FRISCO, Texas – Having studied the tape, these are the two biggest factors that I feel will determine a winner when the Cowboys and Giants square off on Sunday.
Dallas Cowboys Win If:
All the numbers say this is not the same New York Giants defense the Cowboys have faced in previous meetings. Injuries and offensive woes have hurt this unit, which at one point was one of the best in the league when it came to getting off the field and keeping opponents out of the end zone. Quite honestly, it's a shell of itself.
If there is a problem for the Cowboys going into this matchup is really two-fold. The Giants still have Steve Spagnuolo as their coordinator, even though he has taken on the additional role as the interim head coach. Say what you want about the Giants' current situation, but Spagnuolo has had Scott Linehan's number when it has come to slowing down his attack. Spagnulo appears to have an understanding of how to tailor a game plan that affects the way Linehan calls his game.
The Giants also still have their front four in place, which has presented problems in those previous meetings. Jason Pierre-Paul, throughout his career, has single-handedly turned games in the favor of the Giants with his play versus the Cowboys. Olivier Vernon is the one player that I've studied that gives Tyron Smith the most problems, while Damon Harrison is a trash can full of dirt in the middle. The Cowboys can make plays against this Giants secondary, especially without Janoris Jenkins and a banged up Eli Apple. But they're going to have to be able to block this Giants front, which at times has been difficult for them.
The game plan for the Cowboys will be similar to what we saw against the Redskins: work to establish a running game with Alfred Morris then take their shots down the field off play action. The strength of the Giants is their defensive front. Block that and you win this game going away.
New York Giants Win If:
Talking with folks at the Giants, they feel the best chance for them to win this game is to have the ability to run the ball. The problem for the Giants -- that's generally easier said than done. They don't have one running back that they can hang their hat on and that's been a problem all year. There is no consistency to their running game or the way that they play their four backs. It's not unusual to study their games and see all four of them play.
I believe Wayne Gallman is their best back, and if Giants offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan was smart in this game, he would ride with him against the Cowboys. His running style is the type that gives them the most problems. He has a mixture of explosiveness and power that tends to wear this defense down.
Other than the settling on one back, the bigger problem issue for the Giants is their offensive line. There was once a day where the Giants mashed opponents upfront and were able to control the game that way, but those days are a distant memory. The Giants don't get any push up front with this current group and it affects the way that they struggle for balance. They're in far too many situations where they're facing third and long plays. The biggest fear for them against the Cowboys is that this trend continues and they have to deal with a pass rush that they can't handle.
For the Giants to win this game it's really pretty simple. Teams that have beaten the Cowboys have had success running the ball. For the Giants that has been a problem, but they've got to try, because getting their quarterback hit down after down will not be a winning option.
Pick a running back, block Sean Lee and see what happens.