Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants: The Late-Season Hate Game

Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott found the end zone for the first time in the NFL. Photo Courtesy: Keith Allison
Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott will need to set the tone against the Giants on Sunday night.
Photo Courtesy: Keith Allison
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By Zach Walker

Game Info
Dallas Cowboys vs New York Giants
Sunday – December 11 – 7:20 pm
MetLife Stadium – East Rutherford – New Jersey

Records Before the Game
Dallas Cowboys (11-1, 6-0 Away)
New York Giants (8-4, 5-1 Home)

Who do the Cowboys need to shut down?
DE Olivier Vernon – The Cowboys get to dodge Jason Pierre-Paul because of his surgery ending his season, but things only a faction easier because the Giants still have a mean man on the outside. I don’t know what it is, but in the last two matchups between Vernon and Cowboys’ left tackle Tyron Smith, Vernon has had some serious spice to his game, and gave Tyron a real game effort. Vernon is a serious disruptor, and a series disruptor to be honest, because he can get in the face of quarterbacks on consecutive plays on a drive. With Jonathan Hankins being hampered too, Vernon might have to be on a whole different level of rush to help his team out. The Cowboys have to shut him down as much as they can.

Who on the Cowboys, needs to step up?
CB Anthony Brown – Man, this kid had played WAY more snaps than anyone could have predicted. And for a sixth round pick he’s played some damn good football, especially grading on the draft position curve. That pass break-up last week, against Charles Johnson was a pure instinct play. Brown is going to get another start, and likely going to be put across from Beckham during some of the time. Spin it any way, Beckham has the advantage. Brown and the rest of the secondary need the support from the pass rush to get the coverage they need to counter, what could be considered the top receiving trio in the NFL. And that rush does not mean blitzing Orlando Scandrick, because that play has seriously run its course, and is a free first down for the taking by the offense.

Which group will give the Cowboys trouble?
The Giants’ three wide receiver set – I don’t remember when the Giants last played on Monday night football, but a point was made of the Giants’ offense compared to the league. It was something along the lines of no team using any of their offensive formations more than a 25 percent of their snaps. The Giants, at the time, were using their three receiver set, at something like over 90 percent of their offensive snaps. They have three receivers who are very good, Sterling Shepard is emerging as a top-five number two receiver, and with Beckham on the outside, and Cruz on the opposite side of the formation, Eli Manning has probably seen every possible look that a defense can throw his way, when he’s in his base formation. This is his comfort zone, so Eli is going to be in full control when looking down the barrel at the Cowboys’ defense. It’ll be it be a task to disrupt Eli from his spot.

Which group will give the Giants trouble?
The Cowboys’ defensive line – I know, the defensive line hasn’t really had a great game in a while, and if they couldn’t get after Sam Bradford with their microwaved line, the Giants might look like a massive task. However, the Steelers’ really handled the Giants. The Cowboys’ need some push up front. With those extra few days of rest and recuperation from coming the Thursday night game, it should have really helped the hampered Cowboys’ defensive line. Jack Crawford, Terrell McClain, DeMarcus Lawrence, and David Irving hopefully are healthier (JJ Wilcox too). The Cowboys’ defensive line needs to avenge the loss from earlier this season, by burying Manning and swamping Rashad Jennings. Erick Flowers had a tough game against the Steelers, so the Cowboys need to help make that a streak.

What will it take for the Cowboys to win?
Get after Eli. Move him around, force him to throw wild. He’s going to target Beckham the normal 25 times in the game, so forcing him to his third read, because Beckham is his first, then it’s a double-take, then Eli will be thinking “Nah, he’s open!” for the second read. The Giants were able to run the ball when the Cowboys really needed them to not run it, during the first matchup this year, so keeping a lid on the Giants’ run game is big time. Giving Prescott time to progress in the pocket would be very cool too.

Dallas 27 – New York 26. I assume this one will be close.