The New York Giants are the only team to have defeated the 11-1 Dallas Cowboys this season, earning a nail-biting 20-19 victory in Week 1 of the NFL season.
It was a game that came right down to the final play, with Dallas knocking on the door of a potential game-winning field goal attempt by Dan Bailey until Terrance Williams failed to get out of bounds after catching a pass and the clock went to :00.
The regular-season rematch comes Sunday night at MetLife Stadium. The Cowboys can clinch the NFC East title with a victory. The Giants can keep their flickering NFC East title hopes alive by winning. Probably more importantly, they can move one step closer to their first playoff berth since 2011 by winning.
Can the Giants slay the dragon again?
Honestly, I do not believe they can.
Why? Lots of reasons.
- Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott. Both players were making their NFL debuts when the teams met Week 1. Both rookies played their worst games of the season. Elliott gained 51 yards rushing, and has no less than 83 in any game since. Prescott had a season-low passer rating of 69.4. He has been above 100 in 10 of 11 games since. They are better, more confident, accomplished players than they were in the first meeting.
- The Dallas defense. The Cowboys were a mess on defense entering the season, with injuries and suspensions making them uncertain what they had. Now, they are ranked fifth in the league in points allowed. Granted, some of that has to do with their offense holding the ball for long periods of time, but the defense has been better than expected.
- The loss of Jason Pierre-Paul. When Dave Halprin of Blogging The Boys asked me this week about the impact on the Giants of the JPP injury, I used the word “devastating” to describe the impact. There is no way for the Giants to replace what Pierre-Paul is capable of doing, both against the pass and the run. There is no was Olivier Vernon can be as consistently effective without JPP book-ending the other side. The loss of JPP doesn’t mean the defense will suddenly turn into a sieve, but it won’t be as good.
- The struggling offense. We have been over it and over it and over it some more. The Giants’ offense has been anything but good this season. They haven’t scored 30 points in a game. They haven’t gained more than 400 yards in their last six games, less than 300 in their last two. They can’t figure out how to get all their players involved. Maybe things can change, but it’s hard to believe until you actually see it.
To summarize, the Cowboys are the better team. I think they show that Sunday night.
Final score: Cowboys 31, Giants 20