The New York Giants suffered their third loss of the season against the Detroit Lions last Sunday, coming up short 31-18 in a game the Giants were expected to win.
That matchup against the Lions marked the end of the easier part of the Giants’ season as they embarked on a seven-game stretch that ranks as the most challenging remaining time in the NFL.
That series of games kicks off with a quick Thanksgiving visit Thursday against the team that gave the Giants their first loss of the season, the Dallas Cowboys.
The Giants have lost two of their last three games and are desperate to avoid making it in three of their last four. With the Giants and Cowboys tied 7-3 in NFC East, this specific matchup is more than just a divisional rivalry between the two teams and amounts to a playoff contest.
With so much at stake on Thanksgiving, the Giants need to put in a much better performance than they did last week. The Cowboys are hot for a dominant 40-3 win over the Minnesota Vikings 8-2 and will not make it easy for the Giants to assert themselves on their home turf.
With that in mind, let’s dive into the five player/position groups that play a key role in their quest to remain second in the division.
QB Daniel Jones
Daniel Jones had one of his worst regular-season performances. After not conceding a single turnover since Week 3, Jones conceded two interceptions against the Lions last Sunday, a worrying result as his matchup on Thursday won’t be any easier.
Though Jones managed to finish the day with 341 passing yards, he only had a 61.4 completion rate and a passer rating that was well below the career-high 153.3 he had a week earlier (74.1).
This Thursday, Jones must deliver a strong response characterized by determined, efficient play and, most importantly, turnoverless. The only snag for Jones is that the Cowboys haven’t gotten worse since the Giants played them in Week 3, a day that saw him struggle immensely. In that 23-16 loss, Jones completed just 54.1 percent of his 37 pass attempts for 196 yards without touchdowns and an interception.
Fast forward to the present, the Cowboys’ defense is first in the league in passing yards allowed per game (174.5), first in points allowed (16.7), first in sacks ( 42) and also has seven interceptions to her name. This Cowboys pass defense is simply elite and stacked with some of the league’s best defensive playmakers.
From the Cowboys’ passing frenzy to their stingy secondary, Jones needs to bring his A-game on Thanksgiving and possibly get into his running a little more than usual to free up the space and fast lanes he wants to exploit. Keeping the Cowboys guessing is Jones’ best shot at giving this Giants offense the success it needs to win. And that starts with using his legs and capitalizing on designed runs.
Cornerback Adoree’ Jackson’s first punt return attempt against the Lions sustained an MCL sprain that will sideline him for several weeks. With Jackson originally set to be the Giants’ new go-to-punt returner, who are they going to fall back on now?
After Richie James coughed up two non-contact fumbles on punt returns in Week 8 against the Seattle Seahawks — not to mention he’s also dealing with a knee injury — the Giants may be reluctant to count on him again. Should they choose not to, they would leave cornerback Darnay Holmes or possibly wide receiver Kalil Pimpleton off the practice team.
Of those three candidates, the Giants’ best bet would be to bring back James as their primary punt returner. The Giants can’t afford to lose another cornerback and would be wise to limit the punt return reps Holmes gets.
Pimpleton, on the other hand, could be helpful on the return but has no NFL experience and may need some time to get a comfortable feel for the responsibilities he would take on.
The Giants are currently 31st in the league in punt return yards per attempt (5.6) and 24th in total punt return yards for the season (118). The Giants offense will have their hands full with the Cowboys defense as it is and could use a boost from the returning special teams unit, which has found it difficult to make a bigger impact each week.
Giants pass coverage this season has been solid, but nothing special. The Giants rank 15th in passing yards allowed per game (211.8) and are also 13th in passing yards allowed per game (6.48) and concede just 20.4 points, much better than their 24.5 a season ago. This improvement was heavily influenced by the play of the Giants’ cornerbacks.
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Despite the injury-induced fluctuations in the unit, the Giants cornerbacks have been able to maintain their success by combining their strengths into a cohesive group.
However, the Giants lost their two starting cornerbacks to injuries against the Lions last week, with Jackson suffering an MCL sprain and Fabian Moreau suffering an oblique injury. Both are out for Thursday’s game, which leaves the Giants with Darnay Holmes, sophomore Rodarius Williams (who returned from his cruciate ligament rupture last week), rookie Cor’Dale Flott and sophomore Nick McCloud. leaves.
With Holmes tasked with capping the slot, the outside could be a problem for this Giants cornerback unit. As mentioned above, Williams just returned from injury last week and has a lot of rust to shake off.
in the 13 snaps for passport cover Last week, Williams allowed his two targets to be caught for 20 yards. Additionally, Flott returned last Sunday from a calf injury he sustained in Week 3 against the Cowboys and will likely need some time to get back into a groove.
The Cowboys have three talented wide receivers that can cause matchup problems; Cee Dee Lamb, Michael Gallup and Noah Brown. What’s more, the Cowboys aren’t afraid to deploy their running backs from the backfield, as Tony Pollard demonstrated last Sunday.
In their 40-3 win over the Vikings, Pollard hit all six of his targets for 109 yards and two touchdowns. These Cowboys’ passing offense is explosive, and the Giants’ corners will need to play their best game of the season if they’re going to give the Giants offense any chance.
Just when the Giants offense couldn’t get any worse, wide receiver Wan’Dale Robinson was pushed off the field in the first game of the fourth quarter against the Lions and awkwardly twisted his knee in the fall. He was ruled out for the game and a day later it was confirmed that Robinson had suffered a cruciate ligament rupture.
With Sterling Shepard and now Robinson out for the season, the Giants have had to rely on the next man and it hasn’t been an easy transition for this offense. Heading into their Thanksgiving game with the Cowboys, that reality has only become more worrisome given how lethal the Cowboys’ defense against the pass was.
While they don’t have a ball-falking season by any means, the Cowboys’ pass coverage has evolved into a lockdown unit that ranks number one in the league for passing yards allowed and 8th in passer rating (85, 4) is.
So what can we expect from the Giants’ wide receiver group next Thursday? The four wideouts that are probably used the most are Darius Slayton, Richie James, Kenny Golladay and Isaiah Hodgins. Slayton has been Jones’ top wide receiver for the past four weeks, picking a season-high nine times last Sunday.
Richie James showed his fast-paced potential in the slot, catching all three goals he received last week for 48 yards and a touchdown. Golladay also surprised fans on Sunday, bowling in his only two goals for 29 yards, while Hodgins has now caught all five goals he had in his only two games in a Giants uniform.
How much success the Giants will have in the air remains to be seen. But if they’re going to give the Cowboys pass defense a tough time, the Giants’ wideouts need to do their part and execute at a highly efficient level.
The Giants offensive line doesn’t have a great game against the Lions. Jones held two sacks and 21 pressures, the second-highest performance he has achieved this season. The most pressure Jones has endured this season was a career-high 27 that came in Week 3 against none other than the Dallas Cowboys.
To make matters worse, the Giants lost a number of offensive linemen to injuries Sunday, including center Jon Feliciano, guard Joshua Ezeudu and guard Shane Lemieux, all of whom did not travel to Dallas. Felciano and Ezeudu didn’t make the trip to Dallas, nor did Evan Neal or Shane Lemieux.
With the Giants’ offensive line so battered, Thursday’s success will be attributed to the likes of Andrew Thomas (assuming he has recovered from his illness), Nick Gates, Jack Anderson, Matt Peart, Devery Hamilton and Mark Glowinski.
Will that be enough against a Cowboys pass rush, which is currently the best in the NFL? Even when Demarcus Lawrence and Dante Fowler Jr. aren’t playing (both struggling with injuries), the Cowboys still have Micah Parsons (third in the league in sacks of 10), Sam Williams and Dorance Armstrong, all of whom could be dangerous threats Thursday lead to serious problems.