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Cowboys vs Giants: Dallas offense versus Giants defense is a mismatch

The Cowboys have a chance to go up 2-0 in the NFC East.

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

The last time the Cowboys played the Giants, it ended with a 23-19 loss for Dallas that officially ended their season while also snapping a three-game winning streak. The last time the Cowboys played the Giants at AT&T Stadium, Dak Prescott got injured and effectively ended the Cowboys’ season despite winning the actual game.

But Dak is back, and so are the Cowboys. They’re on another three-game winning streak, but things are faring much better than they were entering Week 17 last year. For starters, Prescott is playing at perhaps the highest level ever, and his devastating injury suffered almost exactly a year ago seems to have had no lasting impact.

More than that, the Cowboys defense isn’t a liability anymore, and has actually been a strength through the first four games of the year. Trevon Diggs has blossomed into a full blown ball-hawk and his five interceptions have helped Dallas record the second-most takeaways in the NFL. Meanwhile, the run defense has been significantly improved; only the Panthers have rushed for 100 yards against this team, and that was largely because of Sam Darnold’s unexpected scrambling.

Meanwhile, the Giants aren’t doing so hot. They spent a lot of money in the offseason trying to load Daniel Jones up with weapons by signing receivers Kenny Golladay, John Ross, and Kelvin Benjamin and also adding tight end Kyle Rudolph. So far, they’re 1-3 and New York’s best receiver has been the guy who was already on the roster, Sterling Shepard. Golladay has 17 catches for 282 yards but zero touchdowns and is catching only 65.4% of passes thrown his way. Rudolph has six catches for 57 yards and Ross has three catches for 77 yards, while first-round draft pick Kadarius Toney was hardly seeing the field until the last two weeks.

As for the offense’s overall performance, it’s been a mixed bag. They rank 12th in offensive DVOA but 21st in points, averaging 20 points a game. Saquon Barkley is back for the Giants after missing most of last year, but the Giants’ rushing attack is 22nd in rushing DVOA. The good news for Big Blue is that Jones is arguably playing the best he ever has, though that’s an admittedly low bar. Jones is hitting on 66.7% of his passes and has thrown four touchdowns against just one interception; he’s also run for 188 yards and two touchdowns.

In a way, Jones is having a season very similar to Sam Darnold of the Panthers. Both have had problems with ball security in the past. Like Darnold, Jones has cut down on interceptions so far, but his three fumbles are a concern. Darnold had been taking care of the ball until he ran into the Cowboys defense, specifically Trevon Diggs, and threw two (almost three) interceptions. Will a similar fate await Jones, who has seven turnovers in his four games against the Cowboys?

If so, it could be another long day for the Giants defense. Many anticipated this defense to take a step forward this year after some promising performances in the second half of 2020, but so far that hasn’t been the case. They rank 27th in defensive DVOA, are equally bad in both run support and coverage, and only five defenses have registered a lower EPA/play than New York.

Many of their problems start upfront. The Giants lost Dalvin Tomlinson in free agency and traded away B.J. Hill, and it’s been felt. New York ranks 20th in run stop win rate and are allowing 4.5 rushing yards per carry. They also continue to struggle in the pass rush, with the second-worst pass rush win rate in the NFL. Defensive coordinator Patrick Graham has tried to fix this with blitzes, sending extra rushers at the ninth-highest rate, but the Giants have still come away with the fourth-lowest pressure rate and rookie Azeez Ojulari out of Georgia has been their best pass rusher by default.

In short, the Giants have the type of offense you’d expect from Jason Garrett, which is to say it’s good enough to not be inept but not good enough to win games, and defensively the Giants seem to still be figuring things out. That’s a very dangerous combination when facing a team that’s firing on all cylinders like the Cowboys.

Prescott should be able to do whatever he wants, as should Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard. It’ll be interesting to see just how many stops Kellen Moore pulls out against his former boss, while the Dallas defense looks to be in a good spot to force Jones back into his turnover-prone ways. They say you can never count out a team in a rivalry game, and that may be true, but these Giants haven’t looked like the sort of team to put up a fight against a team on the level of the Cowboys. In other words, this will be a test to see how well the Cowboys can win the games they’re supposed to.

We broke down everything you need to know about this matchup in our Preview Show on the Blogging The Boys YouTube Channel. Make sure you subscribe to our channel (which you can do right here) so you don’t miss any of our videos!


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