If you got nine out of ten answers right on a test, then congrats, that’s an A. If you could make free throws nine out of ten times, then congrats, you’re Steph Curry at the charity stripe. And if you’ve beaten the New York Giants nine of the last ten times, then you are the Dallas Cowboys. That is right, the Cowboys have dominated their divisional foes.
Nine out of ten, I’ma keep it zen.
The only time the Giants have beaten Dallas over the past five seasons came in the season finale in 2020 when both teams still had a shot to win the NFC East title despite having a losing record. The Cowboys lost that game 23-19, but it ended up being moot anyway when the Philadelphia Eagles decided to concede their game allowing the Washington Football team to win the division.
The Giants are hoping that better days are ahead as they have remodeled their coaching staff, and they are off to a promising 2-0 start. Can they keep the winning streak going against an opponent that has dominated them so badly in recent years? Here are five things to look for when the Cowboys face the Giants on Monday night.
1. An improved offense by the G-men
Dan Quinn has done a good job to start the season going against two of the tougher offenses in the league as his unit has only allowed two total touchdowns. Things should get a little easier for them this week when they face a Giants offense that has been notoriously bad and currently has the second-worst passing yards in the league.
But it’s worth noting that New York has improved their offensive coaching staff, starting with first-year head coach Brian Daboll, who was the offensive coordinator in Buffalo. The Bills have had a top 10 offense in each of the last three seasons. The Giants also added former Kansas City Chiefs passing game coordinator Mike Kafka as their new offensive coordinator.
These are good moves to help a suffering Giants offense who have finished second-worst in points scored and yards gained in each of the past two seasons. While they’re no offensive juggernaut by any means, don’t expect the Giants to exhibit the same offensive ineptitude we’ve seen in the past.
2. Winning the battle on third down
Even with an improved offense, New York faces a tough challenge against this Cowboys defense, but Dallas won’t be the only defense to bring the heat Monday night. The Giants also hired former Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Wink Martindale to run their defense. The Ravens ranked in the top seven in points and yards allowed during Martindale’s first three seasons, but fell off last year as the team was decimated with injuries. Now, Martindale is leading the defensive charge for the Giants and they are off to a good start, ranking ninth-best in points allowed.
Look for Martindale to try to rattle backup quarterback Cooper Rush with a lot of blitz action. The Giants' defense is tops in the league in allowing the lowest completion percentage of opposing quarterbacks, as well as being no. 1 in the league in getting off the field on third down. That puts a lot of pressure on the Cowboys' offense to keep Rush in manageable third-down situations and how each of these teams perform on the money down could be the difference maker in this one.
3. Sporadic running game
The Giants are top five rushing both in total yards and yards per attempt thanks to a good start by their star running back, Saquon Barkley. In week one, Barkley torched the Tennessee Titans rushing for over nine yards per carry, but then came back down to earth against Carolina last week only gaining 3.4 yards per rush. Containing Barkley will be key for the Cowboys as they force Daniel Jones into tough situations. Look for the Cowboys defense to be up to the task of keeping Barkley in check for the most part. He’s always a threat to break off a big one, so even if they contain him most of the game, a big run can happen at any moment.
On the other side of the ball, expect the Cowboys to commit more to the running game. The team has forced the run against two of the better run-stopping teams in the first two games, but things should get a little easier this time around. The Cowboys should grind out the yards with both Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard getting a good dose of work. Don’t be surprised if Zeke breaks the 100-yard mark for the first time since October of last year when he faced the Giants.
4. Don’t get blindsided
This game features some interesting matchups against some young players on the edge. We know the Cowboys will be lining up sackmaster Micah Parsons all over the place. He should get some shots at the rookie right tackle Evan Neal (the Giants' seventh overall pick in April’s draft) as well as the much improved Andrew Thomas on the left side. It will be interesting to see how the Giants' young tackles keep Parsons from blowing things up.
On the other side of the ball, the Giants have some young pass rushers as well. Will we see our first look at rookie Kayvon Thibodeaux (the Giants fifth overall pick) as he’s missed the first two games with a knee injury? The Giants also have up-and-coming second-year star Azeez Ojulari. Either should provide an interesting battle with Cowboys rookie left tackle Tyler Smith, who keeps getting better with each game.
5. Monday night madness
This game should be a tight battle and relatively low scoring because of the advantages each defense has, but it could also be a little maddening at times. Don’t be surprised if we see some ugly turnovers, a handful of negative offensive plays, and even some head-scratching moments. Fans tuning in for this primetime game might be disappointed if they are expecting a high-quality football game.
Expect this one to be a nail-biter with the game decided on the last possession of the game with a game-winning field goal. Let’s just hope that it’s the Cowboys' Brett Maher who once again delivers in the clutch.
What will you be watching for on Monday night?