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2022 NFL season: Four things to watch for in Cowboys-Giants on 'Monday Night Football'

Dallas Cowboys
2022 · 1-1-0
New York Giants
2022 · 2-0-0

Week 3 concludes on Monday night with an NFC East rivalry game between the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Giants, but it's been a one-sided affair the past four seasons.

The Cowboys own a 9-1 record in the past 10 games against the Giants. Six of those wins have been by 14 points or more and last season Dallas won both games by a combined 39 points, but the Giants have momentum going into this one by virtue of rookie head coach Brian Daboll's undefeated start thru two games.

The last time the Giants entered a matchup versus the Cowboys with a better record than their rivals was Week 7 of the 2015 season, but New York must overcome a 10-game losing streak in prime time in order to get Daboll to 3-0, which would pit him with Dan Reeves (1993) as the only Giants coaches to win their first three games with the team.

Now that the table is set, here are four things to watch when the Giants host the Cowboys on Monday night:

  1. Giant reinforcements. First-year defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale has done an impressive job so far by scheming up a stingy defense that has allowed 18.0 points per game through two weeks, and he’s done it without the Giants’ featured edge rushers. With Azeez Ojulari and rookie Kayvon Thibodeaux set for their 2022 debuts on Monday night, the Giants defense gets a first look at their true potential. The G-Men have just three sacks (T-23rd in NFL) through two games, which is atypical of a Martindale unit, and the pass-rushing duo figures add an element that’s been missing not only this season but of those in recent past. Ojulari led the team in sacks (8.0) as a rookie last year and the Giants selected Thibodeaux with the No. 5 overall pick in order to secure a solid tandem for the future. Wreaking havoc off the edge should aid a green Giants secondary that has been eased into the 2022 season after facing Titans and Panthers passing attacks that ranked in the bottom seven in yards per game through two weeks. Ojulari and Thibodeaux will be going up against young Cowboys offensive tackles in rookie Tyler Smith and Terence Steele, and these matchups alone might be the difference.
  2. Cooper Rush’s precarious quest. Dallas’ backup quarterback earned some respect last week after momentarily saving the Cowboys’ season from certain turmoil with a win over the Bengals. Rush accomplished that feat by simply avoiding any major mistakes, but those results often change under the bright lights of a prime-time road game for second-stringers. In all likelihood Rush will again take whatever the defense gives him in New York, but he'll again have to rely on CeeDee Lamb, Noah Brown and Tony Pollard with Michael Gallup (knee) still out. That trio had an important hand in Rush’s big win; even preventing that one dreaded mistake from happening on a couple of occasions while accounting for 221 of the QB’s 235 passing yards combined. Continuing that production could boost Rush into rarified air as he aims to keep the Cowboys afloat. With a win and 190 passing yards on Monday night, Rush would join Hall of Famer Kurt Warner as the only undrafted QBs since 1950 to go 3-0 in their first three starts while throwing for 750-plus yards in the process, per NFL Research. With Dak Prescott aiding him on the sidelines, the 28-year-old Rush certainly hasn’t advertised the poise of a QB that’s afraid to get there. 
  3. Can Saquon Barkley get some help? There’s a clear correlation between the Giants’ undefeated start and that of the Giants’ star running back. Barkley enters Week 3 as the NFL’s leading rusher with 236 yards and stands second in total scrimmage yards with 282. Going up against a Cowboys defense that has allowed 120.5 rushing yards per game on 4.2 yards per carry so far, the X-factor for the Giants in this matchup is just as apparent. According to Next Gen Stats, Barkley has 86 rushing yards over expectation, 137 rush yards after contact and has 20 touches in back-to-back games within the same season for the first time since Weeks 16-17 in 2019. What’s behind Barkley’s resurgence can range from the 25-year-old finally being healthy after two lost years to Daboll’s commitment to getting the ball in his hands. Maintaining this type of production will get tougher as opponents zero in on No. 26, but his threat should also open things up for quarterback Daniel Jones. Daboll made a name for himself in Buffalo by helping make Josh Allen into what he is today. Jones, who’s lite version of Allen at best given his dual-threat capabilities, needs to take advantage in the early throes of a prove-it season.
  4. Micah Parsons looks to right a wrong versus Giants. With 17.0 sacks in his first 18 career games, Parsons needs three in his next two games to become the fastest player to reach the 20-sack mark since the stat became official in 1982. The Cowboys pass rusher has notched two sacks in each game this season so far and another such outing in Week 3 would make Parsons the third player in NFL history to accomplish that amazing feat, joining Hall of Famer Kevin Greene and Mark Gastineau, who set the single-season sack record that season in 1984, per NFL Research. The numbers support Parsons’ eye-opening emergence as one of the league’s best young talents, and comparisons with HOF Lawrence Taylor on the MNF broadcast are sure to be had as the 23-year-old revisits Meadowlands. Getting sacks against the Giants has been an early struggle for Parsons, however, as New York is the only team to hold him to zero sacks in multiple tries. With Giants tackles Andrew Thomas and rookie Evan Neal looking stout so far, Parsons will be challenged as he looks to get over this giant hump and make history.

Follow Michael Baca on Twitter @mikebaca2.

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