Reeling after an awful meeting with the New Orleans Saints, the Dallas Cowboys look to regroup against a familiar foe on Sunday when they take on the New York Giants this Sunday at MetLife Stadium (4:25 EST, FOX). While the Giants have won four in a row following an 0-6 start, the Cowboys contributed to that bad beginning, topping the Giants 36-31 in a Week 1 shootout at AT&T Stadium.
The Cowboys are coming off a performance of historically bad proportions two weeks ago, a nationally televised 49-17 blowout at the hands of the New Orleans Saints. The Saints piled up 625 yards and an NFL record 40 1st down on the Cowboys, who managed a measly 193 yards and 9 first downs. Despite losing LB Sean Lee to a hamstring injury, the Cowboys had an extra week to recover from the disaster with their bye week last week. Returning for the Cowboys will be WR Miles Austin and CB Morris Claiborne, though they will still be without Lee for at least a couple of more weeks. The Cowboys will have a short week after the Giants game, but at this point they’re likely used to it marks their annual Thanksgiving trip.
Give the Giants credit for their rise from the abyss, but the competition has left much to be desired. In their wins over Minnesota, Philadelphia, Oakland and Green Bay, the Giants have not exactly faced Pro Bowl caliber talent, especially at quarterback, going up against the respective likes of Josh Freeman, Matt Barkley, Terrelle Pryor, and Scott Tolzien in those games. However, that’s not to say the Giants have not had some good games. While QB Eli Manning continues to struggle with turnovers, his receivers, Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks (who will be a game time decision) have stepped it up, and the Giants received a massive boost in their run game from the return of Andre Brown. Through just two games, Brown has become the Giants leading rusher with 181 rushing yards.
If the Cowboys plan to not only win on Sunday, but reclaim 1st place in the NFC East (they trail idle Philadelphia by half a game), somebody on the defense will have to step. DeMarcus Ware again will again hobbled, so it’s up the defense’s other leader, Jason Hatcher, to step up. The Cowboys defense has struggled under Monte Kiffin, but Hatcher has enjoyed a breakout season in his system, already picking up a career high 7 sacks. With Lee out, it’s time for other linebackers to rise to the occasion. The perfect candidates are Justin Durant and Ernie Sims. The return of Caliborne is welcome to a secondary that was absolutely torched last week by Drew Brees. The defense forced six turnovers in the season opening win, though giving up 478 yards kept things close.
The offense too, will need to recover from the Sunday Night Nightmare. The defense features talent like Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre Paul, and has beefed up against mediocre quarterback competition. However, for the first time in several weeks, the Giants will be going up against an elite quarterback in Tony Romo. Romo has had some of his best performances against the Giants in his career, including a 36-49, 263 yard, 2 TD performance in Week 1. The Cowboys also have to realize that if they do fall behind, they cannot abandon the run game. DeMarco Murray had 89 yards on 16 carries in New Orleans, but he was largely ignored after things started to get out of hand.
Nobody seems to believe in the Cowboys right now. Despite not beating any elite competition, the Giants have gained themselves a very solid following. A loss probably wouldn’t end the Cowboys’ season, though it would make things more difficult. The New Orleans game was troubling, yes, but let’s face it…the Giants aren’t the Saints and the Meadowlands isn’t the Superdome. The Giants, as their fans relentlessly remind you, simply made the playoffs twice and ended up winning the whole thing. If the game gets in a shootout, expect Dallas to come out on top. If they pull this off, it will go a long way toward their chances of returning to MetLife Stadium come February
Prediction: Cowboys 41, Giants 37