It's no secret that the NFC East has been quite the mess in 2020. Through three weeks of the season, there has only been two wins against teams outside the division, Dallas over Atlanta and Philadelphia over San Francisco. However, the only team without a win on the year makes their way to AT&T Stadium this week as the Cowboys welcome in the New York Giants.
Much like Dallas, New York is missing a couple key contributors while trying to find a rhythm under a first-year head coach. Each team desperately needs a bounce-back win to keep their early playoff hopes alive this early in the season. Here are five critical storylines heading into Sunday's matchup.
- The top storyline entering the weekend is obviously the return of former Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett, who spent over nine seasons as the lead man in Dallas before his contract was not renewed this past offseason. During his time with the Cowboys he posted an 85-67 regular season record and won three NFC East titles. Now in his first season as New York's offensive coordinator, Garrett is making headlines based on the struggles the Giants attack has had. Through the first four weeks of the season, New York ranks in the bottom five of almost every major offensive category including dead-last in yards per game and points per game.
- For the second week in a row, a first-year head coach will make his way to Dallas. This time, Joe Judge comes in with early pressure to turn around an abysmal 0-4 start to his head coaching career. Judge had plenty of success as an assistant throughout his 15-year career, including three Super Bowl titles during his eight years with the New England Patriots.
- A big reason for New York's offensive struggles is due to the early season injury to Saquon Barkley. The Pro Bowl tailback is out for the year after he suffered a torn ACL in the Week 2 matchup against the Bears. Barkley had surpassed 1,000 yards and six touchdowns in each of his first two professional seasons and was a key part of the Giants growth on that side of the football entering the year. Wayne Gallman and DeVonta Freeman have split the running back duties so far while New York holds the second worst rushing mark in the league.
- The Giants held the fourth overall pick in the NFL Draft this past April, which they used to select offensive tackle Andrew Thomas. Thomas and the rest of the offensive line have not lived up to expectations thus far as Daniel Jones been sacked 14 times for 83 yards through four games. Opposite of Thomas is former Cowboys tackle Cam Flemming who has been graded out as the Giants top offensive lineman so far.
- New York defensively showed much improvement between Week 3, when they allowed 36 points in a blowout loss to San Francisco, to when they surrendered just 17 points to the Rams last week. Judge and his staff made some adjustments in the secondary as Ryan Lewis replaced Isaac Yiadom following the opening touchdown drive, while seventh-rounder Tae Crowder made waves at linebacker. The Rams entered the game with some of the best offensive numbers in the NFL (29.7 ppg), but the way the Giants fared defensively has expectations on that side of the ball rising.
- Dallas has some massive issues defensively. In the Week 4 loss against the Cleveland Browns, the Cowboys allowed a franchise-worst 307 rushing yards and over 500 total yards of offense to go along with 49 points. This performance capped off the worst three-game defensive span in Cowboys history with 126 total points allowed, and 38-plus points in three consecutive games for the first time since 1960. Even with nagging injuries in both the defensive line and the secondary, this week poses the first favorable matchup that the defense has seen this season against a poor Giants offense. With cornerback Anthony Brown slated to return off of IR, this could be an opportunity to see the defense get back on track.
- It's been a record-breaking start to the season from Dak Prescott and the Cowboys passing attack. Prescott is on pace to thrown for over 6,700 yards this season, which would shatter Peyton Manning's single-season mark of 5,477 yards in 2013 with Denver. However, this sure magnitude of the passing game has not been a part of the game plan. But due to late game deficits, Prescott has thrown 57 and 58 passes in the last two games, the two highest totals in his career. He has already set a new record for most passing yards in the first four weeks of the season with 1,690 so far.
- Despite the statistic success on offense so far, the Cowboys have had a number of mistakes on that side of the football that have left the defense in a rough spot. Through four games, Dallas has turned over the ball nine times (three interceptions, six fumbles) and seen it result in 45 points for opponents. Additionally, there has only been three points scored by the Dallas offense from forced turnovers. The Cowboys have the worst margin of field position in the NFL so far, and if they can't take care of the football, it may get worse.
- Center Joe Looney is expected to miss 2-4 weeks with a sprained MFL in his knee. Backup Tyler Biadasz, who had been working with the first-team in practice and was told to stay ready, will now likely slide into the starting spot this week against the Giants. Looney lasted just one play last week against the Browns before the injury that kept him out the remainder of the game.
- Tyron Smith made his return to the offensive tackle spot last week and added much-needed depth on the line. It also forced the coaching staff to make a decision at the right tackle position on whether to start rookie Terrence Steele or Brandon Knight, who was the original replacement for Smith. Steele was the original choice to start against Cleveland before Knight replaced him just a few drives into the game. With the news of La'el Collins needing surgery on his hip and missing the rest of the season, more eyes will be on how that spot is handled moving forward.
The Cowboys are back at AT&T Stadium next Sunday, October 11th to take on their rivals, the New York Giants. A limited number of tickets are on sale now. Get yours now before they sell out!
Details on all of the health and safety procedures you can expect at AT&T Stadium this season can be viewed at www.DallasCowboys.com/safestadium.