The Dallas Cowboys look to rebound from their heartbreaking to the NFC East-leading Philadelphia Eagles against another divisional rival in the New York Giants. This time around the Cowboys offense will be facing off against a depleted Giants roster after they lost starting quarterback Daniel Jones to a knee injury and tight end Darren Waller to a hamstring.
The Cowboys also won't have to worry about defensive tackle Leonard Williams, who was traded to the Seattle Seahawks before the deadline.
The Giants offense has been abysmal this season, averaging 11.2 points per game making it the worst offense in the league. Their defense isn't any better, giving up 24.1 points per game which comes in as the 24th-ranked defense in the league. Now without their most productive passer and pass-catcher, the Cowboys should be able to make easy work of the Giants and try to get their offensive line back on track along with their running game.
But this is a divisional game, so anything can happen. With that in mind, let's look at a few key matchups and x-factor players that should have a major role in determining whether the Cowboys will walk out winners or losers this weekend.
3 key Cowboys offensive matchups
Jake Ferguson vs. Xavier McKinney
The receiving emergence from Ferguson has been something Cowboys fans and this coaching staff have been to see since the beginning of the season. Now that it's happeneing opposing teams now have to be cognisant of where Ferguson is on the field. This week he should draw quite a few matchups against safety Xavier McKinney. McKinney is a good player but this season in coverage hasn't been his best with teams completing 21-32 passes for a 65.6% completion percentage this season.
Ferguson's speed may not challenge McKinney but his effective route running can. If the Cowboys are able to get Ferguson going early, they will take a lot of the pressure off of quarterback Dak Prescott and wide receiver CeeDee Lamb. At the same time continuing to grow Ferguson's confidence on the field and allowing head coach Mike McCarthy to open up the playbook a bit more.
Tyler Biadasz vs. Dexter Lawrence
Cowboys center Tyler Biadasz hasn't been playing his best football this season and it shows in the Cowboys' lackluster running game and pass protection. We've seen how big and physical defensive tackles give Biadasz fits and he will be going up against Dexter Lawrence who is a load to handle in both the running and passing game. If the Cowboys want to have any chance and making noise in the playoffs they need Biadasz to step up his game because the three sacks, and 8 pressures he's given up this season aren't helping Prescott.
If Biadasz wants to stick around with the Cowboys after this season he needs to start showing that he can handle strong and physical defensive tackles. Lawrence is a perfect opportunity to do just that. If he can't then Prescott is going to have a lot of pressure in his face from Lawrence stopping him from stepping up in the pocket to make plays in the passing game.
Terence Steele vs. Kayvon Thibodeaux
As much as I want to bash Terence Steele I'm not going to because he is a year removed from a serious knee injury. Most players take two years to really come back from a knee injury like Steele suffered but right now he's playing and is going to be facing off Kayvon Thibodeaux if the Giants are smart. Steele has had issues all throughout his career dealing with quick defensive ends and outside linebackers and Thibodeaux is just that and he's coming into this game with 8.5 sacks on the season.
Look for the Cowboys to give him help with a tight end on that side but there will be times when he will be on an island and will have to hold his own. If he can keep Thibodeaux at bay, then this passing offense should be able to pick apart this Giants secondary. If he can start to generate more push in the running game that will be even better as that's another area of his game that has suffered since returning from his knee injury.