The Cowboys and Giants meet again for the second time in seven weeks, though Dallas won't have Tony Romo to lead them on another game-winning drive in the final seconds as he did Sept. 13 at AT&T Stadium. It's Matt Cassel's show on Sunday, the 11-year veteran making his first start at quarterback for the Cowboys with Romo (fractured collarbone) still out a few more games.
Here are the gut feelings from staff writers Rob Phillips, Bryan Broaddus, David Helman and Nick Eatman:
Rob Phillips: For two weeks everyone has debated the differences between Brandon Weeden and Matt Cassel. Will Cassel take chances downfield where Weeden checked down? There needs to be a balance between conservative and plain risky, and Cassel has to find it Sunday. With Dez Bryant doubtful to play against the Giants, Cassel is likely to see the Giants crowd the line the way opponents did against Weeden. He'll need to hit open receivers when they're there, but a bunch of turnovers on forced throws won't help the Cowboys' cause. I think Cassel will indeed be efficient and effective enough to win this game, and he'll get help from the Cowboys' defense ending its three-game takeaway drought. Dallas outlasts the Giants, 23-21, despite a 250-yard effort from Eli Manning.[embeddedad0]
Bryan Broaddus:Gut feeling this week is that Rod Marinelli goes back to his 3-2-6 defensive scheme to attack this Giants offense. There are two things that he gets out of it that can help this defense. First he gets the one-on-one matchups across the board to attack Manning, which puts pressure on the offensive line, but more importantly Marinelli gets extra defensive backs on the field. To win this game I believe the Giants are going to have to win the battles on the outside. If Dallas can hold up in the secondary, then it's going to be a long day for the Giants. Look for Marinelli to mix and match his fronts and coverages but the 3-2-6 look being a go-to one in this game. Cowboys win, 19-17.
David Helman: There's just enough different about this team to make me feel optimistic as we prepare to head to New York. No, I don't think Matt Cassel is going to make anyone forget Tony Romo, but I do think he's capable of sparking a more explosive passing game. No, I don't think Christine Michael is going to have a 100-yard day, but I do think he can contribute enough to get the ground game out of its funk. On the other side of the matchup, the Cowboys have an absurdly favorable look against a leaky Giants offensive line. I don't know if they'll get five sacks, but Greg Hardy, Tyrone Crawford and Randy Gregory should be able to make life difficult for Eli Manning. And if Manning is struggling to find time, that should make it hard for Odell Beckham to hurt the secondary. It's not going to be easy – it never is at MetLife Stadium. But I think the Cowboys have changed enough to make a push, even if Dez Bryant doesn't play. I really think they can pick up their game and get out of New York with a win – something like 24-20.
Nick Eatman: While it's easy to say the Cowboys have the Giants' number up in New York – winning the last three games in the Meadowlands – you could also say that perhaps it's Tony Romo that has it, and not the Cowboys. We know this team is not the same without him and Dez Bryant in the lineup, so I think you have to throw out the history here, even if it's recent history. The Cowboys certainly don't beat the Giants in Week 1 without Romo. But, that being said, I still think the Cowboys can and will win this game. I don't know if Matt Cassel lights the world on fire but I think he plays well. They've got to figure out how to get Jason Witten going and I can see him getting at least seven catches. Brice Butler will make some plays down the field and I think the Cowboys get their first 100-yard rusher, and don't be surprised if it's Joseph Randle. This guy might not get all of the snaps but he'll run well with the ones he gets and might even break off a long one. The Cowboys are healthier than the Giants, they're more desperate than the Giants and I still think they're a better team. Like all of these games, it'll be closer but give me Dallas, 21-20.