Once Bill Parcells was asked about his team’s playoff possibilities, to which he remarked, let’s see where we are when we get to Thanksgiving. For the Cowboys, that holiday is only a short time away and though the playoff picture might not be crystal clear, but what’s ahead is. With the bye week in the rear view mirror, it is now time to focus on the task at hand and that starts with a trip to the Meadowlands and a date with the Giants.
The Giants have won four straight and have clawed themselves right back into the division race of the NFC East. For the Giants, it has been a combination of several factors that have allowed them to salvage their season from a 0 – 6 start. When the Giants have struggled, it generally can be put at the feet of Eli Manning who has once again, had his share of issues throwing interceptions but what has been different for the Giants during this winning streak is that Manning has done a much better job of protecting the ball. With Manning, it is not always about the sacks but the pressure. The more pressure he feels, the more opportunity you have for a mistake. What you have to be ready for when you play Manning, is when he throws you the ball. This Cowboys defense cannot leave plays on the field when they force those types of mistakes.
The numbers for the Giants running the ball are very similar to what we have seen from the Cowboys this season. They do not have a home run back in this offense but what they do have are three very physical backs in Andre Brown, Brandon Jacobs and Peyton Hillis. The style of these backs can make it very difficult for a defense to have to deal with because when they come down hill, they are hard to bring down in the open field. The key for the Cowboys this week, will be to get bodies to the ball but also not allow these backs to get up the field. If they can get them to go sideways, then they have a much better chance of bringing them down to the ground. Without
On the outside, there are several play makers that this Cowboys defense are going to have to account for. There is no secret to what you are going to see with Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks but they will need to pay special attention to Rueben Randle and where he is aligned in this contest. Randle has some special traits because of his size and his ability to secure the ball. There were some games early in the season where Randle was not at his best and that caused the offense to have to deal with some turnovers. Where Randle can hurt this defense is down in the red zone with his route running ability. Kevin Gilbride likes to use him in bunch formations and let him work against man coverage.
The tight ends for the Giants are not to the level of some of the better ones this defense has faced this season when it comes to making those dynamic plays. Brandon Myers is the best athlete of the group while Bear Pascoe is used in more of a blocking role but they will try and get him the ball down the field on occasions. Myers doesn't play with the power of Pascoe but that's not to say that Pascoe is a strong player at the point of attack, matter of fact, it surprises me that for his size, that he doesn't get as much movement as he should. There are good opportunities for this Cowboys defense to win some battles against these guys.
From what we have seen from this Giants offensive line in the past, it has been a physical front that played with more nastiness than skill. In my opinion, this line, is far from being nasty. I have been surprised how much this group really has struggled. They have not done a good enough job in protection and when running the ball, it really has been because of how well the backs have carried it downhill. At tackles, they have been soft with Will Beatty and rookie Justin Pugh. Both players have struggled when defenders have played against them with power. These guys tend to give ground when you really lean on them. Pugh has had the most problems but not only is he fighting strength issues but experience as well. In this game, keep an eye on center, Jim Cordle who is in the starting lineup for David Baas who has been lost to injury. If there is a big weakness on this line, it is at this spot. This Cowboys defense needs to work hard to make his life difficult throughout the day.