FRISCO, Texas – A look at what I think are the two biggest keys to the Cowboys' anticipated matchup with the Giants on Sunday night.
Dallas Cowboys Win If:
This game will come down to the Cowboys' ability to score in the red zone. In the previous meeting the Giants held this offense in check while in that portion of the field.
The Cowboys were only 33 percent in the red zone and 50 percent in goal-to-go situations. Since that last meeting, they are third in the league in successful red zone plays at 54 percent and fourth at 66 percent in touchdown efficiency.
On the other side of the ball, the Giants still are one of the best teams in the league when it comes to playing red zone defense. Their defense has only allowed opponents to score a touchdown 43 percent of the time, which ranks them second in the league. What makes the Giants so difficult in the red zone is that they don't allow opponents to convert third downs once they get down there to continue drives. The Giants have held opponents to just 30 percent, while the league average is 38 percent to convert those situations. Another factor in their red zone defense is that they only allow opponents 2.6 yards per play, which is top 10 in the league.
There were opportunities for the Cowboys to score, but a missed pass and later a negative rush left the offense in a position where they were forced to kick field goals and that was the difference in the game.
The Cowboys need to flip the script on the Giants in the red zone in order to win this game Sunday night.
New York Giants Win If:
The plan is pretty cut and dry for the Giants – stop this Dallas rushing attack and see if they can hold up in coverage with their secondary.
The Giants are one of the best teams in the league when it comes to playing run defense. They have only allowed opponents 24 runs of 10-plus yards. On the other side, Dallas leads the league with 55 rushes of 10-plus yards. The Giants do a nice job of not only playing the run on first down, but their second-down run defense is outstanding, as well. Opponents have only averaged 3.46 yards a carry on second down, which is well below the league average.
It will be interesting to see how the Giants play their defense without Jason Pierre-Paul in the lineup and an injured Jonathan Hankins. The Pierre-Paul injury is huge for them. He has made the transition from the right to the left side smoothly. Always viewed as just a rusher throughout his career – he has developed into a tough point-of-attack player. The drop off between him and his replacements, Kerry Wynn and Romeo Okwara, is steep.
Dallas is a better running team since the last time these two clubs met in Week 1. Ronald Leary has made a difference since he was added to the lineup, and Ezekiel Elliott is more comfortable with the guys playing in front of him. The Giants are going to need to control the front like they did opening day to win this football game