On paper, it is a dream matchup: The Giants and Cowboys, two of football’s most recognizable brands, both 7-3 and playing late Thanksgiving afternoon, traditionally the apex of regular-season NFL television ratings.
But circumstances have taken much of the shine off a game that fans of both teams have been anticipating for weeks.
The Cowboys are coming off a 40-3 road rout of the Vikings and are favored by more than a touchdown.
The Giants are coming off a 31-18 home loss to the Lions and are riddled with injuries, especially at wide receiver, offensive line and defensive secondary.
Not ideal. But the show will go on regardless, and the Giants still plan to participate.
“Throughout the year, we’ve shown ourselves as a resilient group, a tough group mentally and physically,” quarterback Daniel Jones said on Tuesday. “This is an opportunity to show that for us. We’re excited for it and we’re looking forward to getting down there.”
The short work week did the Giants no favors. They did not hold a single official practice, opting for walkthroughs to avoid any more physical wear and tear.
But other than that, playing on Thanksgiving is a thrill for many of them. Jones said he never has played on the holiday, even in high school.
“It’s great; it’s a great tribute,” coach Brian Daboll said. “You remember when you’re a kid, sitting down and watching television and the games and [John] Madden and turducken and all those type of things.”
This will be the Giants’ 16th game on Thanksgiving – all on the road – but after playing on the holiday in 1938 they did not appear again until 1982.
They won that year – thanks to a 97-yard interception return for a touchdown by Lawrence Taylor – but have lost their last three Thanksgiving games, in 1992, 2009 and ’17.
The last time the Giants scored an offensive touchdown on Thanksgiving? That would be Nov. 24, 1938, when Riverhead High School’s own Ed Danowksi threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Dale Burnett in a 7-7 tie with the Brooklyn Dodgers at Ebbets Field.
(Those Giants went on to beat the Packers, 23-17, in the NFL Championship Game.)
Can the Giants offense end that 84-year drought on Thursday at AT&T Stadium, with much of America watching? It will not be easy.
When the teams met in Week 3, the Cowboys’ fierce pass rush, led by DeMarcus Lawrence and Micah Parsons, gave the Giants fits in a 23-16 Dallas victory behind backup quarterback Cooper Rush.
Dallas has allowed the league’s fewest points per game (16.7) and passing yards per game (174.5) and leads the NFL with 42 sacks.
One key for the Giants figures to be getting Saquon Barkley going after the Lions held him to 22 yards on 15 carries.
The Cowboys offense features a powerful combination at running back in Tony Pollard and Ezekiel Elliott, and the makeshift Giants secondary will have to deal with Dak Prescott throwing to speedy CeeDee Lamb.
The Cowboys have averaged 39 points and 440 yards in their past three games.
Dallas even is good on special teams, with Brett Maher having kicked seven field goals of 50 or more yards.
This will be the first of four consecutive NFC East games for the Giants, whose record has them firmly in the playoff picture but whose short-term situation seems dire.
The Cowboys have won 10 of the last 11 games between the teams, including five in a row in Texas.
“It certainly is a challenge,” Jones said, “but I think it’s also a great opportunity for us to show who we are, show what we can do, show our toughness.”