National Football League
Giants-Cowboys Preview
National Football League

Giants-Cowboys Preview

Published Sep. 9, 2015 6:01 p.m. ET

The Dallas Cowboys are looking to become the first team in 11 seasons to repeat as NFC East champions, though they are treating last year as a long time ago.

The New York Giants' glory days are becoming a distant memory too after a second straight losing season preceded an offseason that added to their question marks.

The Cowboys are enjoying the longest win streak by either team in this division rivalry since the early 1990s with four straight victories as they get ready to host the Giants on Sunday night.

Expectations were low for Dallas (12-4) last year after three straight 8-8 seasons. Yet the Cowboys rode NFL rushing leader DeMarco Murray along with Tony Romo and his league-best passer rating of 113.2 to the East title for the first time in five years. Dallas lost at Green Bay in a divisional playoff game.


Dallas insists that past success won't have anything to do with this year. No NFC East team has repeated since Philadelphia won four in a row from 2001-04.

"We start from ground zero and that's a point that we've tried to make for our football team right from the start and I think they understood that way back in April and probably before that, that 2014 is done with and we need to focus on being the best version of the Dallas Cowboys we can be in 2015," coach Jason Garrett said.

Murray is gone to the Eagles, so the Cowboys will employ a running back committee that includes newcomers Darren McFadden and Christine Michael as well as holdovers Joseph Randle and Lance Dunbar.

Romo will try to build on a season in which his 34 touchdown passes were two shy of his career best. He will once again target Dez Bryant, who signed a five-year, $70 million deal in the offseason after leading the NFL with 16 TD receptions a year ago.

Even without Murray, the Cowboys do not expect a drop-off in a rushing attack that ranked second in the league with 147.1 yards per game.

"I think we're always at our best when we can attack defenses different ways and that starts with the run and the pass," Garrett said. "I think we've made a concerted effort in our organization to be stronger and better on our offensive line."

A fifth consecutive victory over New York would give Dallas its longest run in the series since the Cowboys took five straight between 1992-94.

The Giants' four defeats have come during their first back-to-back losing seasons under coach Tom Coughlin, who is entering his 12th year with him and general manager Jerry Reese clearly under scrutiny.

A difficult offseason saw starting left tackle Will Beatty tear a pectoral muscle in May that has put his entire season in doubt.

Even worse news came when two-time Pro Bowl defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul injured his right hand in a fireworks accident on the July Fourth holiday. Pierre-Paul finally met this week with the Giants, who aren't sure when he can return.

In addition, star receiver Victor Cruz is not ready to come back from surgery on a torn patellar tendon suffered Oct. 12. The bad news kept coming Friday when the Giants learned middle linebacker Jon Beason would miss this game due to a lingering knee injury.

"We have a few things, obviously, that need to be ironed out and need to be clarified," Coughlin said. "Hopefully that's what will happen right here."

One constant is Eli Manning, who recovered from a dismal 2013 to throw for 30 touchdowns with 14 interceptions under new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo. He needs 245 yards to become the 15th in history to throw for 40,000.

He only had 12 games to work with Odell Beckham Jr., who electrified the NFL with 1,305 receiving yards and 12 TD catches after missing the first four games of his rookie season with a hamstring injury.

Beckham caught four touchdowns against the Cowboys, with a 10-reception, two-TD, 146-yard effort the last time these teams met Nov. 23 in a 31-28 defeat. That included an astounding one-handed grab over Dallas cornerback Brandon Carr for a 43-yard score that set social media abuzz.

"I've seen it a few times, enough to learn from it," Carr said.

The state of the offensive line remains a concern, though New York appears to have drafted a major talent in the first round in tackle Ereck Flowers. The Giants had the league's fourth-worst rushing attack two seasons ago and ranked 23rd last year.

The 2014 defense also finished fourth-worst in the league by allowing 395.3 yards per game. That resulted in coordinator Perry Fewell being replaced by Steve Spagnuolo, who guided the defense during its glory days in 2007-08.

Dallas also has issues on that side of the ball as defensive end Greg Hardy (domestic violence case) and linebacker Rolando McClain (substance abuse violation) will miss the first four games on suspensions. Cornerback Orlando Scandrick was lost to a season-ending knee injury.

Still, the Cowboys appear to have fewer holes than a Giants team that has dropped four straight openers - two to Dallas.

"I think it's good to start in the division," Manning said. "And Sunday night, it should be a great environment."


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