The New York Giants are 4-2 and winners of three straight games after a slow start to the season. This Monday night the Giants travel to Dallas to take on their hated rivals, the Dallas Cowboys in a divisional showdown on national television. Dallas was picked by nearly all media outlets to not only win the NFC East, but to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl, which would have been a home game for them this season. However, Dallas has struggled mightily out of the gates and currently find themselves with a 1-4 mark, stuck in the basement of the NFC East. Can the Giants continue their winning streak by hammering another nail into the coffin of the Dallas Cowboys’ 2010 season? Here are the key to victory:
Rush the Passer - One of the weak spots on the Cowboys’ roster in 2010 has been their offensive line, which has been unable to give quarterback Tony Romo adequate time to throw. Romo has only been sacked seven times, but he has been hit often and rushed into bad decisions regularly. This is good news for the Giants, because they are second in the NFL with 21 sacks and excel at getting after the opponent’s quarterback. I expect another big game from Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora, whose 8.0 sacks rank second in the NFL and seven forced fumbles rank first overall by a wide margin. Romo is tied for 3rd in the league with seven interceptions thrown, and he is playing with an injured thumb on his throwing hand, so he will make poor decisions when the pressure is on.
Run the Football - Giants tailback Ahmad Bradshaw is the 3rd leading rusher in the NFL, having gained 582 yards this season, and the Giants rush offense ranks 5th best in the NFL as a unit. Dallas has a solid rush defense, which has just allowed 100.8 yards per game so far in 2010, 10th best in the league in that category. If the Giants can establish the run, and the offensive line can open up lanes for Bradshaw, the Giants will control the clock and win this game. A combination of Bradshaw and the powerful Brandon Jacobs should get the job done in Dallas on Monday night, behind another strong performance by the Giants offensive line.
Block DeMarcus Ware - Dallas has one of the best pass rushers in the NFL in rush linebacker DeMarcus Ware, but as a unit the Cowboys only have 12 sacks and 2 interceptions. The Giants will use reserve lineman Shawn Andrews as a tight end to help the offensive line handle Ware, who has 7.0 of Dallas’ 12.0 team sacks. If the Giants are able to keep Ware from pressuring quarterback Eli Manning, Dallas has no other pass rushing threats, and Manning should have all day to pick apart the weak Dallas secondary.
Throw the Football - The Cowboys have the fourth ranked pass defense in the NFL, allowing just 181 yards per game, a stat that surprised me. However, Dallas does average 7.2 yards per attempt and has only two interceptions this season, so their lack of playmakers can be exposed. Giants wideout Hakeem Nicks was quiet last week, catching just three passes for eight yards, and I expect much more out of him on Monday night. Steve Smith and Mario Manningham should help as well, and the Giants should gain some easy yardage through the air once early on against a secondary that has struggled early in games this season.
Keep Stopping the Run - The Giants have one of the top defenses in the league against the run, as opponents are averaging just 3.5 yards per carry against Big Blue, the third lowest average in the NFL. Dallas, meanwhile has the 27th ranked rush offense in the NFL, having gained just 475 yards on the ground in 2010. This was suppsed to be tailback Felix Jones’ breakout year for Dallas, but he cannot seem to get anything going, and it is clear power back Marion Barber has lost a step. The Giants need to keep doing what they have been doing against the run, so Barry Cofield, Jonathan Goff and Chris Canty need to shut down the Dallas ground game, forcing Dallas to throw the ball under pressure from the Giants outstanding pass rush.
Dallas Beats Themselves - When I looked at the Cowboys’ season statistics, they were much more impressive than I ever imagined a 1-4 team would have. The only stat where Dallas has struggled as a team has been rushing yards, where they average just 95.0 per game, which is a significant statistic, because they have been unable to control the clock. They are 4th in the league in passing yards, 4th in passing yards allowed and 10th in opponent’s rushing yards, all fairly impressive statistics that make me think they are an efficient team. The main problem has been the Cowboys has been penalties, as they have made the third most in the league with 49, and many have been costly and at the wrong time such as late hits and excessive celebration. Dallas also has been killed by bad turnovers at the wrong times, like Romo being picked off twice on what could have been scoring drives by Minnesota linebacker E.J. Henderson last weekend, leading to 10 Vikings points. Dallas fans have felt the way Giants fans felt after the week three home loss to the Titans all week long. We were the better team, we out gained them and outplayed them in all facets of the game, but we still lost because we are undisciplined. I usually do not condone this, but talking some trash and getting physical with the Cowboys on Monday night could cause a desperate team to make some mistakes, which would be a major advantage for the Giants.
Prediction - I think this will be a close one, as Dallas is very desperate at this point, and should play well at home on Monday night. I expect the Giants to play physical football and run the ball offensively, and rush Tony Romo into some mistakes with pressure defensively. Overall, I think this game will come down to a final drive where Dallas is within striking distance, but a mistake or turnover forced by the Giants pass rush wins them this game. Giants 24 Dallas 20 in a nail biter.Ahmad Bradshaw, Barry Cofield, Brandon Jacobs, Chris Canty, Eli Manning, Felix Jones, Hakeem Nicks, Jonathan Goff, Marion Barber, Osi Umenyiora, Shawn Andrews, Steve Smith, Tony Romo
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