When the Giants faced the Cowboys in Week 5, the game turned into a shootout as Dallas came away with a 37-34 victory to drop Big Blue to 0-5 on the season.
Now, it will all come down to the final game of the season. The winner of Sunday’s game will await the Sunday night matchup between Washington and Philadelphia, hoping for an Eagles win to clinch the division and a playoff berth.
But as head coach Joe Judge recognizes, a lot has changed for both teams since that Sunday in mid-October.
“These are two very different teams on the field [than they were in Week 5],” Judge said. “You can turn around and say there's a lot of the same players out there and some similar schemes, but if you look at the execution from both teams, both teams are completely different in a lot of ways.
“This is not the same team we played earlier in the year,” he added. “Notably, the pace they're playing is different and they way they're playing a balanced attack on offense. They got away from playing very up-tempo and they're not so much of a pass-heavy team at this point. The offense goes through [Ezekiel Elliot] and they've got explosive receivers on the outside.”
Much of the change in Dallas’s offensive game plan, of course, is due to the absence of Dak Prescott, whose season ended thanks to a broken leg he suffered in the previous matchup between the two teams. But Judge praised Cowboys offense coordinator for the way he’s been able to adjust.
“I think Kellen has done an outstanding job of mixing it up through the screen game and run game to create some shots down the field,” Judge said. “Obviously, this offense can pose a lot of issues.”
Prescott’s injury forced Andy Dalton into the starting role, and though he missed time with a concussion, he’s back under center and has the team on a three-game win streak heading into a pivotal Week 17 matchup.
“I think what stands out about Andy is he's extremely smart,” Judge said. “He's an extremely smart quarterback who puts them in the right place and knows where to go with the ball. He does a really good job of getting the ball out of his hands quickly which helps the protection negate the pass rush.”
Despite allowing 30 points per game on the season, the Cowboys defense has ramped things up defensively as late, as well. They’ve forced 10 turnovers during this three-game win streak, and Judge knows they’ll need to take care of the ball if they want to come out on top.
“I think turnovers is what's really separating them in how they've played lately from earlier in the year,” Judge said. “This team's making a lot of plays in pass-rushing off the edge, the linebackers inside are making a lot of plays, the young defensive interior has really stepped up. This team's really made a lot of gains defensively, and we've got a lot to analyze as we make our way through this week of practice.”