Can they keep up?
Judging from what transpired the past five weeks and, really, for much longer than that, the answer is no.
For the Giants to keep alive their strange-but-true playoff-aspiration reality, the answer might have to be yes.
“Obviously, this is a big game for us being that it’s a rivalry game, a divisional game, and obviously, there’s a lot at stake,’’ head coach Joe Judge said Wednesday.
The Cowboys, amid an up-and-mostly-down season, have displayed a proven ability to score, early, often and in bunches, especially lately. Unless the Giants defense, not exactly flying to the finish, can slow this roll, their highly unproductive offense is going to be engaged in something resembling a shoot-out Sunday at MetLife Stadium. Again, the question: Can they keep up?
“We’re confident as an offense,’’ quarterback Daniel Jones, who revealed his lingering hamstring issue prevents him from running, said Wednesday. “We’ve got to take advantage of our opportunities to score points, particularly when we get the ball in the red zone and move the ball down there. We’re certainly confident in our ability to do that and score points.’’
Where does this confidence come from? The Giants in their current three-game losing streak are averaging 8.7 points.
“Well, we have done it, at times,’’ Jones said. “We need to be more consistent with it, we need to finish those opportunities. We got the guys capable to do it. We’ve done it in spurts this year and it’s gonna take our best game Sunday and that’s certainly what we’re preparing for.’’
The Giants, briefly, found a formula for success in a four-game winning streak centered on limiting the opponent to 20 or fewer points and scoring just a shade more than that. As the points given up on defense trended upward, the Giants’ attack faltered and the losing returned.
It is not likely the Giants can rely on their old way of winning in their regular-season finale.
The reason? The Cowboys (6-9) are on a roll — offensively, that is. Scoring 30, 41 and 37 points in their current three-game winning streak means the Giants (5-10) might have to engage in some sort of high-scoring affair to stay close and have a chance to get into the playoffs. The Giants win the NFC East if they beat the Cowboys and the Eagles defeat Washington on Sunday night.
The only time the Giants were involved in a scoring spree this season was the Oct. 11 game at AT&T Stadium, won by the Cowboys 37-34 on Greg Zuerlein’s field goal as time expired. The Giants were not exactly able to hang in, as far as production, as they needed points from their defense — a 46-yard interception return for a touchdown by linebacker Kyler Fackrell — to help build a 17-3 lead that did not last very long.
If the need for points drifts upward and gets into the 30s — the Giants reached that total only once this season and average 17.1 points — it could get sticky.
The good news for the Giants on defense is, after two of the past three weeks trying to corral Kyler Murray and Lamar Jackson, they do not have to deal with a whirling dervish at quarterback this time around. Andy Dalton can move but he is not a runner. There is no need for him to take off, given he has so many better options as ball-carriers.
“We’ve faced all forms and fashions of quarterbacks this year and this is definitely a more traditional quarterback in Andy Dalton,’’ safety Logan Ryan said. “We’re not going to discredit [running back] Ezekiel Elliott, I think the offense goes through him, but they have weapons at receiver, they have a quarterback who gets the ball out quick, a quarterback who’s extremely smart, he’s taking care of the ball.
“We’re not playing Lamar Jackson triple-option football that we played last week with the run game, the scheme, so we might as well burn that tape up, throw it out the window, it’s not going to help us this week.’’
Elliott is now healthy, closing in on another 1,000-yard rushing season (he is at 937 yards). He had 91 yards and two touchdowns against the Giants in the first meeting, and his backup, Tony Pollard, is more than capable. Dalton has, far and away, the best group of receivers in the division, featuring Amari Cooper, rookie DeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup. All three targets have five touchdown receptions this season. The Giants leader in this department, Darius Slayton, has three touchdown catches. If too many point are needed, the Giants figure to be in trouble.
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