This is it. All the marbles are on the line Sunday night when the Dallas Cowboys come into MetLife stadium to take on the New York Giants in a one-game winner takes all showdown for the NFC East divisional crown. Both teams are 8-7, and both can only get into the postseason with a win in this game, as the Wild Card positions are officially off the table to Detroit and Atlanta.
The Giants took the first meeting in thrilling fashion, storming back from two possessions down with less than six minutes remaining in the game to win 37-34 on a Jason Pierre-Paul blocked field goal in the final seconds.
Eli Manning, Tony Romo, DeMarcus Ware, Jason Pierre-Paul, Miles Austin, Hakeem Nicks – want more names? The superstars will be out in full force on Sunday night as the two long-time rivals leave everything they have out on the field for the final postseason spot in the NFC.
Come out aggressive on offense from the first possession
The Giants are going to have a very rowdy, very enthusiastic crowd behind them to start this game. It’s going to be a difficult environment for Dallas to walk into and find success early, and it’s something the Giants would benefit from greatly if they are able to take advantage.
New York needs to come out sharp and aggressive on offense, and let Eli Manning drop back and try and take the wind out of Dallas early. If the Giants can come out and get on the scoreboard first, this New York crowd will become all the more difficult for Dallas to deal with, and that could really set the tone for the entire game as we’ve seen so many times in the National Football League in what is essentially a playoff game.
Putting Tony Romo and this Dallas offense behind the 8 ball after a hot start is the number one scenario the Giants would like to see on Sunday night – as they will then be able to unleash the wolves with a Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck, Chris Canty, Osi Umenyiora front line in passing situations.
Look to neutralize Dez Bryant defensively
Miles Austin is a pro-bowl caliber receiver, no question about it. He’s strong, agile and capable of damage after the catch, particularly in the red zone. That said – Dez Bryant is the explosive, game-breaking receiver on this Dallas offense that has the capability to dominate and break open a football game with just two or three touches of the football – similar to what you saw Victor Cruz do against the Jets.
If the Giants want to limit the big play in this game, it starts with shifting the secondary’s attention to wherever Dez Bryant is lined up. He has to be a priority for this Giants defense.
Incorporate more 3-step drops, swing passes, and the screen game to take advantage of an aggressive Dallas front
Everyone playing and coaching in this game knows exactly what Rob Ryan likes to do defensively – switch up the looks he gives opposing offenses up front, and bring blitzers from different angles and into different gaps to rattle the quarterback and take him out of rhythm early.
Now, the hard part is clearly doing something about it. I look for the Giants to try and get the running backs in space with the swing pass, throw the quick screen out to Nicks and Cruz, and allow Eli Manning to get back and hit the slant route over 1 on 1 coverage with blitzers coming up the middle. If they can catch the Cowboys on a blitz pre-snap, look for Manning to capitalize.
Force Tony Romo to make plays from the pocket
You heard it from Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora and the guys along the Giants offensive line all week. They want to keep Romo in the pocket as much as possible in this game – as it’s no secret he’s most dangerous when he breaks free to the outsides and can allow the coverage to break down downfield and suddenly find a man streaking 60 yards over the middle of the field.
From the pocket, Romo is forced to look over Dallas’ tall interior lineman and make his reads quicker with (hopefully) pressure up the middle. This takes away some of his playmaking ability and would certainly take some pressure off this Giants secondary in the ballgame.
THE GIANTS WILL WIN THIS GAME IF…
They are efficient with their red zone opportunities and can limit Dallas’ big plays. The Giants can move the football on this Dallas defense – but have had a tendency all year to trade touchdowns for field goals and miss out on opportunities to pull away in football games. I don’t think they will get away with that in a game of this magnitude against an offense that can hit the quick strike touchdown with their playmakers on the outside.
The Giants have got to take advantage of their opportunities in this game. They will come out with the crowd behind them and a lot of hostility and pressure thrown in the face of the Dallas Cowboys, and they need to take advantage of it.
BIG GAME CANDIDATE - QB Eli Manning
Biggest game of the season, biggest game in the past three seasons for these New York Giants, Sunday night, a lot of energy, a lot on the line, and a lot of pressure situations sure to unfold. If the Giants are going to come out and win this game, Eli Manning has to be sharp, has to be the lethal Eli Manning he’s proven to be in big spots, and has to lead this Giants team through every tough spot in this football game.
Tall task – but what makes Eli Manning so great is his ability to shake everything else to the side and lead his football team to victory in tough situations. He’s a pro-bowler, one of the best signal callers on the planet, and I fully expect him to come out and play like it.
Unbelievable the way this season has unfolded for the NFC East. From the drama in Philadelphia, to the Giants looking like a top 6 or 7 team after the first eight games, to a roller coaster second half for both Dallas and New York – all leading up to one of the most highly anticipated football games in Giants history this Sunday night in East Rutherford.
At the end of the day – this game will come down to the superstars. Big-time players, big-time game – you know the old cliche. And it’s never been more fitting. I fully believe in Eli Manning, Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck, Hakeem Nicks and the other Giants leaders to come in and throw everything they’ve got at Dallas in this game.
Expect a classic.
Giants 30, Cowboys 23