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Big Picture: 5 Storylines for Cowboys & Giants

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In a league so unpredictable and chaotic from the season's opening kickoff, wild playoff scenarios have become second nature for the majority of the NFL.

But for the one division that is guaranteed to send a team to the playoffs with a losing record, things are quite simple. If Washington wins their Sunday night football matchup with Philadelphia, they're in. If they lose, the winner between New York (5-10) and Dallas (6-9) would be sent to the playoffs after what has been a trying year for the entire NFC East.

Here are five of the most important storylines for each team heading into Sunday Afternoon's matchup with New York.

Giants

  • Despite the three-game skid, the Giants are still not out of the hunt for the NFC East crown. In fact, New York could make history with a win against the Cowboys and a Washington loss, becoming the first team since the NFL-AFL merger to enter the postseason with a 6-10 record. The NFC East winner is already guaranteed to have a below .500 mark joining only Seattle and Carolina as teams that made playoffs with a losing record. Both of those teams had records of 7-9, but the Giants are the only remaining chance to win the division with a 6-10 mark. They already hold the tiebreaker over Washington as two of their five wins have come against The Football Team, both by less than a field goal.
  • In what some New York media outlets are calling a "no-show," the Giants were dismantled for a 27-13 loss to the Ravens this past Sunday. New York allowed a whopping 249 rushing yards to Lamar Jackson and the Ravens who were able to keep their playoff dreams alive in the win. Baltimore jumped out to a 17-0 lead midway through the second quarter before New York tacked on a field goal towards the end of the half and 10 points in the second half to make the score closer. Daniel Jones completed 24 of his 41 passes for 252 yards and a late touchdown pass while the leading rusher for the Giants was Wayne Gallman Jr. who was held to just 27 yards. New York's struggles on third down were spelled doom while the Ravens offense moved at will.
  • Entering the final week of the regular season, the Giants rank 31st in scoring offence, average just 17 points per game, and have seemingly lacked rhythm on offense all season under first year coordinator Jason Garrett. The former Cowboys head coach has a unique opportunity to end the playoff hopes for his former organization, while also fighting to maintain his job after a disappointing season on offense. New York was 1-for-10 on third down in the loss to Baltimore and ranks 28th in third down percentage this season, an area that needs to be cleaned up heading into the matchup with Dallas.
  • Not all the blame is to be put on Garrett as he's had to work without the top, and some would say only, offensive weapon in Saquon Barkley all season and with the inconsistent health of quarterback Daniel Jones. Without those two in the lineup, the Giants attack has had to rely on players like Colt McCoy and Wayne Gallman in the backfield. Even the primary pass catchers like Sterling Shephard and Evan Engram have missed time this season, though both should be available for this week's matchup against Dallas. The bottom line when it comes to 2020, it's been a season that has hit teams hard with the injury bug. But the Giants offensive makeup and depth was never built well enough to sustain a couple missing pieces.
  • New York aims to erase a seven-game skid to the Cowboys and have their first win over Dallas since 2016. The last time the Giants and Cowboys faced off, Dallas lost Dak Prescott to a season-ending injury but still escaped with a 37-34 win. New York allowed Dallas' Andy Dalton to enter the game and finish 9-of-11 for 111 yards and a game winning touchdown drive, further extending the Giants' losing streak. Sunday will also be the first time that New York will host Dallas since the infamous 'black cat' incident where a stray black cat wondered its way onto the field at Metlife Stadium last November. At that point in the game, Dallas trailed New York 9-3 in the second quarter before outscoring the Giants 34-9 the rest of the way.

Cowboys

  • Dallas also kept their playoff hopes alive with a win over the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday. Philly jumped out of the gate with a 14-3 lead after the first quarter behind rookie quarterback Jalen Hurts and a 81-yard strike to Desean Jackson. The Cowboys offense then outscored Philadelphia 34-3 from the second quarter on and boasted a pair of 100-yard receivers for the first time since Week 3 against Seattle. Ezekiel Elliott joined the party with a 105-yard yard performance, his best of 2020 and the second time he has hit the century mark this season. Mike McCarthy said after the game that the efficiency of the offense, along with the three turnovers forced by the defense was the key to the win. The Cowboys have now won three straight and could close out the season with a 7-9 record after an abysmal 3-9 start.
  • Much like the Giants, Washington's loss to Carolina opens the door for an improbable playoff berth. Entering Week 14, the Cowboys had just come off a 34-17 drumming by the hands of the Baltimore Ravens and needed to win out in order to have a chance at the postseason. Along with winning out, Dallas also needed Washington to lose their final four games, which at the moment, is three-fourths of the way completed as well. Should the Cowboys win on Sunday, they would have to wait around and watch for Washington's result in order to know their fate.
  • Say what you want about the level of competition that Dallas has faced over the past three weeks, but the offense has come alive with three straight games of over 30 points scored during the winning stretch. Andy Dalton has found a rhythm with his weapons as he posted the best stat line of his Cowboys career throwing for 377 yards and three touchdowns. It marks the third time in his career and the first since 2013 that Dalton has surpassed 350 yards through the air with more than three scores and a 130-plus passer rating.
  • Part of the credit for the roaring offense has to be aimed towards the Cowboys sideline and the work that Kellen Moore has done this season. In just his second year as an offensive coordinator, Moore has been given the opportunities to call plays under the watchful eye of Mike McCarthy. However, reports have surfaced over the last few weeks of the possibility that Moore could leave The Star for the likes of his collegiate alma mater Boise State, and their head coaching position. Moore played for the Broncos from 2008-11 and won more games than anyone else at the college football level. Boise State's opening was announced last week after Bryan Harsin resigned to accept the head gig at Auburn, the fifth straight Broncos coach to leave for a Power 5 position. Moore has acknowledged the rumors but remains focused on the Giants this Sunday and how to ensure his offense continues firing on all cylinders.
  • Defensively, the Cowboys continue to create takeaways and have made opponents pay to the tune of 10 turnovers over the past three games. Dallas, who forced a season high four turnovers in their first matchup with Philadelphia in Week 8, entered the fourth quarter without a single takeaway despite allowing just 17 points. However, Dallas forced three turnovers in the final period as both Anthony Brown and Trevon Diggs managed an interception and Randy Gregory forced his third fumble of the game. Dallas is plus-nine in the turnover margin since the start of their win streak and currently sit fifth in the NFL for takeaways (21), a vast jump from the bottom of the list earlier in the season.

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