By Paul Dottino
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The Giants should consider themselves very fortunate – the schedule maker gave them three divisional games, including two with the first-place Dallas Cowboys, in the final month of the season.
The four-game losing streak has left the Giants (6-6) a game behind Dallas in the NFC East. It’s almost irrelevant. Coach Tom Coughlin and his players have everything laid out in front of them. Can they sweep the Cowboys? Sure they can, and they’ll need to if they intend on winning the division. But a loss this Sunday night at Dallas would pretty much render the final three games of the season useless.
Coughlin’s players appear to have the right approach, understanding that they’ll have to bring the same level of game they played in last week’s 38-35 loss to the Packers into these four weeks. That likely would bring them at least three victories and a postseason ticket.
Here are the Giants’ three key matchups to watch:
1. Giants’ offense vs. Cowboys’ blitz package. It would be too easy to say LT David Diehl and RT Kareem McKenzie have to contain OLB DeMarcus Ware and whoever else the Cowboys (35 sacks) decide to blitz off the edge. And make no mistake about it, Dallas is going to come with a heavy blitz.
The Giants’ line – Diehl, second-time starting LG Mitch Petrus, backup C Kevin Boothe, in particular – need to make sure they’ve got their line calls down. More important, QB Eli Manning has to be on the same page with his teammates while making his pre-snap adjustments. The backs will be called upon to pick up the blitz and the receivers/tight end better make sure they run the right routes off the hot reads.
2. Giants’ pass rush vs. Cowboys QB Tony Romo. Romo has thrown 11 TD passes and just two INTs over his past five games, bringing his season totals to 22 and nine. He is one of the streakiest passers in the league. At times, he is very accurate, elusive in the pocket and very creative – a la Brett Favre – in making winning plays. Just ask the Miami Dolphins how he beat them on the final drive during their Thanksgiving Day game and they likely still cannot explain it.
On the other hand, Romo also has shown a propensity to get into bad streaks, as well. He will force a ball into coverage, make poor throws and get sloppy. More often than not, the rest of the Cowboys follow whatever streak he happens to be in at the time. If the Giants are to get to Romo and rattle him into a bad streak, watch for DE Jason Pierre-Paul and how he does against LT Doug Free (team-leading nine penalties).
3. Giants vs. Giants. That’s right. One of the biggest keys for the Giants is to play as they did against Green Bay because Dallas (100 penalties) has shown that it can get sloppy.
The Cowboys also have proven that they are not a great comeback team. So it is imperative for the Giants to keep their mistakes, penalties, dropped passes, turnovers and missed tackles to a minimum so that the pressure builds on Dallas to play a fundamentally sound game – which they have shown they may not be able to do.
PREDICTION: Giants 34, Cowboys 24
PREDICTION RECORD VS THE SPREAD: 5-7
Will the Giants dominate in the Big D? Make your prediction in the comments below…