Giants-Cowboys Preview: Can The Giants’ Defense Slow The Cowboys’ Passing Game?

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(CBSNewYork) — The NFC East is shaping up to be competitive, though probably not in the way its teams had hoped. After Week 4, the Philadelphia Eagles lead the division with a 1-2-1 record. The Washington Football Team and Dallas Cowboys trail them at 1-3, and the New York Giants sit in the cellar at 0-4. No team seems likely to run away with the NFC East; no team even seems capable. Though given each team has six intra-division games, there is still some potential to notch of few in the win column.

In Week 5, the Giants head to Dallas, where they’ll find a Cowboys team still smarting from the the 49 points the Cleveland Browns laid on them last Sunday. Baker Mayfield threw for a relatively meager 165 yards on 19-30 passing. But Browns rushers piled up 307 yards and three touchdowns on the ground, the most yardage a Cowboys defense has ever yielded. They averaged 7.7 yards per carry, even as their top rusher, Nick Chubb, left the game in the first quarter.

“They’re struggling stopping the run,” says NFL On CBS analyst Trent Green. “Basically it’s all phases. When you’re offense leads the league with what their doing scoring-wise, it all falls on the defense. Unfortunately that has been an area of concern for the Cowboys. And, when you fall behind, it’s hard to balance it out.”

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The woeful Cowboys defense has allowed at least 38 points in three straight games. The offense hasn’t helped them either, turning the ball over nine times so far this season. On the bright side, the offense has averaged over 36 points in the last three games. And while those point totals still have them two games below .500, at least the offense is capable of scoring. Dak Prescott threw for an eye-popping 502 yards, completing 41-58 attempts, including four touchdowns. Amari Cooper caught 12 of those passes for 134 yards and a touchdown.

Luckily for the Cowboys, they’ll be facing one of the NFL’s last remaining winless teams. The Giants are coming off an ugly loss to the Los Angeles Rams. Daniel Jones failed to surpass 200 yards passing for the second straight week. The Giants also failed to mount much of a running game, a problem they’ve had since before running back Saquon Barkley went down with a season-ending injury in Week 2.

“The loss of Barkley is probably the biggest factor,” says Green. “And you still have a young quarterback. You need to give him time, create a running game, provide some balance. You would like to see better play from the offensive line. You’re just going to have to deal with growing pains. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look real good right now.”

The dangerous thing about the Giants, however, is that they tend to hang around. The Rams needed a late Cooper Kupp touchdown to pull out the win last week. The Bears had to hold on in Week 2 to beat the Giants. Defense has helped keep the Giants reasonably close in three of their four games. Setting aside their Week 3 pummeling at the hands of the San Francisco 49ers, the average margin of victory for their opponents is just over seven points. In terms of yardage, the Giants defense is 10th against the pass and 12th against the run.

Can they contain a Cowboys offense that leads the NFL in passing? Prescott has attempted 203 passes, completing 137 of them for 1,690 yards, with 22 of them going for at least 20 yards. All of those stats lead the NFL. Amari Cooper is also among the league’s top receivers, with 37 receptions for 401 yards.

It should be an interesting matchup in an NFC East with three wins among the four teams. Every win counts that much more in a division that could see a division title handed to a team below .500.

The Giants play the Cowboys Sunday, October 11 @ 4:25 ET on CBS.

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