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Five things to watch when the Cowboys face the Giants on Monday night

It’s back to football for the Cowboys... so let’s focus.

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

After a 15-day hiatus, the Dallas Cowboys will play a football game as they go on the road to play the New York Giants. In fact, this is the second time this season they’ll be playing at MetLife Stadium. And just like last time, they’ll be facing a New York team that has lost their last four games. Let’s hope things turn out differently this time around.

Fortunately for Dallas, the Giants reside in the NFC East, and the Cowboys handle their business against their divisional foes as they have won their last seven games against NFC East opponents. Can they make it eight in a row? Let’s hope so.

Here are five things to watch when the Cowboys head to Jersey on Monday night.

1. Which Cowboys offense will we see?

On Thursday’s edition of Cover 4, Barry Church made a profound statement about this Cowboys team:

“When they’re healthy, no one in the NFL can beat them. They can only beat themselves. If they can stay healthy for the remainder of this playoff run, I think the sky is the limit for this team.”

This would have seemed like Church was sipping too much of the blue-kool aid if he had said this a couple weeks ago, but after smoking the Eagles - it’s not completely unrealistic to believe such a thing.

But for that to be true, this team needs to string together a little bit of consistency. None of the slow offensive starts that can put them in holes early. None of the wear-them-down grind that makes them more susceptible to fluke happenings in a close game. They need to come out and send a statement early that this team belongs in the conversation as one of the top squads in the league. And that means a ferocious offensive attack.

The Giants team has given up at least 27 points in seven of their eight games this season. This Dallas offense needs to tack on another one and exploit this weak New York defense. They are not good against the run, and they aren’t good against the pass. The only way they should be able to survive the Cowboys offensive attack is if the ‘Boys play sloppy and aren’t able to capitalize on scoring opportunities. If the offense plays to their ability, they should be able to leave MetLife with a victory this time.

2. The battle of the 2015 blue-chippers

The Giants made the move to acquire Leonard Williams from the Jets for the low price of a 2020 third-rounder, plus a fifth-rounder in 2021. After a Pro Bowl season in 2016 where he registered seven sacks, the 300-pound defensive tackle had a combined seven sacks the following two seasons. And he’s yet to get one this year with the Jets.

But don’t let the low sack number fool you. Last year, Williams was in short company as he was just one out of five 3-4 defensive linemen with at least 20 quarterback hits and 10 tackles for a loss. Williams was selected sixth overall in the 2015 NFL Draft, two spots after Amari Cooper.

Speaking of Cooper, the Cowboys seven-game win streak against their division rivals just so happens to coincide with his arrival. Not only is he 7-0 against them, his stats are ridiculous. And if you prorate them over a 16-game season, it would result in another first-round resource spent on an All-Pro player.

3. The new guys

Not only has Williams joined the Giants, but this will also be the first time the Cowboys will face a Giants team with Daniel Jones and Golden Tate. When these teams met in the season opener, Eli Manning was the starting quarterback, and Tate was serving a four-game suspension for violating the league’s PED policy. The return of Tate is a nice add to the Giants offense, but it hasn’t been enough as they are 0-4 since his return. And unlike the lucky charm that is Amari Cooper against the NFC East, Tate’s luck against Dallas hasn’t been so favorable.

The Giants have new guys, but the Cowboys have a new one too as Michael Bennett will be making his Dallas debut on Monday night. And unlike little-man Tate, his luck against this upcoming opponent is considerably better.

4. Wild card Jones

We were happy when the Giants opted to start Eli Manning in Week 1 against the Cowboys, but we knew it was just a matter of time before they’d hand the keys over to the rookie. That change happened sooner rather than later as Daniel Jones made his first NFL start in Week 3 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It was a great start as he threw for over 300 yards, had two touchdowns and no picks. For a moment, he looked like he could be the spark the team desperately needed as the Giants won each of the first two games with Jones as their new starting quarterback. And despite losing to the Detroit Lions last week, Jones is coming off the best game of his career where he again threw for over 300 yards, had four touchdowns, and no picks. With that performance, Jones becomes only the second rookie in NFL history to have two games where he had 300+ yards, at least two touchdowns, and no interceptions. The other one - Dak Prescott.

While Jones’ first and last games this season have been really good, the games in between were not so good. In that stretch, he never eclipsed 225 yards and he never had a game with more than one touchdown pass. In fact, he threw three more interceptions than touchdowns. The silver lining here for the Giants is that Saquon Barkley was missing in three of those four games. Not having no. 26 out there definitely makes a difference.

Not only has Jones been throwing picks, he’s had a hard time holding on to the football. His pocket presence is suspect which can make him a sitting duck for thirsty pass rushers like DeMarcus Lawrence, Robert Quinn, and Bennett. Jones’ already has eight fumbles on the year. In fact, he coughed it up in garbage time against the Cowboys in Week 1 despite only playing five snaps in that game.

Don’t get me wrong, the rookie gives the Giants a fighting chance, but he can also be real sloppy with the ball. My favorite thing about him is how much he can remind me of Eli Manning at times.

The Cowboys are coming off a game where they had four takeaways, so it would really be swell if they could keep a good thing going against a rookie quarterback who’s no stranger to giving the ball away.

5. Don’t let Saquon break one

The Giants star running back has been held in check since returning from a high-ankle sprain that sidelined him for three games this season. He hasn’t had more than 72 yards rushing in each of his last two games since coming back. Defenses are dialed in on Saquon Barkley, which shouldn’t be a surprise.

While he has been held in check as of late, he’s still a threat to take it to the house any time he touches the ball. The Cowboys are already aware of this.

The Giants defense should allow the Cowboys to put up the points. The only question is - will the Giants offense be able to punch back? If they can play a clean game and come up with some big plays, this game could end up being more nerve-wracking than it needs to be. Barkley needs to come away with some explosive plays if the Giants are to win this game.

If they stop Saquon, they stop the Giants.

What will you be watching on Monday night?

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