The New York Giants will host the biggest game of the 2016 NFL regular season on Sunday, December 11. What are the keys to defeating the Dallas Cowboys?
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Sep 11, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) in the huddle with wide receiver Odell Beckham (13) and wide receiver Sterling Shepard (87) and tight end Will Tye (45) during the game at AT&T Stadium. New York won 20-19. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
The New York Giants are preparing for what’s undoubtedly the biggest game of the 2016 NFL regular season. In Week 14, the Giants will host the Dallas Cowboys in what can be described as New York’s Super Bowl.
Bragging rights, postseason positioning, and a shot at the NFC East will be on the line in a clash between the titans of the NFC East.
This will be New York’s second meeting with Dallas this season. The first time around, the Giants traveled into Jerry World and handed the Cowboys their only loss of the 2016 NFL regular season, 20-19.
Dallas has since won eight in a row, while New York is 7-4 since that game and 8-4 overall, including a 5-1 record at home.
Though the Giants have won two consecutive games over the Cowboys, momentum is fragile in this rivalry. New York is 12-12 against Dallas during the Eli Manning era, which is evidence enough of how even this battle has been.
The question is: what must Ben McAdoo and the New York Giants do to achieve victory over the rival Dallas Cowboys?
Sep 11, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) throws a pass attempt to running back Rashad Jennings (23) while Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle Cedric Thornton (92) defends in the second quarter at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
5. Don’t Help Dallas Win
The Dallas Cowboys have one of the best offenses in the NFL. That statement will be repeated and evaluated, but the basics are simple: Dallas is No. 4 in total yards per game, No. 2 in rushing yards per game, and No. 4 in points per game
Having established that, the absolute worst mistake that the New York GIants could make would be to give the Cowboys ideal field position
The Giants’ offense has done an outstanding job of playing smart in the sense that they’ve committed the second-fewest penalties in the NFL. On defense, however, New York has committed 91 penalties—the sixth-most in the league—for 737 yards.
A clash with Dallas would be the worst time for New York’s offense to lose its cool or its defense to continue its dreadful irresponsibility.
Furthermore, the Giants have committed the fifth-most turnovers in the NFL with 21. Star quarterback Eli Manning has thrown 12 interceptions in 12 games and the Giants have lost nine fumbles as a team.
Avoiding costly mistakes such as turnovers and drive-extending penalties will be the first step towards winning this game. Rule No. 1 of sports: don’t help your opponent win.
Sep 11, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; New York Giants running back Rashad Jennings (23) runs the ball in the fourth quarter against Dallas Cowboys outside linebacker Sean Lee (50) at AT&T Stadium. New York won 20-19. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
4. Establish The Run
The New York Giants rank No. 31 in the NFL with an average of 77.5 rushing yards per game. New York is also No. 30 with an average of 3.5 yards per carry and No. 27 with just five rushing touchdowns through 12 games.
The Giants may have survived this long without a reliable rushing attack, but the running backs will need to step up during the final four weeks.
The Giants received wonderful news when Shane Vereen was medically cleared and activated from injury reserve. He may not yet be ready to go off, but one of the Giants’ most dynamic playmakers is coming back at the perfect time.
For perspective, Vereen averaged 74.0 yards from scrimmage per game and had 95 yards of total offense and a touchdown during his most recent appearance.
With or without Vereen stepping up, both Rashad Jennings and Paul Perkins will need to make the most of their opportunities. Dallas is No. 2 in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game, but it’s a less fearsome No. 17 in yards allowed per carry.
Considering Dallas dominated time of possession the first time around—36:43 to 23:17—the Giants will need their running game to keep the Cowboys’ offense off the field.
Sep 11, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz (80) reacts after catching a touchdown pass in the fourth quarter against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. New York won 20-19. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
3. Spread The Wealth
The New York Giants are about to go up against one of the most explosive offensive attacks in the NFL. The Dallas Cowboys’ offensive line ranks amongst the best of all-time, Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott are having rookie seasons for the ages, and Dez Bryant is still Dez Bryant.
If the Giants are going to defeat the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, December 11, they’ll need to stop force-feeding Odell Beckham Jr. and start spreading the wealth.
Few coaches aim for games to become shootouts, but this could end up being one. Even if the score isn’t especially high, every field goal or touchdown will be like a dagger in the other team’s heart when Dallas and New York meet.
Beckham is an undeniable superstar, but the only way for New York to truly maintain a steady offensive pace is to get its numerous playmakers involved.
Sterling Shepard has a combined eight targets over the past two weeks and Victor Cruz has a collective eight over the past four games. Cruz also had at least one reception go for at least 25 yards in each of the four games before Week 13, when he was targeted zero times.
Getting Beckham the ball is never a bad idea, but Eli Manning needs to spread the wealth to keep the chains moving and Dallas’ defense honest.
Sep 11, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott (21) dives in for a touchdown against New York Giants free safety Nat Berhe (29) at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports
2. Contain The Run
The New York Giants are the only team that’s had any luck in containing Dallas Cowboys rookie Ezekiel Elliott. The league’s leading rusher has run for at least 83 yards in 11 of the Cowboys’ 12 games, with the one exception being Week 1.
New York may not hold Elliott to 51 yards on 20 carries like it did in Week 1, but it needs to hold its own against a confident and thriving Cowboys running game.
New York enters Week 14 at No. 5 in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game. True as that my be, Dallas’ offensive line and Elliott’s combination of speed, size, power, and agility are the ultimate anomalies.
No matter how well the Giants have played against the run in 2016, this week’s game will be a test unlike any other they’ve faced.
When New York contained Elliott in Week 1, he was making his NFL regular season debut. He’s a far more seasoned player in Week 14, which means Damon Harrison and the Giants’ defense must be prepared for a far more difficult challenge.
The Cowboys’ passing attack is nothing short of lethal in its own right, but containing Elliott would take away the key element to Dallas’ offense.
Sep 11, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) in the pocket in the first quarter against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
1. Eli Manning
The New York Giants are entering the biggest game of the 2016 NFL regular season. Whether New York manages to excel in the previous four areas or not, the pursuit of victory will depend on one individual coming through: Eli Manning.
Perhaps even more so than the average NFL quarterback, Manning can make or break everything his team is attempting to build.
The Giants are 7-1 when Manning has more touchdowns than interceptions and 1-3 when he doesn’t. During that lone victory, Manning had no touchdowns and no interceptions in a 17-10 win over the Los Angeles Rams.
It’s often said that the quarterback receives too much praise and too much of the blame, but Manning’s individual success directly influences the outcome of games.
Manning has a tendency to rise to the occasion in important games, but no assumptions can be made here. The 25th clash between the Giants and Cowboys during the Eli Manning era may be the biggest and most important meeting yet.
The numbers paint an obvious picture, the game film confirms it, and both the coaching staff and the fans know it.