IRVING, Texas - Teams aren't supposed to be able to sack Mike Vick seven times. Now Drew Bledsoe's a different story - we've seen that one before - but if the New York Giants can put pressure on Vick, they'll be able to get to Bledsoe, probably much easier. That has to be the Cowboys' first concern this week after seeing the Giants rough up Vick and the Falcons, 27-14, in Atlanta on Sunday. Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora gave Bledsoe and the Cowboys fits in the Giants' 17-10 win in the Meadowlands on Dec. 4 of last year, when the Cowboys quarterback was sacked four times, threw two interceptions and fumbled twice.
It's just Week 7, but already these games are big, especially within the NFC East, where both the Giants and Cowboys sit at 3-2 heading into Monday's 7:30 p.m. (CDT) kickoff. Both teams are nipping at division leader Philadelphia (4-2). Much like Dallas, the Giants have been an inconsistent crew through five games, posting wins over seemingly strong opponents Philadelphia and Atlanta while cruising to a win over the Redskins. New York's only losses have come to Indianapolis and Seattle, however, so having played some of the league's stiffest competition, the Giants might be better than their 3-2 mark suggests.
Offensively the Giants have been stellar, led by the NFL's leading rusher, Tiki Barber. Through five games Barber has racked up 533 yards, including 185 yards Sunday against what was considered a tough Atlanta run defense. The Giants average 401.8 yards per game, just a half-yard behind the league-leading Eagles. Defensively, New York ranks 17th, surrendering just more than 320 yards per game.
- How good has Barber been? His 533 yards have come on just 102 carries, good for a 5.2-yard per carry average, and he has a long of just 29 yards. Others backs in the top five in rushing yards include Warrick Dunn, who busted a 90-yarder against the Giants to skew his per-run average to 5.3, and Steven Jackson and Willis McGahee, both of whom average under four yards a carry.
- The Giants have the sixth-best scoring offense in the league at 25.4 points per game, while Dallas stands fourth at 29.4. The Giants' defense allows 21.8 points per-contest, 21st in the league.
- That Eli Manning, he may make it in this league. The third-year quarterback is second in the league in touchdown passes with 11. Only Donovan McNabb (13) has thrown more, but the Eagles have played an extra game. Manning's been pretty efficient too, with a 92.4 passer rating that ranks eighth in the NFL.
- Jeremy Shockey is eighth in the league among tight ends with 18 receptions, and second in touchdown catches with three. Amani Toomer and Plaxico Burress have contributed nicely to the Giants' offense with three touchdown catches apiece as well.
If the Cowboys are going to win, they're going to have to give Bledsoe more protection than they have in earlier losses to Jacksonville and Philadelphia, and in last December's loss to the Giants. Flozell Adams needs to improve his play to keep up with Umenyiora, and Andre Gurode can't make mistakes like the one he made on the first play of the second half in last season's loss, allowing defensive tackle Kendrick Clancy to disrupt a handoff that turned into a 12-yard fumble return and touchdown for linebacker Antonio Pierce.
Barber will be tough to stop, but the Cowboys' defense has proved to be tough against the run, allowing a league-best 67 yards per game. If Barber gets going and the Cowboys can't give Bledsoe time to throw, a fourth win may be tough to come by for the Cowboys on Monday night.
- Giants defensive back Jason Bell - Played in all 16 games as a rookie for Dallas in 2001, registering a club-high 21 special teams tackles as the team's gunner. Bell led the Cowboys with three downed punts, all inside the opponent's 10-yard line.
- Cowboys head coach Bill Parcells - In 1983, then Giants assistant Bill Parcells assumed the head coaching reins of the hapless Giants, who had just one winning season in the 10 previous years. In 1986, under Parcells, the Giants went 14-2 and defeated the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXI. After a two-year playoff absence, Parcells and the Giants returned to the playoffs in 1989 and won Super Bowl XXV following the 1990 season.
- Cowboys assistant director of pro scouting Brian Gaine - Was a member of the 1997 Giants practice squad.
The Giants sacked Michael Vick seven times, their highest total since they had eight sacks against Arizona on Oct. 18, 1998 . . . The Giants' 259 rushing yards against Atlanta tied for the 10th-highest total in franchise history and was the most yards they've gained on the ground since they rushed for 262 yards against Washington on Oct. 30, 2005 . . . Strong safety Gibril Wilson was inactive against the Falcons, ending his streak of 20 consecutive starts. Wilson lost the nail on his big toe near the end of Friday's practice. Six-year veteran Jason Bell made his first career start in Wilson's absence . . . The Giants are 16-29-1 on Monday Night Football, including 10-21-1 on the road. Their last victory on a Monday night was Sept. 19, 2005, when they topped New Orleans, 27-10, in a "road" game in Giants Stadium following Hurricane Katrina. The only Giants win over Dallas on a Monday was Oct. 18, 1999, a 13-10 victory in Giants Stadium . . . The Cowboys are going for a Monday Night Football-high 40th win . . . Dallas has one three of the last five games against New York at Texas Stadium . . . Troy Aikman and Rayfield Wright will be presented with their Hall of Fame rings at halftime . . . Parcells is 4-4 against his former team, the Giants, and 3-3 with the Cowboys.