Final Thoughts: Covering Beckham Jr.; Run Game; Third-Down Defense; More

FRISCO, Texas – It's the 109th all-time regular season meeting between the Cowboys and New York Giants, and once again we're looking at a highly-anticipated December matchup with postseason implications. The Cowboys (11-1) have already clinched a playoff spot and can win the NFC East with a road victory Sunday night, while the Giants (8-4) will look to close the gap in the division race with a potential season sweep of Dallas.

Here are my final thoughts on Sunday's Cowboys-Giants rematch at MetLife Stadium:

  • On the injury report DeMarcus Lawrence was listed as questionable and will likely be a game-time decision with a back issue. It's rare that you have a player miss practice time late in the week, then line up and play on the weekend, but I believe that is going to happen with Lawrence.
  • How bad is the Giants' running game? They've have only had 22 plays where they've rushed the ball for 10 or more yards. The Cowboys have 55, which ranks first in the NFL.
  • Keep an eye on Brandon Carr in coverage on Odell Beckham Jr. in this game. The routes that give Carr the most trouble are those where he has to carry a receiver inside out of man coverage. One of Beckham Jr.'s strengths is his ability to explode across the field catching passes on the move leaving the cornerback in his wake. Anytime that these Dallas defenders can take a shot at Beckham Jr. coming across the middle will help Carr in his effort to cover him in this game.
  • Opposing quarterbacks have a passer rating of 58.22 when the Giants bring some form of blitz pressure, which is second best in the league. Dak Prescott has a passer rating of 107.73 when opponents attempt to blitz him. That's good enough for fifth-best among NFL quarterbacks. Even with no Jason-Pierre Paul, I would be surprised if defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo decided to blitz Prescott. I could see the Giants play coverage and work to make him play from the pocket, taking their chance that way.
  • Something has to give here. The Giants are one of the worst teams in the NFL when it comes to offensive drives of three-and-out. Opponents have forced the Giants off the field 24 percent of the time. The Cowboys defensively are just as bad getting opponents off the field 14 percent of the time in those situations, which puts them 30th in the league. If the defense can win on first and second downs, their strength has been playing on third down and medium yards (4-6). They've only allowed opponents to convert 38 percent, which is right where the Giants are in those down and distance situations.
  • There is a huge drop-off from Jason-Pierre Paul to Romeo Okwara and Kerry Wynn. I said it earlier on Cowboys Break – I expect the Cowboys to take advantage of running the ball to that left side of the Giants defensive line outside on the edge. Huge advantage here for the offense with no Jason-Pierre Paul.
  • Giants safety Nat Berhe has been ruled out of this game with a concussion. You might not know much about Berhe, but the first time that these two clubs squared off he had six total tackles (five on defense and one on special teams). Berhe was around the line a bunch and when Ezekiel Elliott carried the ball, he delivered several punishing shots on the rookie running back.
  • My weekly guess at the Cowboys' inactives: CB Morris Claiborne (ruled out), S J.J. Wilcox (ruled out), OT Chaz Green (ruled out), QB Mark Sanchez, RB Darius Jackson, LB Mark Nzeocha, DE Ryan Davis.
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