8:15 PM EST, ESPN – Line: Cowboys -6.5, Over/Under: 48
One of the league’s most storied rivalries rekindles on Monday Night Football, as the Dallas Cowboys head to the Big Apple to battle the New York Giants from MetLife Stadium in the Meadowlands. Coming off the Bye Week, the Cowboys (4-3, 1st in NFC East) find themselves at a proverbial crossroads; while they hold a slim lead in the largely mediocre NFC East, they’ve fallen behind a number of the other powers in the NFC, trailing the likes of the 49ers, Saints, and Packers by at least two games apiece in the standings. As this team exhibited throughout the first three games of the season, they certainly possess the requisite talent on both sides of the football to compete with those elite clubs, but as evidenced by their ensuing three-game losing streak, Dallas doesn’t always live up to that hype. So what’s been the problem in Big D, you ask? In all honesty, injuries. Plain and simple. The fact is that after their torrid start to the campaign, Jason Campaign’s charges suffered a plethora of injuries at key positions, including their vaunted Offensive Line, where All-Pro Left Tackle, Tyron Smith, picked up a high ankle sprain in a late September meeting with New Orleans, while his fellow Linemen, Zack Martin (Back) and La ‘el Collins (Knee), have been beset by nagging ailments. However, it didn’t stop there, for the Receiving Corps has taken it’s hits, with Pro-Bowler, Amari Cooper (Ankle), alongside Randall Cobb (Back), have been hampered with various bumps and bruises. Indeed, there is no doubt that Jerry Jones and the rest of the brass hopes that the roster has spent their Bye Week well enough to return to full strength. If their 37-10 blowout of division rival, the Philadelphia Eagles, was any indication, then perhaps they’re truly ready to go on a run. Simply put, this affair was about as one-sided as they come, folks, as the Cowboys really put it to their bitter enemies, in a contest in which the final score didn’t really tell the whole story. Seriously, the hosts could have scored well over thirty-seven points in this one, had they not settled for three Brett Maher Field Goals. Garrett’s troops piled up 402 Total Yards on Twenty-Three First Downs, including 189 Rushing Yards and Three Touchdowns on Thirty-Six Carries, and another 239 Yards through the air, all the while converting 8-of-14 Third Downs and possessing the football for 32:22. Quarterback, Dak Prescott (70.6%, 2,123 YDS, 8.24 NY/A, 12 TD, 7 INT, 81.1 QBR), was efficient in completing 21-of-27 Passes for 239 Yards a Touchdown and an Interception, while also rushing for Thirty Yards and another score on Five Carries, while Pro-Bowl Tailback, Ezekiel Elliott (135 CA,R, 602 YDS, 4.5 Y/C, 6 TD), rushed for a workmanlike 111 Yards and a Touchdown on Twenty-Two Carries, with the aforementioned Cooper (38 REC, 621 YDS, 16.3 Y/R, 5 TD), reeling in Five Receptions on as many Targets for 105 Yards. Meanwhile, Defensively they absolutely got after the Eagles, relegating them to just 283 Total yards on Sixteen First Downs, 3-of-9 on Third Down, and forced Four Turnovers, three of which were Recovered Fumbles. Opposing Quarterback, Carson Wentz caught the brunt of their aggression, completing just 16-of-26 Attempts for 191 Yards a Touchdown and an Interception, while taking Three Sacks, two of which led to lost Fumbles. Basically, if there is a blueprint for success for this team, then this had to be it, as Dallas put together a balanced, efficient attack that controlled Time of Possession, while aggressively getting after their opponent and shutting down big plays. Ironically, that sounds nearly identical to how they performed when they last met the New York Giants, blowing them away in a lopsided 35-17 affair back in the Season Opener. Prescott was really at his best in this one, folks, completing 25-of-32 Passes for 405 Yards and Four Touchdowns, which went to four different Receivers. Much has been made of the fourth-year Signal-Caller, who is reaching the end of his Rookie Contract and is in search of a MAJOR pay increase. While he’s certainly outplayed his Draft Selection (135th Overall in 2016), it’s a legitimate discussion as to whether or not he’s worth the $40 million that he’s reportedly aiming towards; in 2019, the 26-Year Old has shown steep improvement in posting career-bests in a slew of categories, including Completion Percentage (70.6%), Touchdown Percentage (5.0%), Yards per Attempt (8.9), Yards per Completion (12.6), Net Yards per Attempt (8.24), Yards per Game (303.3), Sack Percentage (4.0%), and QBR (81.1), with that last figure leading the NFL. Don’t expect him to slow down against New York, who he’s enjoyed a good deal of success against already in his young career, going 5-2 with a Completion Percentage of 61.1%, averaging 277.7 Yards on 7.57 Net Yards per Attempt, with Fourteen Touchdowns in comparison to a pair of Interceptions, the most he’s scored against any single opponent.
Meanwhile, when he previously branded the NFC East as “largely mediocre”, we were speaking towards the Giants (2-6, 3rd in NFC East), who have moved on to the next step in what everyone knew was going to be a lengthy rebuilding project. While they’re only one game better than they were at this point in 2018, New York certainly has a different look, which the Cowboys will surely notice the moment that they take the field tonight at MetLife Stadium. When these teams met back on September 8th, longtime Franchise Quarterback, Eli Manning (62.9%, 556 YDS, 5.97 NY/A, 2 TD, 2 INT, 30.0 QBR), remained under Center for Big Blue, though his lengthy reign has finally come to an end since that aforementioned 35-17 debacle, as Daniel Jones (62.5%, 1,466 YDS, 5.52 NY/A, 10 TD, 7 INT, 53.5 QBR) has taken over as the new Signal-Caller, creating a clear shift towards youth that has been long overdue. Of course, the franchise, and in particular General Manager, Dave Gettleman, were roasted during the 2019 NFL Draft when they selected Jones Sixth Overall, for a variety of reasons ranging from his underwhelming profile, to the fact that the team chose instead to pass over so many quality Quarterbacks in 2018. Either way, the Giants chose Jones, who since supplanting Manning following an uninspired 14-28 loss against the Buffalo Bills, has gone 2-4 while completing 62.3% of his Attempts for an average of 241.5 Yards per Game on 6.09 Net Yards per Attempt, with Ten Touchdowns and Seven Interceptions, while making good use of his legs, with 129 Rushing yards and another two scores. While he’s certainly enjoyed his fair share of ups and downs during that stretch, the question is if the Giants are really any better with the Rookie leading the charge, and it’s a valid one. Jones immediately led his side to back-to-back victories over the likes of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (32-31) and the hapless Washington Redskins (24-3) the former highlighted by a stunning Fourth Quarter Comeback on the road, but has lost four consecutive Starts, most recently a 26-31 defeat at Detroit. Though the papers in Manhattan will say otherwise, you can’t blame the 22-Year Old for this one, for despite losing a Fumble which the hosts returned for the opening score, he went toe-to-toe with the Lions’ Matthew Stafford in a bonafide shootout, completing 28-of-41 Attempts for 322 Yards and a career-high Four Touchdowns. Finishing was the issue in Sunday’s loss, for new York saw a number of drives that reached deep into Detroit territory end without any points, including two consecutive series that concluded turned over on downs. Reigning Offensive Rookie of the year, Saquon Barkley (74 CAR, 373 YDS, 5.0 Y/C, 2 TD), finally looked like his old self after missing most of Jones’ run as the starter with a high ankle sprain, totaling 143 Yards from Scrimmage and a Receiving Touchdown on Twenty-Nine Touches, while the unheralded Darius Slayton (16 REC, 267 YDS, 16.7 Y/R, 3 TD) hauled in a pair of scores on consecutive drives in the Second Quarter. Needless to say, Pat Shurmur & Co. really missed Barkley’s dynamic presence during the earlier stages of their losing streak, with the Offense only managing to generate a meager 229.0 Total Yards in losses to the Minnesota Vikings (10-28), New England Patriots (14-35), and Arizona Cardinals (21-27). However, with the Pro-Bowler returning to health, veteran Receiver, Golden Tate (23 REC, 280 YDS, 12.2 Y/R, 1 TD) back on the field following an early Suspension that robbed him of the first four games, and the Offensive Line performing slightly better than it has in recent years (though a lot of that is attributed to Jones’ mobility), there is reason to believe that better days are ahead for this group. The Defense though, has been another story altogether, with New York struggling to slow down their opponents on a weekly basis. At the midway point of the campaign, the Giants have allowed 27.3 Points per Game (27th Overall) on 386.8 Total Yards (28th Overall), including 264.4 Yards against the Pass (25th Overall) on 7.8 Net Yards per Attempt (29th Overall), along with 122.4 Yards versus the Run (22nd Overall) on 4.0 Yards per Carry (11th Overall), with the opposition converting 42.6% of their Third Downs (21st Overall). However, they’ve generated some pretty solid pressure with Twenty-Two Sacks (11th Overall), while ranking Eighth Overall in Red Zone Defense, allowing a Touchdown on 50.0% of opportunities. In an attempt to provide this unit with a boost, the aforementioned Gettleman was active at the Trade Deadline, acquiring Defensive Lineman, Leonard Williams (20 TKL, 0 TFL, 5 QBH, 1 PD), from the New York Jets in exchange for Third and Fifth Round Picks in the 2020 NFL Draft. The market for the former Sixth Overall Pick in 2015 was barely warm for a variety of reasons, ranging from his lack of production (17.0 Sacks from 2015 0 2019), to his impending Free Agency and $6 million Base Salary, but as we’ve seen so many times in the past, the Giants’ General Manager loves talented Defensive Linemen, and paid a relatively steep price for a guy for a talented guy who has largely underwhelmed and could end up as an eight-game rental.