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Giants vs. Cowboys: 5 story lines for critical NFC East game

Can the Giants pull off an upset of division-leading Dallas?

NFL: Carolina Panthers at Dallas Cowboys Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants are on the road this Sunday for a huge game against the NFC East-leading Dallas Cowboys. Here are five story lines to watch.

Building on the momentum?

The Giants finally looked like the team they expected to be against the New Orleans Saints. Can they build on that momentum? Can they play another quality offensive football game? Can they get stops on defense when they need them against an excellent offense? Can they go into another difficult place to play, against a better opponent than the Saints, and again come away with a victory?

A factor in the division?

By beating the Saints last Sunday, the Giants gave themselves a chance to be relevant this season. Make no mistake, though, at 1-3 they are in a deep hole. Sunday will go a long way toward telling us if they have a realistic chance of climbing out.

The Cowboys lead the NFC East at 3-1. If the Giants win, they would be a game out of first place with 12 games to play. If they lose, they would be 1-4 with a Rams-Panthers-Chiefs-Raiders-Buccaneers gauntlet coming up.

If the Giants want a chance to be playing meaningful football in December and January, they would be well advised to win this game.

Dealing with the Dallas offense

I have written this before, but if the Giants play defense vs. Dallas the way they did against New Orleans, they will be in a lot of trouble on Sunday. No sacks or quarterback hits and 15 missed tackles is a recipe for disaster against a Dallas team averaging 31.5 points per game, fourth in the league.

The Cowboys feature the best quarterback the Giants have played this season in Dak Prescott, and a plethora of playmakers. Ezekiel Elliott. Tony Pollard. Amari Cooper. CeeDee Lamb. Dalton Schultz. They also have a quality offensive line. If the Giants can’t rush the passer or tackle better than they did vs. the Saints, they could get embarrassed.

Micah, Trevon and Co.

The Dallas defense isn’t great, but new defensive coordinator Dan Quinn is running a group that has been respectable. Which is a lot better than it was last year.

Micah Parsons, a player many wanted the Giants to draft, has been living up to the hype. The Cowboys drafted him with the 13th pick, and he has 2.5 sacks and 7 quarterback hits already.

Cornerback Trevon Diggs somehow has 5 interceptions and 8 passes defensed already.

Osa Odighizuwa, drafted in Round 3, is playing the way the Giants had hoped his brother, Owa, would. He has 2 sacks and 7 quarterback hits already.

Injury situation

Wide receivers Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton missed last week’s game with hamstring injuries. We will know more later on Wednesday, but I doubt either player is available this week.

Same with safety Jabrill Peppers, who injured his hamstring against New Orleans.

Hamstrings are almost always multi-week injuries, so we probably aren’t going to see any of those players vs. Dallas.

The Cowboys are favored, per DraftKings Sportsbook, but we’ll see if the Giants can pull off an upset.