The Nemesis: Jason Witten
Jason Witten has always saved his best for when he has faced the New York Giants. Witten has always been a mismatch nightmare for the Giants who have over the years tried covering him with guys like Danny Clark, Kenny Phillips, Gibril Wilson, Antrel Rolle and now Will Hill, but without much success. What Witten has seen over the last several weeks has been more double teams but that should change with Miles Austin back in the lineup. Where Witten has hurt the Giants in the past is attacking the middle of the field and should get more opportunities there if they decide to blitz, because he then becomes Romo's "Hot" receiver. I have always believed that Jason Witten's greatest strengths, is his ability to use his awareness of how he needs to run his routes and at what depth to allow him to get open. He has such a feel for how to use his smarts along with his ability to buy space.
Where I can see Jason Garrett and Bill Callahan using Witten and this "12" personnel group is to combat the weather conditions that they are expecting on Sunday. Witten and these tight ends allow safe and simple throws to keep the ball moving until they can get in position to take some shots down the field with these receivers.
The Weapon: DeMarcus Ware [embedded_ad]
When you study this Giants offense over the years, the biggest issues they face is when Eli Manning turns over the ball. When he protects the ball, it can be one of the most explosive attacks in the league but if he doesn't, they are very ordinary. The key for a defense playing Manning, it's not about the sacks but the pressure. Teams that put pressure on Manning force him into mistakes and it's been that way since he took his first snap in this league. Manning has done a much better job of protecting the ball during their four game winning streak but against the Raiders two weeks ago, they were able to get a rush in the middle of his face, and he just carelessly fired the ball in the middle of the field for a pick-six.
I have not been one bit impressed with the way these Giants tackles have played this season and Ware needs to take advantage of that from the word "Go". For Ware it's going to be about winning that one-on-one matchup with Will Beatty when he has those opportunities. There is no doubt that the Giants will try and help Beatty as much as they can but they cannot do it every snap and this is where they need to win the battle.
Under The Radar: Cole Beasley
There has been much said about what will happen to Cole Beasley's plays now that Miles Austin has returned to the lineup. It is true that Beasley will not get as many snaps out of the nickel slot because that is the position that Austin occupies but with Beasley, it not going to be about the quantity but the quality. This is the type of the game where Beasley can really be a factor in some one-on-one snaps working against Terrell Thomas out of the slot. I do not believe that Thomas has the quickness to be able to keep up with Beasley.
There are some explosive plays that could be made out of the slot with both Beasley and Austin. I expect that we will see Beasley on the field with Bryant and Austin on 3rd downs and with him being out there, the play will be designed to go in his direction. With the weather conditions what they might be, again, the more simple throws that Romo can make in the game, will help this offense. Plays underneath to Beasley are short throws but have the possibility for big payoffs.
New York Giants
The Nemesis: Jason Pierre-Paul
When you face the Giants, you always have to worry about the talented players they have on both sides of the ball. Defensively, they want to get pressure with their front four and that starts with Jason Pierre- Paul. When this guy wants to play, he can be one of the best in the league, when he is off, he can be just another guy. The one advantage that the Cowboys have this week is that Tyron Smith is well aware of the type of player that he is going to face in Pierre-Paul. There are going to be a wide variety of pass rush moves, there are going to be times where he speed rushes, then others where he is going to slow play Smith to try and get him off balance.
What is surprising about Pierre-Paul on tape, is that you see him play with some upper body strength and get push on the tackle with just his arms extended. What Smith has to be ready for, is that explosive first step that sets Pierre-Paul up for his rush. If he can get the corner, he is by you regardless how quickly, you get to the edge on him. The last time that Smith and Pierre-Paul met on opening night, Smith was able to get the best of him because Pierre-Paul was not in good football shape. Smith will get Pierre-Paul's best shot but I don't expect that Smith will back down one bit.
The Weapon: Victor Cruz
Victor Cruz is one of the most dynamic players in the game today. His ability to play anywhere in the formation is rare. Cruz is the type of receiver that does nothing but cause problems for a defense. He is a fearless route runner and dependable catcher of the ball. He has the ability to put pressure on the defense right now. You hold your breath when he is on the field because of his ability to take a small catch and turn it into a huge play. When he gets the ball on the move, he can be electric in the way he finishes. Orlando Scandrick will draw the assignment out of the slot, then some plays on the outside.
Like Tyron Smith's matchup with Jason Pierre-Paul, Scandrick has an advantage because he has faced Cruz several times in his career with nice success. What this Cowboys defense has to be very careful of is allowing him to take over this game. According to Sean Lee, the games that this team has lost to the Giants, a large part of that was due to the defense allowing big plays and it is something that Manning has thrived on in the past. Victor Cruz is always that threat for a big play and Orlando Scandrick and his teammates have to find a way to guard against that.
Under The Radar: Andre Brown
The rushing numbers say that the Giants are struggling running the ball but in the games I have been able to study, If I were this Cowboys defensive staff, I would worry about them handing the ball to Andre Brown down after down. Brown is very similar to what we have seen from Giants running backs from days gone by. He doesn't have home run speed but what he does have is the ability to break tackles and carry tackles down the field. There is a real physical side to Brown's game and you can see it because this New York Giants offensive line doesn't really do a good job of moving defenders off the ball so Brown, Brandon Jacobs and Peyton Hillis have to make yards on their own. This will be the 2nd week in a row where this Cowboys defense is going to have to face a team that plays with a fullback in the game and they try to make it tough on you when they line up Brown behind John Connor. When the Giants get both these guys going downhill, they are tough to handle. Brown also has the ability to carry the ball a large number of times. Against the Raiders he handled it 30 times, in their victory. I expect that this Cowboys defense that has struggled against the run and without Sean Lee in the lineup, will see a steady diet of Andre Brown.