Fresh off back-to-back defensive minded wins and limited offensive performances, the Cowboys (9-4) continue to set the pace atop the NFC East as they face the New York Giants (4-9). Very few people entering the 2021 season could've seen the complete defensive turnaround coming in Dallas.
Dan Quinn's defense currently boasts the NFL interception leader (Trevon Diggs) and one of the most feared rookies of all-time (Micah Parsons). This week Dallas tries to get their offense kickstarted into the final month of the regular season against the Giants who have lost two straight.
Here are five additional storylines for each team heading into Sunday's matchup at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.
- Two late touchdowns were not enough for the Giants to erase their massive struggles in a 37-21 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers this past Sunday. Things looked positive early on as the two teams were tied at the end of the first quarter at SoFi Stadium. However, the Chargers rattled off 30-unanswered points and stormed out to a 37-7 lead on the strength of a dominant, three touchdown, performance from Justin Herbert. Additionally, the Giants never got off the ground offensively either as they tallied just 181 yards in the air and Saquon Barkley was held to only 64 yards on 16 carries.
- Quarterback Daniel Jones has been unavailable for New York since he suffered a neck injury in a Week 12 win over Philadelphia and has missed two straight games. Jones' overall status for this week, and moving forward, is very much in question as the team has sought multiple opinions from New York to Miami and Los Angeles over the last few weeks. While the Giants await updates on Jones, Mike Glennon has also been banged up. The veteran backup had to be cleared out of concussion protocol last Friday before making his second consecutive start. He is still expected to be the starter against Dallas barring any drastic change in Jones' diagnosis.
- Amidst all the struggles in New York, are a couple of changes. The biggest move was firing former Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett during the final weekend in November. The move was surprising given when the decision was made following a loss to the Buccaneers on Monday Night Football. But overall, the move was not a shock given the offensive struggles that still have the Giants in the bottom ten rankings in total offense, yards per play, and rushing yards.
- This week may not be the best time for the Giants to find a rhythm on either side of the ball as they face the first-place Cowboys. Their first meeting in Week 5 was a dominant Dallas win, 44-20, where Dallas put up over 500 yards of total offense and saw Ezekiel Elliott's most recent 100-yard rushing performance. The Cowboys have defeated the Giants in eight of their last nine matchups, with the only loss coming in the 2020 season finale that eliminated the Cowboys from playoff contention.
- One thing for the Giants to keep in mind, is that they have some massive draft capitol on the way this offseason in what looks to be a pair of top 10 picks. Entering Week 15, the Giants find themselves currently sitting with a draft slot of sixth overall, right behind…THE GIANTS! The Chicago loss to Green Bay on Sunday currently slates Chicago's draft position at fifth overall, but it's a spot that the Bears traded to the Giants back in April to move up and draft quarterback Justin Fields.
- Dallas has now won two straight games after dropping three of four with a 27-20 win over the Washington Football Team on Sunday. The defense, now re-energized with the returning Randy Gregory and Neville Gallimore, forced four turnovers, and scored another defensive touchdown in the win. After leading 24-0 at the half, Dallas only mustered a single field goal in the second half as Washington stormed back to make it a one possession game. With under four minutes to play, Gregory ended the comeback effort with a strip sack of Kyle Allen and allowed Dallas to seal the win.
- Over the last two weeks, the Cowboys defense has shined bright in each of the team's wins as this past weekend Dallas forced Washington into four takeaways in key moments. Micah Parsons' forced fumble in the first quarter resulted in a Dorance Armstrong scoop-and-score. Randy Gregory tipped a pass and registered his first career interception that turned into a short field and a touchdown in the ensuing offensive drive. Jourdan Lewis forced a fumble in the third quarter, and it turned into Greg Zuerlein's fourth and final field goal that was the final Cowboys score. And finally, Gregory's forementioned strip sack was what sealed the win for Dallas.
- The offense on the other hand, has not had the same success as anticipated from earlier in the season. Dallas' offense found the endzone just one time in the entire game and was just 1-of-6 (17%) in redzone opportunities and is now just 4-14 over their last four games. Just for context, that is just 28% efficiency in the redzone over the last month. A whopping 19% lower than the Giants, the lowest-rated red zone team in football.
- Despite getting some players back on the defensive side this past week, the offensive side of the ball looks thinner heading into Week 15. Left tackle Tyron Smith left the game with under three minutes left in the third quarter and is not available this week as he is evaluated further. He left due to reaggravating an ankle injury that had him sidelined for three games earlier this season. Additionally, with 10:29 left in the fourth, right tackle La'el Collins was ejected for throwing a punch while defending quarterback Dak Prescott. While there has been no further discipline yet, there is a chance that something further could appear this week.
- With the win, Dallas now holds a commanding three-game lead in the NFC East with just four games to play. Both Washington (6-7) and Philadelphia (6-7) are three games back and are scheduled to meet this upcoming week in a battle to remain in the Wild Card hunt. Dallas has not won the division since 2018 and if they were to close out a divisional title, as soon as Week 16, they would keep the division's streak of not having a repeat winner alive, which goes back to 2004.