With all of the talk that’s around Dak Prescott and his maybe slump, it feels strange to say that the Dallas Cowboys are on a two-game winning streak and one game out of the top spot in the NFC. Yet that’s where we’re at as the Cowboys travel to New Jersey to take on the Giants.
The last time these teams faced each other, everyone was talking about it being the one year anniversary of Prescott’s season ending ankle injury before the quarterback threw for 300+ yards and three touchdowns in a 44-20 rout over New York. It’s funny, then, that this week everyone is talking about whether or not Prescott’s calf is the cause of his subpar performances lately. Perhaps it will lead to yet another stellar performance from Prescott, who hasn’t lost to this team since his rookie year.
Both of these teams are very different from their last clash, though. For the Giants, they fired offensive coordinator Jason Garrett three weeks ago after repeated disappointing outings from their offense. Freddie Kitchens, former Browns head coach for all of one year, took over the play-calling on offense and has done about as much as he did during his time in Cleveland; the Giants crossed the 20-point threshold just once since firing Garrett, and it came in their most recent game.
Of course, it hasn’t helped Kitchens that Daniel Jones has missed each of the last two weeks with a neck injury. Jones is expected to miss this week’s game as well, and backup Mike Glennon has been so bad that there are rumblings we may see Jake Fromm - signed to the team just two weeks ago - make an appearance in a rotational role. In other words, things aren’t going very well for the 4-9 Giants.
The Cowboys are having offensive problems of their own right now, but saying that to a Giants fan right now is kind of like saying Kendall Roy lives a hard life; sure, things might not be going as great as they could be, but he’s still filthy rich. That’s true for the Cowboys as well, as they’ve got all of the talent in the world on offense but just need to find their rhythm again. How does playing the 18th-ranked by DVOA defense sound?
Not only that, the Giants have been especially susceptible against the run. They’re ranked 27th in run defense DVOA and are allowing the eighth-most rushing yards on the year. For a Dallas offense that’s seen their rushing game more or less evaporate lately, that sounds like exactly what the doctor ordered. There are also rumors that Connor Williams may be back in the starting lineup for this one, which would be welcome news after Connor McGovern’s struggles.
As is often the case in December, the most important aspect of any game comes down to which team is healthier on that given Sunday. To that extent, the advantage goes to Dallas. The Giants were already missing several key contributors to injuries, including linebacker Blake Martinez, safety Jabrill Peppers, cornerback Darnay Holmes, and tight ends Kaden Smith and Levine Toilolo. They’re also having an outbreak of COVID-19 right now, with seven players being added to that reserve list including safety Xavier McKinney, cornerback Adoree Jackson, and wide receivers John Ross and Kadarius Toney.
As if that wasn’t enough, New York has also been managing a few other injuries throughout practice this week. The most notable one is Saquon Barkley, who missed practice on Wednesday before returning in a limited capacity Thursday. Players that have yet to practice are guard Ben Bredeson and defensive tackle Austin Johnson, while left tackle Andrew Thomas, defensive tackle Leonard Williams, and kicker Graham Gano have all been limited.
Meanwhile, the Cowboys are riding high right now. with Tony Pollard and Cedrick Wilson both trending in the right direction. DeMarcus Lawrence was limited in practice on Thursday, although it isn’t expected to be serious.
It all boils down to this: the Cowboys are the healthier team and the better team, even if the Giants are hosting this one with an eye towards playing spoiler. It’s a good chance for this Cowboys rushing attack to try and get back on track, and Dallas could earn their third straight victory while improving to 4-0 against the NFC East. All things are pointing their way, and Mike McCarthy seems to already be chalking this one up as a win. After all, it worked out last week, right?
Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy has said that he doesn’t talk about playoffs until a team gets to 10 wins. While being asked a question about playoff scenarios today, McCarthy interrupted: “We can’t talk about that until next week. We got to get to 10 wins.”— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) December 16, 2021