NFL Sunday Night Preview: Dallas vs. New York

Tonight’s match will be the 109th regular-season meeting of these two teams where the Dallas Cowboys lead series against the New York Giants, 62-44-2. But even more important, it will be a rematch for Week 1 when the Giants, who still are the only team this season to defeat the Cowboys, beat them 20-19 victory in Dallas. If the Giants can win tonight, it would be their first season sweep of the Cowboys since 2011, and their third straight regular-season victory over the Cowboys, but everyone knows it won’t be that easy, since Dallas is looking for some redemption and revenge.

If the Cowboys play tight and have the right pieces click into place tonight, Dallas can clinch the NFC East and erase the only blemish on their almost perfect 2016 record, which was such a close one-point loss in the season opener.

But a lot has changed since that September night in Texas when the Yankee team almost entirely erased rookie RB Ezekiel Elliott’s efforts in his NFL debut, he only had 20 carries, 51 yards, in what would become a season-low 2.6 yards per carry.

The Giants gave up their first 100-yard rusher to Le’Veon Bell of the Steelers, who got 118 yards on 29 carries last week, and had no answers to stop tight end Ladarius Green ether, who got six catches for 110 yards and a TD in last week’s 24-14 loss to Pittsburgh.

This week, the Giants’ defense will have a massive challenge when they face Elliott again, who now is the league’s leading rusher at 4.9 yards per carry, and they’ll play longtime Giants killer Jason Witten, who has amazing stats against the Giants catching 142 of 196 pass targets for 1,463 yards and 13 touchdowns in 27 games against New York.

Going back to Week 1 in which was their first meeting, the Giants kept down both Elliott and Witten to nine receptions for 66 yards. But since, both players have exploded offensively and are now led by rookie quarterback Dak Prescott who’s in flow and has replaced Tony Romo outright.

Scoring will be equally difficult for the Giants tonight as Eli Manning hasn’t topped 200 yards in either of the past two games and looks like he has lost his edge. They could catch a spark in one matchup they like, with RB Shane Vereen, who could be activated after practice, put in against Dallas’ top linebackers.

Other matches to watch are Cowboys TE Jason Witten vs. Giants S Landon Collins. The Giants have had struggles with covering tight ends this year, since they’ve allowed 63 pass receptions for 793 yards and three touchdowns, so tonight they will have to find a way to keep Witten in check and under control. Collins has been an emotional and physical leader for the Giants and he’ll have to carry the load. He won’t play solo on Witten though, he’ll get help from Dez Bryant who’ll be a vertical threat, and the defense will focus on stopping Elliott.

Another main matchup to look out for will be Giants WR Odell Beckham Jr. vs. Cowboys CB Anthony Brown. Brown has proven himself effective in recent matchups against top receivers, but none of them are as explosive as Beckham, who has 75 catches for 1,015 yards and eight touchdowns. The Giants will want to to unleash Beckham from the get go to maybe spark their struggling offense to boom. Brown will have to be sharp and can’t lose focus or go to sleep since he’ll need to be at his best to contain Beckham.

Cowboys LB Anthony Hitchens is one to watch tonight, he’s been a starter all season up the middle, as he replaced a suspended Rolando McClain. Since then he has become a regular contributor and amazingly he’s able to play all three linebacker positions, so he’s dangerous. Hitchens often got overlooked with the Cowboys’ defense in constant search for an impact player, but his playmaking ability will be critical to the front seven, and will allow the secondary to focus on New York’s talented wide receiver corps.

A win tonight for Dallas would make the Cowboys 12-1 for only the second time in franchise history, giving them a record 12 wins. But can the Giants ruin their party? If the Giants can generate a pass rush and find a spark in their running game there is a chance. A strong keep-away approach could suit them well for a second win against Dallas this season and show the league it wasn’t just an aberration. But Eli Manning can’t carry all the offense, otherwise surely the Cowboys will have the division title tonight and possibly home-field advantage, depending on the results from other games. So they have a lot to play for too if not just simple pride.

OUR PICK: Giants, 24-21