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Cowboys vs. Giants: Each team’s X-factor player for Thanksgiving

The Cowboys host the Giants on Thanksgiving for an important NFC East battle.

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Cowboys and the New York Giants both head into Thanksgiving at 7-3, but the feeling around each time is vastly different before the contest. The Cowboys are fresh off a Minnesota Vikings beatdown that have many wondering if they have arrived as one of the conference’s real deal teams. Meanwhile the Giants are fresh off a frustrating loss to a middling Detroit Lions team in which they did not look very good at all during the game.

Heading into the matchup both teams know what is at stake on Thursday as a win for both teams could go a long way in solidifying playoff seeding and the upper hand on the other. If the Cowboys were to win it would really create a gap between them and the Giants as they would be a full game ahead of New York and have the tiebreaker as well due to a season sweep. For the Giants, a win would put them ahead of the Cowboys in the standings and help them control their own destiny moving forward as we get into the last full month of the year.

Two teams who do not like each other set to square off on a special day, what more could we ask for?

These two individuals, one a Cowboy, one a member of the Giants, will have big impacts on Sunday’s game.

Dallas Cowboys X-factor:

Donovan Wilson

Syndication: The Record Danielle Parhizkaran/ / USA TODAY NETWORK

This Cowboys defense has been impressive for most of the season. The regression to the mean when it has come to turnovers and explosive plays really hasn't hurt them much as the Cowboys have doubled the amount of sacks this year (42) than what they had last year (21) while only having three less takeaways this season at 16 compared to 19 at this time last year. The only thing you can say negative about this Cowboys defense is their ability, or willingness, to stop the running game. They understand that people are going to attack that weakness until they do something about it, and to do something about it, you may need to insert Donovan Wilson into the conversation.

Wilson is a box safety that has taken on many roles in this Dan Quinn scheme. You will see him at times manned up with a tight end or then on the next play lined up as a linebacker to play the run. His ability to be a utility knife for this team will be vital to this team’s success on Thursday afternoon. Allowing Wilson to play downhill, run blitz, and be physical with Barkley and company in the run may be exactly what the doctor ordered for this run defense. Look for Wilson to have a more involved role this week as the Cowboys look to contain Barkley and their mobile quarterback Daniel Jones.

New York Giants X-factor:

Saquon Barkley

Syndication: The Record Danielle Parhizkaran/ / USA TODAY NETWORK

Until proven otherwise, any player that can deeply impact this Cowboys defense on the ground should, and will be, looked at as an x-factor for the opponent. Saquon Barkley and his ability to hit the home run on every play is a scary proposition for a Cowboys run defense that has been leaky to put it mildly. It will take a full team commitment to stopping Barkley and this Giants running game.

The Cowboys have the personnel and the understanding to be able to do it, but it will come down to effort and execution. We all saw what this team can do to a running team last week when you get out ahead of them early. It forces them to abandon the run, it makes them have to play on their heels and get away from what they want to do to catch up. If the Cowboys are able to get off to the same type of start this week they could have a similar performance as that Vikings game. Barkley is dangerous, but more than that, he is their main piece to the puzzle. The Giants do not have a long list of game-breakers on their offense right now, so if you can control Barkley, it can force them to play with a hand tied behind their back. That will force the game into Daniel Jones hand. If so, advantage Dallas.

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