Beyond the New York Giants trying to avoid a season sweep, there will be many things to keep an eye on when they take on the Dallas Cowboys.
EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY—The New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys will meet for the 113th time on Sunday at MetLife Stadium. The Cowboys currently lead the series 65-45-2.
Other than each team wanting to defeat a bitter division rival, there’s little at stake on Sunday. The Cowboys have clinched the NFC East and the fourth seed in the playoffs. The Giants will begin their offseason at the conclusion of Sunday’s game.
Despite Sunday’s game being essentially meaningless, there are still several things to keep an eye on.
1. Will Saquon Barkley become the third rookie running back to have 2,000 all-purpose yards?
Saquon Barkley has more than lived up to the hype surrounding him when the Giants took him with the second pick in the draft. He set a franchise rookie record for most touchdowns (14) and was voted to his first Pro Bowl team.
With 114 all-purpose yards on Sunday, Barkley will join Eric Dickerson (1983) and Edgerrin James (1999) as the third rookie running back to have 2,000 all-purpose yards.
The Giants may not admit this publicly, but they know Barkley is close to accomplishing this feat. They’ll make sure to get him the ball often.
2. Can Saquon set the rookie running back receptions record?
Sunday can be a historic day for Barkley in more ways than one. He currently has 87 receptions, which is one shy of the rookie running back receptions record held by Reggie Bush (88).
Considering that Barkley has had at least two receptions in every game this season, it’s a safe bet that he’ll break Bush’s record.
3. Will this be Eli Manning’s last game as a Giant?
This is the burning question that will be on the minds of Giants fans leading up to and after the game on Sunday. There’s a possibility that Eli Manning’s 15-year career as a Giant may come to an end.
This week head coach Pat Shurmur was asked how he feels about how Manning has played over the last month.
“Eli has been doing some really good things. I think we as a team, and I think it’s fair to say about the quarterback too, we’re real close, and we’ve got to find a way to take these wins at the end. I think he’s contributing in a really good way, so that’s what I would say about Eli. In terms of evaluating, we evaluate everything moving forward, all positions and all position groups. That’s nothing new, that starts back in the spring and follows through all the way through the season.”
Shurmur, ownership, and general manager Dave Gettleman will base their decision on whether to bring Manning back on how he’s played the entire season as opposed to one game. But a strong game by Manning on Sunday will bode well for his future with the franchise.
4. How long will the Cowboys play their starters?
The Cowboys have nothing to gain on Sunday other than sweeping the season series from the Giants for the second year in a row. But knowing they’ll host a home playoff game the following week, it’s likely the Cowboys will sit or only play their star players for a few series on Sunday.
With a chance of rain or snow on Sunday, you have to wonder if or how long the Cowboys will play Ezekiel Elliott, Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, Jaylon Smith, and Leighton Vander Esch.
5. Will Kyle Lauletta be active?
It would make sense for the Giants to get him into the last game of the season so that they have more game film on him. Also, they would be able to see if he’s made any progression since his 0-5, one-interception performance against the Redskins.
If the Cowboys don’t play or take out their starters early in the game, it would be ideal to use Lauletta in the second half and see how he responds. This would also allow the fans at MetLife Stadium a chance to give Manning a standing ovation as he comes off the field for perhaps the last time as Giant.
6. Can the Giants avoid going 1-5 in the division for the second year in a row?
With pride on the line, the Giants want to avoid another season sweep at the hands of the Cowboys. They also want to avoid going 1-5 in the division for the second straight year.
As disappointing as the last two seasons have been, getting swept again by the Cowboys and going 2-10 in the division the last two years would just further the embarrassment. The Giants need to find a way to win and prevent another season sweep.