By Eric from BigBlueInteractive.com
Approach to the Game: When the 2010 schedule came out, the unusual aspect of it was that the Giants were not going to be playing any division games until week seven. With 10 games left in the regular season, six of them remain with NFC East rivals. It’s this intense stretch of division games that will make or break the Giants’ 2010 season.
What the 4-2 record did is make this “stretch run” of 10 games meaningful. It’s all in front of the Giants. It’s up to them. The division is not that tough. The conference is not that tough. A winning record of 6-4 during the next 10 games will likely put them in the playoffs and may even win them the division.
It all starts Monday night in Dallas. Now the real fun begins.
Giants on Special Teams: The Cowboys special teams have struggled at times, but they have also made big plays. The first focus is on limiting the damage the Dallas return game can do, particularly the explosive Dez Bryant on punt returns. Bryant already has returned a punt for a touchdown this season. Also a concern is Lawrence Tynes’ sprained left ankle, not just on field goals/extra points, but more importantly on kickoffs since he says it is kickoffs that put far more stress on his plant foot.
Of course, the weekly saga of Matt Dodge continues, mixing the good with the bad.
Giants on Defense: Defensively, the Giants match up well against the Cowboys. The Cowboys have struggled to run the football on a consistent basis, and they have long demonstrated a tendency to get away from the ground game. With the Giants’ stellar run defense this year, the hope is that the Giants can make the Cowboys relatively one-dimensional. Of course, the proof is in the pudding and the Giants have to actually go out on the field and make sure that happens. When at the top of their game, the home-run hitter Felix Jones and the bruiser Marion Barber can form a lethal combination. All it takes is for one breakdown on defense and Jones can turn what should have been a short gain into an 80-yard touchdown. The defenders will need to wrap up.
The more worrisome match-ups are in the passing game, however, because of the quantity and quality of the Cowboys’ receiving threats. TE Jason Witten has been a thorn in the side of the Giants for years. He’s Tony Romo’s security blanket. Take away that blanket and Romo becomes uncomfortable. This is where Michael Boley and the three safeties come into play. But TE Martellus Bennett is also a viable receiving threat and the Giants need to keep an eye on him. In fact, Romo may not have much time to throw the football so there may be more of a focus on throwing the ball short to Witten, Bennett, and the running backs.
If and when Romo gets time, the Cowboys have a very dangerous trio of receivers in Miles Austin, Roy Williams, and Dez Bryant. Corey Webster, Terrell Thomas, and Aaron Ross have had decent seasons, but they can play better. And they will have to play better against this group. Each of these receivers can make the big play down the field. One mistake and it is a cheap touchdown. And it is impossible to double-team everyone so the Giants will have to win one-on-one battles.
Why I think the Giants match-up well with Dallas are two factors. First, the Giants’ secondary is filled with good athletes who play a physical game. The corners and safeties will not be intimated by the Dallas receivers, nor should they be. Secondly, the Giants should be able to generate good pass pressure against a shaky offensive line.
It’s no secret that the Cowboys have struggled up front. But what has given Dallas even more problems is the exact type of defensive front the Giants enjoy: quick, athletic defensive linemen who can stunt and penetrate with quickness. Add to that some injury concerns on the part of the Cowboys and the Giants should be able to control the line of scrimmage if their level of intensity is equal or superior to that of the Cowboys. To be frank, I don’t think Dallas can block the Giants. If the Cowboys can, then it’s a different ball game.
So the game plan is clear and obvious. Stop the run. Make Dallas one dimensional. Get after Tony Romo. When the Giants can near Romo, they have to finish him. Too often teams, including the Giants, have let him escape their grasp, he improvises, and makes a huge play down the field. Nail his ass to the turf. Hit him. Make him uncomfortable. He will turn the football over.
Giants on Offense: I think the Giants match up well with the Cowboys on this side of the ball, with one huge proviso: the Giants’ offensive line needs pass protect well. The good news is the Giants have a good history in recent games – with the exception of the 2008 game in Dallas – of doing just that. For all the problems DeMarcus Ware has given other teams, and all of the problems David Diehl has had at times with quick pass rushers, Diehl has done a good job on Ware in three of the last four games. But Diehl isn’t having his best season. The Ware-Diehl match-up is huge as is Kareem McKenzie against Ware when they move Ware to that side of the field (which Dallas has done against New York before). And regardless, Ware’s opposite outside linebacker, Anthony Spencer, has proven he can become a problem on the pass rush as well.
The guy who really makes Dallas’ defense go is NT Jay Ratliff. The battle between Ratliff and O’Hara is a key one. The role of defensive ends Marcus Spears and Igor Olshansky, as is typical of a 3-4 defense, is to more tie up opposing blockers in order to allow the linebackers make the play. The good news – knock on wood – is that the Giants have a decent history of being able to block these guys in the passing game. If they can do so again on Monday, the Giants should be able to exploit the Dallas pass defense. If they can’t block the Dallas front seven, then a repeat of the 2008 game in Dallas may be the result. To me, the #1 key in this entire football game is the ability of the Giants to pass protect.
Right corner Mike Jenkins of the Cowboys has struggled this year. And the Giants have had decent success against Terence Newman. The safeties are ordinary at best. I love the Giants’ receivers, including Kevin Boss, against the back seven of the Cowboys if Manning has time.
The Cowboys are usually fairly tough to run against. I don’t see the Giants’ offense dominating in the ground game. Obviously running the ball is important to remain balanced and Ahmad Bradshaw is due for a long TD run. But I would attack that secondary, particularly the deep middle.
The offense finally protected the football for once last week. Obviously winning the turnover battle is huge. Protect the football G-Men!
Prediction: I love these types of games. The Cowboys need this game. The Giants don’t. It’s an away game where the media darling Cowboys are favored and still expected to turn it around. There is not a lot of pressure on New York. They can come into this game with intensity, but they should be loose. Dallas could be expecting the worst and if momentum shifts against them, it will be interesting to see how the Cowboys respond.
Common sense dictates that a game involving desperate team, with talent, playing at home, within the division, will be at best a very, very tight contest. But my gut tells me this game may not be as close as anticipated. Eli Manning and the Giants seem to usually play well in Dallas. And I get the sense that if the Giants can get up early, the crowd may turn on the Cowboys and things could snowball. Perhaps it is wishful thinking on my part, but I see the Giants winning by 10 points or more.