4:30 PM EST, FOX – Line: Cowboys -9, Over/Under: 44.5
Happy Thanksgiving from everyone here at Oracle Sports, and what better way to enjoy the holiday than with a side of football as the Dallas Cowboys play host to the New York Giants in a crucial division battle from AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas? Indeed, it’s been quite a while since a showdown between these two historic rivals at this point of the season held this much significance, largely due to the fact that Giants (7-3, T-2nd in NFC East) have largely struggled to live up to their end of the bargain. In fact, Big Blue went a nauseating 61-100 (.378) between 2012 (a year after hoisting their last Lombardi trophy) and 2021, offering just two winning seasons and one trip to the playoffs (2016). However, it appears that that proverbial chapter of franchise history has been closed, with New York embarking on a brave new era under the leadership of (Head Coach) Brian Daboll and (General Manager) Joe Schoen, who made the short trip from Buffalo to the Meadowlands and have proven to be well ahead of the learning curve in their first season together in this capacity. Daboll and Schoen were nothing short of EXCELLENT in their respective roles rebuilding the Bills into a legitimate contender and appear to be laying the foundation to do so with another of the Empire State’s beloved teams as the G-Men are off to their best start since 2016. So, what in the name of Phil Simms has happened, you ask? Well, Daboll & Co have thrived in turning the club’s biggest weaknesses into strengths. First and foremost, a previously sluggish rushing attack has become the staple of the offense, thanks in large part to a revamped Offensive Line creating wide-open lanes for a resurrected (Pro-Bowl Tailback) Saquon Barkley, who has been on a bonafide revenge tour in this contract year. After missing eighteen games over the past two years due to a litany of injuries, the 25-year-old has absolutely THRIVED within Daboll’s imaginative scheme, averaging a career-high 95.3 rushing yards pe game, drawing comparisons to his Offensive Rookie of the Year campaign of 2018 when he led the league in yards from scrimmage (2,028). Barkley (pictured below) has been the engine behind the fourth-most prolific rushing offense in the NFL (157.2), which has allowed the Giants to dominate time of possession and cover up some of the weaknesses that have plagued them over the past few years. Then there is (young Quarterback) Daniel Jones, who for the first time in his much-maligned career in the Big Apple has looked like a consistent QB. This was always going to be the true test of Daboll’s talents, for Jones has been one of the hardest nuts to crack; since he was drafted sixth overall in the 2019 NFL Draft, no Quarterback had committed more turnovers than the 25-year-old with a ridiculous FIFTY-THREE turnovers, including a whopping TWENTY-TWO lost fumbles marring any progress shown on the gridiron. However, Daboll is squeezing every ounce of blood that he can from this turnip, with Jones authoring career-highs in a slew of categories, including completion percentage (65.1%), passer rating (89.8), and QBR (58.3), while posting a career-low interception percentage of 1.4%. Furthermore, he’s been uncharacteristically cool in the clutch, leading the NFL in game-winning drives (5). So, what’s been the key to his success, you ask? Well, Daboll has leaned into utilizing his Quarterback’s underrated mobility, with Jones churning out a career-best 43.7 yards and 7.6 carries per game on the ground. With all that being said, the question remains: is this approach sustainable? After going six consecutive games without throwing an interception, Jones turned in his ugliest showing of the season thus far with two in last weekend’s disappointing 31-18 loss at home to the suddenly surging Lions (much more on this matchup shortly). Coupled with a rough outing in Seattle (17-of-31 passing, no touchdowns, 5 sacks), and it’s easy to see how the faithful in New York could be feeling some serious anxiety over their Quarterback, particularly with Dallas on tap this evening.
When we last saw the Giants, they turned in what was clearly their ugliest performance of the campaign in that aforementioned defeat in the Meadowlands to the Lions, which wasn’t nearly as close as the final score would lead you to believe. The hosts trailed by as many as eighteen points until finally breaching the end zone early in the fourth quarter before tacking on a consolation touchdown on their final drive with the affair well out of hand. Despite outgaining Detroit 413-325, Daboll’s charges were nothing short of self-destructive, committing three turnovers, which the visitors were all too happy to take advantage of, responding immediately with touchdowns of their own after two of them. Big Blue’s stout defense was also manhandled by a physical Lions front, pummeling them to the tune of 160 yards on thirty-seven carries, allowing them to control time of possession for a commanding 46:48 of game time. Needless to say, the Giants simply aren’t built to win a game when they have the football for just 28:12, which happens to be a season low. Taken out of their gameplan, Jones was forced to throw a lot more than anyone would prefer, completing 27-of-44 passes for 341 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions, while rushing for another fifty yards and a score on seven attempts. Barkley found himself contained throughout the afternoon, unable to make an impact in either the rushing or receiving game, with just thirty-five yards from scrimmage on seventeen touches. Looking to tonight’s affair with the Cowboys, the G-Men have lost ten of the last eleven meetings between these bitter rivals, proving nearly as bad against the spread with eight losses in their last ten encounters. They’re also 3-7 against the spread in their last ten trips to AT&T Stadium, equaling that number when they’ve been branded underdogs. Furthermore, New York has failed to cover four consecutive games against their fellow NFC East residents, which was the case in their previous meeting this season, a 23-16 loss at MetLife Stadium on Monday Night Football, which saw them favored for the first time since 2018. Both teams felt compelled to run the other into submission (343 yards combined) and settle for field goals (six between them) in what was a very uneventful affair, but it was the home side that blinked first, as Jones was intercepted by Trevon Diggs on their final drive of the night. On the injury front, Daboll will be without a number of playmakers for this short turnaround, including (Tight End) Daniel Bellinger, (Right Tackle) Evan Neal, and (emerging Safety) Xavier McKinney, who aren’t expected to return until early-to-mid December with various ailments, while (Rookie Receiver) Wan’Dale Robinson was lost for the season with a torn ACL in last weekend’s loss. Furthermore, (Guard) Jon Felciano and (Cornerback) Adoree’ Jackson are considered questionable with neck and knee maladies.
Meanwhile, if not for blowing a fourteen-point lead in defeat for the first time in franchise history, the Cowboys (7-3, 2nd in NFC East) would have made it to their annual Thanksgiving Day spectacle riding a four-game winning streak, sitting one game behind the Eagles in the race for the division crown. Indeed, the NFC East has come quite a long way in a short period of time, for after finishing the 2020 campaign with ZERO winning teams, each of its four residents are above .500 with a very real opportunity to advance to the playoffs. Of course, Dallas won this division last season, and clearly have the goods to do so once again, for there is a strong argument to be made that they very well may be the most talented team in the conference, certainly on par with the likes of Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Minnesota, whom they just HAMMERED in a 40-3 route last weekend (much more on that beatdown in a bit). A year after pacing the NFL in both points scored (31.2) and total offense (416.5), it has been the Defense that has been the biggest story in Northern Texas, with that group picking up where they left off last season. Simply put, the ‘Boys have been HELLACIOUS on this side of the football, turning in a number of dominant performances throughout the first half of the campaign; (Defensive Coordinator) Dan Quinn has proven to be worth his weight in gold, helming a unit that has held all but two of their ten opponents below twenty points, while leading the league in sacks (42) and compiling the seventh-most takeaways (16), which was a statistic that they finished first in a year ago. They also rank atop the league in sack percentage (11.9%) and pressure percentage (28.6%), despite blitzing 27.2% of the time (7th Overall). Pressure has been the name of the game, with Quinn utilizing various stunts and blitzes to create opportunities for a deep rotation along the defensive front, with five different players logging three or more sacks. Chief among them has been (Sophomore Edge-Rusher) Micah Parsons, who looks even more effective than he did last season in which he took home Defensive Rookie of the Year honors. A Linebacker by trade coming out of college, Parsons (pictured below) is implemented like a chess piece all across the front seven, with his burst and tenacity making him a nightmare for potential mismatches. Through ten games he has already amassed ten sacks, eleven tackles for loss, nineteen QB hits, and twenty-three pressures, with a fumble returned for a touchdown to boot, making it no surprise that he has become the clear betting favorite to win Defensive Player of the Year. This Defense was instrumental in the Cowboys managing to keep their heads above water while (Pro-Bowl Quarterback) Dak Prescott missed five weeks rehabbing from a broken thumb suffered in the season opener, a period in which they suffered just one defeat (Philadelphia, 26-17). Since Prescott returned to the gridiron, the Offense has returned to their spot among the league’s best, averaging 35.2 points on 412.8 total yards, including 250.5 through the air and another 162.3 on the ground all the while enjoying a plus-5 turnover margin. (Emerging Tailback) Tony Pollard has flourished in a tandem with (three-time Pro-Bowler) Ezekiel Elliott, with his unique pass-catching skills helping him lead the team with 944 yards from scrimmage and an explosive 5.9 yards per carry. As (Head Coach) Mike McCarthy’s troops return to full strength on this side of the football, there is a sense that Dallas will be among the NFC’s final teams standing when the dust begins to settle, though there will be copious amounts of pressure on them as they look to advance past the division round for the first time since 1995, which was coincidentally their last Lombardi-winning season.
When we last saw the Cowboys, they managed to bounce back in spades following a stunning overtime loss at the Packers, in turn taking out their frustrations on the surging Vikings in a watershed 40-3 display in Minneapolis. Needless to say, it’s performances like this that lead us to believe that Dallas is a legitimate contender come January, for they completely annihilated a previously 8-1 team in their own stadium in front of a national audience. After trading field goals, the visitors went on a 37-0 run, leading to the largest road victory in franchise history, which is really saying something. McCarthy’s charges scored on eight of their ten possessions of the evening, including each of their first seven, while their Defense forced Minnesota to punt on seven straight drives. The numbers, as you would expect, were completely one-sided as the visiting side held considerable advantages in a number of categories including total yards (458-183), first downs (23-16), rushing yards (151-73), turnover differential (+1), third downs (12-of-17 opposed to 1-of-11), and time of possession (37:24). Prescott was surgical in completing 22-of-25 passes for 276 yards and two touchdowns, while Pollard erupted for 189 yards from scrimmage (including 109 of the receiving variety) and two scores, with Elliott adding another pair of touchdowns and forty-two yards. Defensively, Quinn’s outfit relinquished just one third down conversion, while doing everything within their power to make life hell for Kirk Cousins, sacking him SEVEN times and hitting him on thirteen occasions. Parsons was nothing short of dominant, totaling two sacks, a tackle for loss, five QB hits and a strip sack of Cousins, before eventually leaving the affair with what has been described as a knee injury, though that was in all likelihood due to the game being so out of hand. Looking to tonight’s matchup with the Giants, the Cowboys have owned their division rivals of late, winning nine of their last ten meetings, and covering the spread in all but two of them, including their latest encounter, that aforementioned 23-16 victory in the Meadowlands back in late September. It was no Prescott, no problem for Dallas, who behind that nasty Defense and strong rushing attack manhandled New York before a Monday Night audience. In eleven career meetings, Dak Prescott is 9-2 against Big Blue, completing 63.7% passes for an average of 262.4 yards on 7.47 net yards per attempt, with twenty-one touchdowns, the most he’s logged against any single opponent, in comparison to just five interceptions. The ‘Boys have covered four consecutive games at AT&T Stadium, though have covered the spread in just one of their last five games after scoring at least thirty points, which is the case here. Furthermore, today’s affair marks the fifty-fifth time that Dallas has hosted a Thanksgiving Day game, a tradition that began all the way back in 1966, owning a 31-22-1 (.574) record, though have won just four of their last twelve. On the injury front, the Cowboys are nearly at full strength with just (veteran Linebacker) Anthony Barr in question for tonight’s contest due to a nagging hamstring strain.