IRVING, Texas – We've focused a lot on the run game as we get closer to this road trip to play the Giants, and it makes sense give New York's struggles in that area.
Without wanting to overcomplicate things, though, I think there's something to be said for the passing game when you consider the effort it's going to take for the Giants to stop the run. With all the focus that goes into stopping DeMarco Murray and the Dallas offensive line, there should be plays to be made against a banged-up New York secondary.
That's my biggest key for a Cowboys victory Sunday night. On the other side of the ball, I think the Giants' chances to pull the upset hinge on the opposite – they need to be able to run.
Here are my keys to Sunday night's game.
Cowboys Win If:
The Giants are ranked last in the NFL when it comes to defending the run, but their pass defense is just as poor. With Prince Amukamara now lost for the season, it takes away an option to try and match Dez Bryant, the way they did the last time these two teams met.
As inviting as it would be for Scott Linehan to hand the ball to DeMarco Murray, Joseph Randle and Lance Dunbar 30 to 35 times and see where that leads him, throwing the ball against this secondary could be an even better option. My gut feeling is that Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell is going to do everything in his power not to let this offense saddle up and hammer him with the run, which has happened during this five-game losing streak. The problem that Fewell has is that if he commits safety Antrel Rolle down in the box, he has Quintin Demps in the middle of the field with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Zack Bowman one-on-one to the outside.
It would also expose him in having to deal with Jason Witten and Gavin Escobar working against linebackers that are focusing on these running backs and stopping that run. Where the Cowboys win this game against the Giants is making those down the field plays against a defense that is gearing up to stop the run. Look for Tony Romo to find ways to make Fewell and his defense pay for that commitment.
Giants Win If:
The Giants have really struggled to have any type of success running the football this season. As a matter of fact, they are ranked 25th in the league in terms of yards per attempt, and the majority of those issues can be put on their offensive line and their inability to get any type of push up front.
When you think back to the history of the New York Giants it has been about powerful offensive lines with big running backs hammering away at defenses in the frigid air. This current group of Giant offensive linemen will not make you forget of those that came before them. The plan for the Cowboys is simple: make this Giants offense one-dimensional, as many have done in this current five-game losing streak and pressure Eli Manning to beat them with a rookie wide receiver and athletic tight end.
Running back Rashad Jennings did not play the previous time these two teams met, and you could tell he was missed in the game plan. With Jennings in the lineup, there is a threat to run the ball and make positive gains from it -- unlike Andre Williams, who took his place while he was out.
Where the Giants can steal this game from the Cowboys is with balance, which is going to have to come from their offensive line. This New York offensive line will have to rise up and allow Jennings the space to run the ball and keep them from becoming one-dimensional. That will take the burden off Manning to have to make plays, and it would also prevent this Cowboys front seven from teeing off on him, as well.