FRISCO, Texas –The situation is pretty straightforward, but it's always a matter of executing.
We've talked all week about how beat up and demoralized this Giants team is after a once-promising season had turned to total disaster. We can talk about it all we want, but it's still a professional football team full of professional players. The Cowboys can absolutely get themselves beat if their approach and their execution aren't on point.
Obviously, they'd prefer to avoid that. With that in mind, my notebook centers on what we're going to see to help approach this thing the right way. The Cowboys built some momentum with that win against Washington, so here's what I'm looking for to help them carry that forward:
- I expect to see Jourdan Lewis start for Orlando Scandrick this week. The coaching staff is still working on the confidence and technique of Anthony Brown, plus Lewis has lined up on that right side more than Brown has this season, so it would be less of a transition.
- Speaking of Brown, we could see him in a support role for Xavier Woods, who I think will once again be your primary nickel/slot player. Woods has been getting practice snaps throughout the season and took that responsibility during the Redskins game last week. Woods had his moments dealing with Jamison Crowder but overall wasn't a liability. Sterling Shepard has been banged up for the Giants, but I still expect him to play. If Woods struggles with him, look for the coaches to quickly insert Brown into that role.
- This is another week where La'el Collins will not get any work at practice but will play in the game. The plan worked well last week and with the difficult Jason Pierre-Paul ahead, the Cowboys will need Collins at his best. Something to keep an eye on here: if something happens to Collins in the game, Byron Bell has been the primary backup at that spot getting the majority of the snaps there during the week.
- The Giants ruled Justin Pugh out for this game on Friday, which should be a huge boost to the Dallas pass rush. With Pugh limited by injury recently his backup, Chad Wheeler, has been less than stellar. Wheeler was limited at practice this week, as well, dealing with a concussion, but when he has been in the lineup, he has been a liability. What has been interesting about the Giants is that they've refused to give help to him during games. Rhett Ellison is generally their inline blocking tight end, but he goes out on routes while Eli Manning continues to take a pounding from opponents. With Pugh out of the lineup, DeMarcus Lawrence could easily add a few more sacks to his league leading total.
- The Giants really struggle to get their offensive linemen up on the second level in the running game. In all of my years in the league, I have never seen an NFL offensive line that has had a bigger problem than the Giants do. They just let linebackers run free -- which is amazing. I have said this all week, look for Sean Lee to take advantage of this situation and make a defensive statement in his return.
- David Irving will not be making it through the concussion protocol, so now the focus will shift to his replacement. Maliek Collins could move back to the under-tackle and Richard Ash would start at the nose. The coaches could also leave Collins at nose and give Lewis Neal his first NFL career start. Neal has been getting plenty of work this week, and against a Giants offensive line that has had its share of problems inside, it would not be a bad option to see what he has going forward.
- I think this is one of those games where Jason Garrett needs to be worried about how Steve Spagnuolo, as the interim coach, is going to handle it. The Giants have nothing to lose, so he may choose to play the game in a different style. Going for it on fourth down and trick plays are all possibilities. He knows that his team is clearly outmanned and he might need to steal a possession or two in order to give his team a chance to win. On the other side of the ball, Garrett needs to stay aggressive in his approach, as well, despite having the better players. He needs to find a way to destroy the Giants' will to compete and give them a reason to quit. If he and his club allow the Giants to hang around, then they might find themselves taking a loss that they cannot afford.
- My weekly guess at the Cowboys inactives: WR Brice Butler, CB Orlando Scandrick, RB Trey Williams, LB Justin Durant, DE Daniel Ross, TE Blake Jarwin, DT David Irving.