Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants, November 23, 2014
Some New York Giants fans are still in denial. They refuse to accept that 2014 New York Giants – like their 2013 predecessor – are a bad football team. The Giants are 31st in the NFL on defense. They are 21st in rushing and haven’t come close to 100 yards rushing in weeks. The Giants have a terrible offensive line. They have one receiver who scares anyone. Assets? Eli Manning and Odell Beckham. And every now and then Larry Donnell flashes. That’s about it.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is a 3-7 football team that plays like a 3-7 football team despite one of the better QBs in the NFL and incredible head coaching continuity. The Giants may upset someone, but usually when they play a good football team, they are going to get beat. That won’t change until they get better players on offense, defense, and special teams.
The players should be on watch. The remainder of this season they will be closely evaluated by a franchise that will have to dump half its roster again in the offseason. There are no guarantees that another team will offer them employment either. Jobs are at stake.
Will Eli Manning bounce back?
Contrary to what many idiots in the media have been saying this week, Eli is was actually having one of his best seasons until last Sunday despite the fact he (1) was coming off April ankle surgery; (2) was learning a completely new offensive system, terminology, footwork fundamentals, routes, etc.; and (3) he was surrounding by a mediocre supporting cast, exacerbated by the loss of Victor Cruz. But last Sunday against the 49ers, Eli fell back into some old bad habits and forced some throws.
Eli is a competitor and wants very much to win and is willing to take chances when the chips are down. But he has to accept that the rest of 2014 is more about 2015 and beyond. His focus at this point should be to continue to acclimatize himself to this West Coast system. Don’t force the issue, but treat the remaining six games almost as practice for 2015. Work on his technique and understanding of this system. If the play is there, make the throw. If not, throw the ball away. For his own physical and psychological well-being, let’s not start inflating those interception totals again. Keep the nay-sayers at bay.
The good news? The Giants are not facing a top-10 defense this week.
Can Odell Beckham continue to bring the “wow” factor?
Let’s be honest. The only reason some Giants fans continue to tune in at this point is Odell Beckham. He hasn’t been perfect (media and fans have underplayed some of his drops), but it is obvious to everyone that he is the only truly exciting player on the Giants roster right now. And despite his tremendous productivity in just a few games, there is a sense that he has only scratched the surface. Is he capable of practically single-handily taking over a game, and winning a game the Giants should otherwise lose?
Can the Giants stop the run?
The Giants are dead last in run defense. 32 out of 32, allowing an average of 145 yards per game. Dallas is 2nd in the NFL in rushing, averaging over 153 yards per game. Dallas’ strength is New York’s weakness. It’s pretty easy to figure out what the game plan will be.
Can the Giants stop the pass?
Just one month ago, the Giants played Tony Romo and the Cowboys. The results? The Cowboys accrued 20 first downs and 423 yards of offense. Dallas was 9-of-14 on third down (64 percent). The Cowboys were 3-for-3 (100 percent) in the red zone. Romo only had 6 incompletions, and none in the second half of the game where he was a perfect 9-for-9. Dallas also had five pass plays over 20 yards. WR Dez Bryant had 9 catches for 128 yards and TE Gavin Escobar 3 catches for 65 yards and two touchdowns. WR Terrance Williams had the third touchdown reception. Giant-killer TE Jason Witten was kept quiet but we all know his ability. Now the Giants are without their most consistent corner (Prince Amukamara) and best coverage linebacker (Jacquian Williams).
BREAKING DOWN DALLAS:
The Cowboys have no major weakness on offense other than a recent historical tendency to act like a bunch of spoiled babies on the sidelines when things don’t go there way and Tony Romo’s fragile back. They are 6th overall in the NFL in terms of yards gained, averaging 387.5 yards per game. The Cowboys are tied for 7th in terms of points with 26.1 points per game. They are 2nd in rushing and 17th in passing. RB Demarco Murray – by far – is the NFL’s leading rusher with 1,233 yards. WR Dez Bryant is one of the most dangerous players in the NFL. TE Jason Witten is a future Hall of Famer and back-up TE Gavin Escobar caught two touchdown passes against the Giants in October. Tony Romo is completing over 68 percent of his passes and has a QB rating of 107.2. And if that were not enough, Dallas arguably has the NFL’s best offensive line with three first rounders who are playing like first rounders.
Bryant is the one true stud the Cowboys have at wide receiver. Terrance Williams has six touchdowns, but only 27 catches. The next most productive wideout is Cole Beasley with 16. The Cowboys are also -1 in turnover differential having turned the football over 18 times (10 fumbles, 6 interceptions by Romo, 2 by the backup).
Dallas is in the middle of the pack defensively, ranking 15th in terms of yards allowed (14th against pass, 12th against run). There are no obvious defensive superstars on the team but the unit has played much better than expected. Before the season, it was anticipated Dallas’ defense would be one of the worst in the league. Their strength has been their overall consistency. MLB Rolando McClain has been a major addition as a fiery leader and play maker. CB Orlando Scandrick is their best defensive back who can play both outside and the nickel.
On paper, this defense should be much worse than it is. Perhaps Dallas’ offense is so productive that it hides the defense. Dallas only has 16 sacks on the year. And their third-down defense is subpar, allowing teams to covert over 42 percent of the time. Dallas suffered another big hit at linebacker when they lost Justin Durant late last month.
Place kicker Dan Bailey is exceptional. He’s automatic from even 50+ yards. Dwayne Harris averages over 25 yards per kickoff return and almost 9 yards per punt return..
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
If one player could help pull off the upset, it’s Odell. But the opposition will begin to concentrate more and more attention on him.
With no Prince Amukamara, the Giants not only need Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to play well against Dez Bryant, they will need him to stay on the field for most of the game. DRC hasn’t played a full game in quite some time due to his IT band (back/hamstring) issue.
FROM THE COACHES’ MOUTH:
Tom Coughlin - “Keep fighting, keep fighting, keep fighting, that is all it takes, one game at a time, bounce back. Again, it is about all of those eyes that look at me on Wednesday morning, I am thinking about them, quite frankly, trying to bring them through the disappointment toward the next opponent.”
Jason Garrett - “That has always been something that we have strived for around here – to be a balanced attack, to be able to attack a defense a lot of different ways…Really, when you are talking about any of this stuff it starts with the guys up front. We made a real commitment to get better on the offensive line here in the last three or four years by using first round pick to draft guys. We think it has been a good investment for our team and it really allows you to do what you want to do offensively. It allows you to feature the skill players that you have both in the running game and in the passing game…The idea is that we want to be a more physical football team, control the line of scrimmage more and be a team that can run the football. Fortunately, we have been able to draft the guys we have up front and we think they are some really good, young, cornerstone type of players who can be here for a long time.”
The Giants should be able to move the football better against this opponent than they have in recent weeks as long as the offensive line plays better this week against a lesser defensive opponent. Justin Pugh (quadriceps) is probably out so look for Geoff Schwartz to start at right tackle. The Giants need John Jerry to bounce back.
However, the real problem for the Giants is on the defensive side of the football. The Giants what they are – the 31st-ranked defense in the NFL and the 32nd-ranked run defense. And the Giants linebackers don’t match up well against the Cowboys tight ends and running backs in coverage.
Look for Beckham to take one to the house on special teams, but it won’t be enough. Cowboys 42 – Giants 27.