5 things to watch as Giants face Cowboys in Week 12 of 2022 NFL season

Nov 13, 2022; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley (26) runs with the ball against the Houston Texans during the first quarter at MetLife Stadium.
Nov 13, 2022; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley (26) runs with the ball against the Houston Texans during the first quarter at MetLife Stadium. / Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Perhaps this short week will relieve the Giants of the anguish of dwelling too long on their debacle against the Detroit Lions last Sunday. There’s no time to wallow, considering that Micah Parsons, Dak Prescott and the rest of the talented Dallas Cowboys loom on Thanksgiving Day in a key NFC East matchup of 7-3 teams at AT&T Stadium.

The game is key for division positioning, considering the Giants and Cowboys both trail the high-flying Philadelphia Eagles, who are in first place at 9-1, by two games.

This will be the 16th time the Giants have played on Thanksgiving Day and they are 7-5-3 so far, but have lost three consecutive times. Their last turkey day win came in the same game Lawrence Taylor had one of his prime career highlights – a 97-yard interception return for the winning touchdown against the Detroit Lions in 1982.

Omen, anyone? Hey, after last week, we’ll latch on to anything. Here are five things to watch on Thanksgiving Day while you transition from drumstick and pumpkin pie:

Gold rush

The Cowboys have the most sacks in the NFL (42) and have four different players with at least five, so it’s not like the Giants can key on Parsons only, though he has 10 by himself. That ranks third in the NFL. He’s never sacked a Giant, though, in three previous games against them. But there’s a lot more for Big Blue’s banged up offensive line to cope with here, including Dorance Armstrong Jr. (seven sacks), DeMarcus Lawrence (six) and Dante Fowler Jr. (five).

All that heat on the passer has helped Dallas rank first in pass defense (174.5 yards per game) and first in scoring defense (16.7 points). The Giants had three turnovers in the loss to Detroit last week and they have to be sure Dallas’ pass rush can’t create giveaways this week. Daniel Jones has been sacked 30 times, the fourth-most in the NFL.

Run for hope

We saw last week what happens when Saquon Barkley is a non-factor for the Giants, so getting him loose is paramount against Dallas. Barkley (953 yards) is second to Derrick Henry in rushing this season, and the Giants are ranked fourth in rushing offense overall (157.2 yards per game). This is one spot – on paper, anyway – where they have an advantage over Dallas. The Cowboys are 26th against the run, allowing an average of 136.1 yards.

Of course, the Cowboys know that Barkley’s coming -- so did the Lions, and they schemed to stop him. It worked. Barkley had a season-low 22 yards on 15 tries last week. If the Cowboys can do it, too, it might be up to Jones (1-4 as a starter against Dallas) to propel the offense.

Nov 20, 2022; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones (8) throws against the Detroit Lions in the second half at MetLife Stadium.
Nov 20, 2022; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones (8) throws against the Detroit Lions in the second half at MetLife Stadium. / Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Douse Dak’s attack

In the four games since he returned from injury in Week 7, Dak Prescott has notched a passer rating of 113.2 or better three times, and the Cowboys have averaged 35.3 points. Last week, they slaughtered the then-8-1 Minnesota Vikings, 40-3.

The Cowboys have a high-octane offense highlighted by Tony Pollard, who is fifth in the NFL with 5.9 yards per rushing attempt. He’s scored six touchdowns on the ground and two via reception. Ezekiel Elliott might not be what he once was, but he can still be a punishing runner and he’s rushed for six TDs, too. CeeDee Lamb leads Dallas with 58 catches and five TD receptions. Last week’s injury-fest against the Lions included cornerbacks Adoree’ Jackson and Fabian Moreau getting hurt, and Jackson has already been ruled out for Thursday.

Wide out(s)

The Giants lost a key part of their passing game against the Lions when receiver Wan’Dale Robinson suffered a torn ACL, a season-ending injury. It’s too bad, because he was continuing to emerge and had nine catches for 100 yards before getting hurt. So this week we again encounter a long-running theme for Big Blue – who’s going to catch the ball?

Figure on Darius Slayton, who had five catches on 10 targets last week, to get plenty of looks. Kenny Golladay’s weird year had a positivity uptick Sunday when he heard cheers from Giants fans on two catches for 29 yards. Maybe he gets more chances. Richie James and Isaiah Hodgins are two other options.

And let’s not forget this nugget – Giants versus Cowboys is a matchup between the two teams that are reportedly going to host visits by free agent receiver Odell Beckham Jr. Think he’ll be watching and perhaps gauging his best opportunity?

Welcome returns?

Who knows if this is possible because of the short week, but at some point the Giants expect to get offensive lineman Evan Neal back from injury. Neal was projected as limited in Tuesday’s walk-through. Linebacker Azeez Ojulari is eligible to come off injured reserve for the Dallas game, though it’s unclear when he’ll play. Based on all the players who were hurt against Detroit, the Giants could use a health boost from a recovering player or two.