully FOX will have some game-break updates of Case Keenum throwing a bunch of touchdown passes.
If both the Falcons and Panthers lose two games over the remainder of the season, then what Seattle does isn’t that important. But just in case one of those things cannot be fulfilled, there is a backup plan and that plan consists of the Seahawks losing one of their next two games. They got Jacksonville this week followed by the Los Angeles Rams next week, so it’s possible they drop one of these games.
These are the three biggest games of interest. If one of these happens, that’s good. If two of them happen, that’s great! And if all three happen, the Cowboys are back in business and for all intent and purposes - control their own destiny again. To think that all of this could be achieved as early as the end of this football weekend is exciting.
Bonus watch: the new duds
The Cowboys will have a unique uniform combo on Sunday. Since it is the Giants color-rush weekend (who will be donning an all white uni), the Cowboys will be wearing their typical navy blue jerseys, however instead of their silver pants, they’ll be going with their color-rush white pants.
I’m a fan of the navy jerseys and always love seeing the team wear them, but with the white pants, this will be a new look for Dallas, one that we’ve never seen before. If it goes over well, could this be something we see more of in the future?
Cowboys wearing navy, the Giants wearing white...man, that sure brings back some memories. pic.twitter.com/tyBFvGIOqD— Dan Rogers (@DannyPhantom24) December 7, 2017
These are the things I will be looking for this weekend. What about you?