ARLINGTON, Texas — Thursday afternoon brings the annual Thanksgiving game for the Dallas Cowboys, who play host to the New York Giants in the 2022 edition. The Cowboys haven’t played well on Turkey Day over the last 10 years, winning just three times, but they did beat the Giants (a 30-3 whalloping in 1992) the only time they’ve played on this occasion.
The Cowboys head into the game on a high note after playing their most complete game of the season while dismantling the Minnesota Vikings 40-3 in Week 11. The Giants, however, took a different path to Arlington this week as they most recently played one of their worst games of the year, getting blown out by the Detroit Lions 31-18 at home.
The Week 12 clash is a big game, especially for the Giants. With both teams at 7-3, but with Dallas already having a win against them under their belts, New York cannot afford to fall further behind the Philadelphia Eagles, or the Cowboys. A loss to Dallas would give the Cowboys a season sweep and a leg up in any tiebreaker for playoff seeding.
Here are the keys to beating the Giants and ensuring Cowboys fans can enjoy their Thanksgiving for the first time in four years:
Stuff the run game
The Giants have one of the top rushing attacks in the league, ranking fourth while running for 157.2 yards per game. Having the NFL’s second-leading rusher in running back Saquon Barkley helps, but the offense also relies on quarterback Daniel Jones to move the ball on the ground.
Barkley’s success was expected as the second overall pick in 2018, and he’s having one of his best campaigns after a few injury-riddled seasons. Through 10 games, Barkley has 953 rushing yards, on pace to shatter his career-high, while averaging 4.5 yards per carry.
Jones, meanwhile, has pitched in for 437 yards, which is the fifth most for a quarterback this season. In addition, Jones has contributed four touchdowns with his legs. The Giants will use Jones as a runner in designed plays, but his athleticism also makes him dangerous when he’s pressured and escapes the pocket.
The Cowboys’ biggest weakness remains defending the run and slowing the running game of the Giants will be paramount to winning this game.
Feed Zeke and Tony Pollard
It’s never more appropriate to feed the running game than on Thanksgiving Day. The pass attack might be all the rage in the NFL these days, but the Cowboys’ offense still values running the ball. The Giants appear all too happy to oblige teams who are willing to run, allowing almost 136 yards per game on the ground. Last week, the New York defense gave up four scores on the ground to Detroit.
The Cowboys also run for just over 136 per game and with both Elliott and Pollard healthy, Dallas should be able to move the ball on the ground. In the first meeting in Week 3, the Cowboys ran for 176 yards and Elliott scored a touchdown on the ground. Elliott has scored a touchdown in five straight meetings against the Giants.
Through 10 games this season, there hasn’t been a better RB tandem than Elliott and Pollard, who compliment each other to propel the offense.
The duo accounted for four touchdowns against the Vikings and a tastier matchup with the Giants awaits. Coming into a short week, pounding the ball the ground could be a way to tire out the Giants, and the Cowboys should be able to run it right at New York.
Fill up on the turnovers
Dallas’ defense has one of best pass rushing groups that the league has seen in the last 25 years. With a league-leading 42 sacks, the Cowboys put pressure on quarterbacks at an extremely high rate. The defense also ranks seventh in forcing turnovers, and Giants QB Jones has a reputation for giving the ball away.
However, that hasn’t been the case this season. Jones owned the longest passing streak in the league without an interception until last week’s loss, where he threw two interceptions.
Jones was due for a few errant throws and if the Cowboys can force a new streak of games with an interception, it would help leave them fat and happy on Thanksgiving. The fourth year QB also hasn’t lost a fumble this season after losing six in his first three years under center.
If the Cowboys want to be thankful this year, they need to force Jones and the Giants into turnovers.
Come back for seconds
The Cowboys were winning games with backup quarterback Cooper Rush at the helm, but the offense wasn’t crisp. In those Dak-less contests, it was the defense who was leading the charge.
Now that starting quarterback Prescott has returned, the Cowboys offense is starting to pull their weight. Since Week 8, when Prescott rejoined the lineup, the Cowboys are near the top in every significant offensive category, which includes key metrics like third down and red zone efficiency, as well as points per drive.
It’s tough to beat a team that can keep their offense on the field, and when they’ve got the ball, they score touchdowns instead of kicking field goals. The offense is dominating with Prescott under center, and if the trends continue against the Giants, Cowboys fans will be enjoying their second helpings. Those will be guilt free leftovers for fans, instead of drowning their sorrows in an extra plate.
Do you think the Cowboys will be able to gobble up a Thanksgiving win? Share your predictions with Ben on Twitter @BenGrimaldi.