Dak Prescott’s long-term future with the Dallas Cowboys has become more of a topic of conversation lately, but there’s no debating his success against the New York Giants.
The polarizing veteran quarterback’s introduction to this storied rivalry didn’t go so well, as Prescott put forth lackluster performances in a pair of Dallas defeats as a rookie in 2016.
He hasn’t lost to the Giants since, winning 10 straight starts in the series to record the second-longest current winning streak of any active signal-caller against a single opponent.
ACTIVE QBs LONGEST ACTIVE WIN STREAKS VS. ANY OPPONENT (REGULAR SEASON)
- 1. Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs vs. Denver Broncos (11)
- 2. Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys vs. New York Giants (10)
- T-3. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers/New York Jets vs. Chicago Bears (8)
- T-3. Jimmy Garoppolo, San Francisco 49ers/Las Vegas Raiders vs. Los Angeles Rams (8)
- T-3. Jared Goff, Los Angeles Rams/Detroit Lions vs. Arizona Cardinals (8)
Over those 10 games, Prescott has completed 67.4% of his attempts with 22 touchdown passes, just five interceptions and a 109.7 passer rating – numbers that helped land him that $160 million contract extension that threatens to put the Cowboys in a difficult numbers crunch regarding the 2024 salary cap.
Then again, it hasn’t mattered much who has been under center during a series Dallas has thoroughly dominated the last six years with 11 victories in 12 meetings. That includes a 23-16 win in East Rutherford last September on ESPN with Cooper Rush subbing for an injured Prescott.
Beating the NFC East’s goliaths has been a nonstop challenge for the Giants over the years, and that didn’t change during head coach Brian Daboll’s inaugural 2022 season which was otherwise an unquestioned success. Though New York went 10-8-1 overall while capturing its first playoff win since 2011, five of those losses came in five overall meetings with the Cowboys and defending conference champion Philadelphia Eagles.
Dropping NFC East games has been an all too common occurrence for the Giants, who own the third-lowest winning percentage in division play since 2017:
LOWEST WINNING PERCENTAGE IN DIVISION GAMES SINCE 2017
- New York Jets (7-29; .194)
- Denver Broncos (10-26; .278)
- New York Giants (10-25-1; .292)
- Washington Commanders (11-24-1; .319)
Dallas, on the other hand, has been among the league’s most successful teams within its division over that six-year span. The Cowboys are 27-9 in intra-division games during that period, with only the juggernaut Chiefs (31-5 versus the AFC West) producing a superior record.
It’s a hump the Giants need to get over in order to progress further in Year 2 of the Daboll era, which begins with a clash against the visiting Cowboys on NBC’s Sunday Night Football in NFL Week 1. It’s one of the games projected to be a “good game” (65-84) in terms of its excitement level, according to SmartRatings.
But to do so, they’ll need to win at least a couple of pivotal in-game matchups.
The Cowboys’ Key to Success: The Giants were arguably the NFL’s least explosive team in 2022, as their 43 plays of 20 or more yards were the fewest in the league. The offense can be effective when it’s methodically efficient, as evidenced by New York’s 7-0 record in games when it converted 40% or better on third-down attempts (that includes the win over the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC playoffs).
Of course, third downs are easier to convert when they’re third-and-short with Saquon Barkley in the backfield, so it’s imperative for the Giants to keep the third-and-long situations to a minimum to increase their chances of sustaining drives.
That could be a challenge against a Dallas defense that should hold one commanding advantage based on last year’s numbers.
The Cowboys generated an overall pressure rate of 43.7% in 2022, tied with Jacksonville for the best in the NFL, while the Giants’ suspect offensive line allowed pressures (plays where the quarterback is sacked, hit, knocked down or hurried) at a league-worst rate of 44.9%.
Dallas registered 31 sacks on first and second downs last season, tied with the Eagles for tops in the league. New York surrendered 31 sacks on first and second downs – fifth most in the NFL.
The Cowboys were relentless in their harassment of quarterback Daniel Jones in last season’s first matchup between the teams, tallying 28 pressures with a pressure rate of 57.1%. The constant duress resulted in Jones completing a season-low 54.1% of his pass attempts for a pedestrian 196 yards with a 57.9 passer rating.
It’s no secret the Cowboys possess one of the league’s premier defensive game-changers in Micah Parsons, who parlayed a second straight season of at least 13 sacks into a runner-up finish for the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year award and was among the best at putting heat on the quarterback.
PRESSURE RATE LEADERS IN 2022 (MIN. 200 PASS RUSH SNAPS)
- Jaelan Phillips, Miami Dolphins (27.5)
- Trey Hendrickson, Cincinnati Bengals (27.2)
- Micah Parsons, Dallas Cowboys (27.1)
- Brandon Graham, Philadelphia Eagles (26.0)
- Myles Garrett, Cleveland Browns (24.8)
While Parsons is an obvious handful for any team, the Giants actually had more trouble containing counterpart DeMarcus Lawrence in last year’s meetings. Lawrence totaled 15 pressures over the two games and sacked Jones three times in Dallas’ Week 3 win.
It helped that Lawrence predominantly lines up on the left side and was often matched up against one of the league’s most ineffective right tackles in then-rookie Evan Neal. The Giants are counting on a big step forward from the 2022 No. 7 overall pick after a debut season in which he finished last in pressure rate allowed among players at his position with 150 or more pass-protection snaps.
Protecting Jones adequately will be an absolute necessity for the Giants, who were 6-0-1 last season (including the playoffs) when yielding 15 pressures or less and holding opponents to a pressure rate below 40%.
The Giants’ Key to Success: It will be interesting to see how a revamped New York secondary that will be starting two rookie cornerbacks – first-round pick Deonte Banks and sixth-rounder Tre Hawkins – fares against a Cowboys receiving corps that should be better than its 2022 edition after acquiring Brandin Cooks from the Houston Texans to be the trustworthy No. 2 option for Prescott behind CeeDee Lamb that Michael Gallup frankly wasn’t last season.
The Giants’ bigger issue on the defensive side, however, is that they were too often manhandled by opponents in the running game last season.
New York finished 31st in the NFL in yards per rush attempt allowed (5.23) and surrendered an average of 3.4 yards before contact on running plays, also near the bottom of the league. When we last saw Wink Martindale’s unit, it was getting shredded for 268 yards on the ground by the Super Bowl-bound Eagles in a lopsided playoff loss.
The Cowboys also ran at will on the Giants last season. Tony Pollard and Ezekiel Elliott combined for 178 yards on 28 rush attempts (6.4 yards per carry) in the teams’ first clash and teamed up for 152 yards in Dallas’ 28-20 Thanksgiving Day win.
Elliott has since taken his trademark ‘Feed Me’ routine to New England, though that may not be a bad thing for the Cowboys since Pollard was by far the more effective member of the duo and is now in line for an increased role.
In fact, Pollard was one of the most dangerous backs in the entire NFL during a breakout 2022 campaign in which he was given more of a chance to display his impressive power and elusiveness. His average of 2.59 yards after contact was third among players with 100 or more carries, while his big-play capabilities were nearly unmatched by everyone at his position:
HIGHEST PERCENTAGE OF RUSH ATTEMPTS OF 10+ YARDS IN 2022 (MIN. 100 ATT.)
- Khalil Herbert, Chicago Bears (17.1)
- Tony Pollard, Dallas Cowboys (16.1)
- Nick Chubb, Cleveland Browns (15.6)
- Raheem Mostert, Miami Dolphins (14.9)
- Aaron Jones, Green Bay Packers (14.6)
The Giants did take steps toward upgrading their run defense during the offseason. New nose tackle A’Shawn Robinson’s run disruption rate of 29.3% ranked in the top 10 among interior defensive linemen with at least 125 plays against the run last season, and Bobby Okereke, who came over from the Indianapolis Colts, should bring more stability to an inside linebacker group that’s been largely substandard over several coaching regimes.
Containing Pollard has to be a major priority for the Giants. And if the 2022 version of Prescott still exists, New York may actually be happy to have the Cowboys throwing the ball more.
Turnovers were a problem at times for Dallas’ franchise quarterback last season, as he threw a career-high 15 interceptions and posted a pickable pass percentage of 5.54 that stood as the highest rate of any player with 250 or more pass attempts.
Whether that was an anomaly or a concerning trend remains to be seen. Prescott’s combined interception rate between 2018-21 was a very good 1.7% before he more than doubled that mark in 2022.
For a Cowboys team that’s harboring championship expectations that seem quite realistic, you can bet the Jones family is hoping – and banking – on the former being true.