It’s hard to believe the 2020-2021 regular-season finale is already here. With the Cowboys and Giants both needing a win to stay alive in the NFC East race, Sunday’s finale figures to be an exciting matchup.
Dallas came out victorious when the teams squared off in October, prevailing 37-34 on a game-winning field goal as time expired.
With everything on the line for both teams, here’s what we know, don’t know, and will find out on Sunday.
We know the Cowboys’ defensive line should have no problem generating pressure, especially on the edges
If there has been one consistent problem this season for the New York Giants, it’s been the poor play from their offensive line. Coming into Sunday’s game, New York has allowed 48 sacks on the season, second-most in the NFL behind the Philadelphia Eagles. Pro Football Focus has the Giants’ offensive line graded as the worst in the NFL by a pretty good margin.
Last week against Baltimore, the Giants allowed six sacks. Two weeks before that against Arizona, they allowed eight sacks in a single game. Their first-round pick, left tackle Andrew Thomas, has allowed 56 quarterback pressures on the season, most in the NFL, according to PFF. Their right tackle, former Cowboy Cam Fleming, has allowed 35 pressures, tenth-most in the NFL.
Andrew Thomas gets beat inside which forces DJ to roll out right. Shane Lemieux isn’t able to hold Williams off and puts a good lick on DJ while he is throwing ♂️ ♂️ ♂️ #TogetherBlue— Fireside Giants (@FiresideGiants) December 28, 2020
It’s safe to say the Giants offensive line is not a particularly strong group, and that’s putting it lightly. Against a similar unit in Philadelphia last week, the Cowboys defensive line was able to control the game. Randy Gregory had a huge day, recording 1.5 sacks and forcing three fumbles. Gregory became the first Cowboy to force three fumbles in a game since David Irving did it back in 2016.
Randy Gregory is the first Cowboys player to force three fumbles since David Irving against Green Bay in 2016.— Bobby Belt (@BobbyBeltTX) December 28, 2020
This week, Gregory and his edge partner DeMarcus Lawrence should be able to have big days. Thomas/Fleming vs. Gregory/Lawrence is a matchup that favors the Cowboys greatly. Not to mention their quarterback, Daniel Jones, is dealing with a few leg injuries that have hindered his mobility.
Stopping the run is a whole different story, but the Cowboys defensive line should be able to put pressure on Jones all day long.
We don’t know how good this Giants’ defense really is
10 weeks into this season, the Giants’ defense looked pretty darn good. At beating the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 12, New York had given up less than 22 points in five of their last six games. New York came out the next week against Seattle, and their defense delivered one of the more dominating performances by a single unit this entire season.
The Giants defense held the Seahawks to just 12 points. They turned Russell Wilson over twice, sacked him five times, and held him to a quarterback rating of 78. Wilson’s PFF offensive grade for that game was 54.5, which for him is extremely low. But since this dominating performance, this Giants defense has not looked the same.
Since the Seattle game, New York has given up 73 combined points to their last three opponents. All three of those teams have complied at least 390 yards of total offense, and most importantly, the Giants are 0-3 in those games.
Now to the Giants’ credit, the three last teams they have faced can qualify for the postseason with wins on Sunday, so they’re not getting torched by bad teams. But it still leaves the question of just how good is this defense? When Dallas faced them back in October, they had no problem moving the ball. Granted Dak Prescott played for a little over half of that game, but Andy Dalton was 9-11 for 111 yards in relief duty.
Dallas should feel confident going into this game against a Giants defense that is reeling quite a bit. We’ll have to see on Sunday if they can transform back to what they looked like a few weeks ago, and lead their team to a victory.
We’re about to find out if there will be playoff football in Dallas
Plain and simple, this is a game the Dallas Cowboys should win. With a hobbled Daniel Jones, no Saquon Barkley, and Darius Slayton as their best weapon, even a beat-up Cowboys team should not lose to these Giants. The defense should be able to generate pressure that controls this game, and Andy Dalton and the offense should be able to do enough to get a win.
As disappointing of a season as this has been, if they win this game, Dallas does deserve some credit. You don’t find many teams that start 3-9 and win their last four games, and there’s a reason why. Most teams would simply roll over and look forward to next season. Dallas has not done that, and that's a testament to who they are as a team.
It hasn’t always been pretty, but in a challenging season for many reasons, Dallas is still breathing going into Week 17. If they come away from this game with a victory, the Cowboys should be proud of finishing strong, and who knows, maybe the Eagles will give them some help and this thing won’t be over just yet. At least we can dream, right?