By Paul Dottino
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The injury list was growing and the Giants had split their first four games. Not exactly the start they were looking for, but not a death sentence, either.
Tom Coughlin’s team responded with three straight victories – dispatching the Browns, 49ers and Redskins to improve to 5-2. But they still are 1-2 in the NFC East and realize that they failed to perform at their best in the season-opening 24-17 loss to the Cowboys. And that’s the Giants’ best motivation of all – the fact they played their ‘C’ game as the NFL allowed them to christen the season.
To a man, the Giants insist they are a better team than they were at that time – maybe so, because they have jelled after several injuries. On the flip side, the Cowboys (3-3) are missing standout LB Sean Lee (toe) and RB DeMarco Murray (foot) is not expected to play, either, and RB Felix Jones (knee) is ailing. Dallas also is coming off an unimpressive victory over the Panthers.
So here are the three key matchups to watch:
1. Cowboys OLB DeMarcus Ware vs. Giants LT Will Beatty and RT Sean Locklear. Ware is a game-changer, period. He had two of his 6 1/2 sacks in Week 1 while giving a hard time to then-RT David Diehl.
Ware will try his luck with Beatty and Locklear before he tells the Cowboys where he’d prefer to line up. Regardless, the Giants have to play a full 60 minutes against Ware because he can alter the course of a game at any second – and if he gets on a roll, he can make things snowball in a hurry and it would be hard to reverse that momentum.
2. Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride vs. Cowboys OLB Dan Connor. Connor, a former Panther who used to play inside and be a decent run stopper, has the task of replacing the athletic Lee. He immediately becomes a weak link in the Dallas defense and the Giants must find a way to exploit him, particularly because he not not have very good range or speed.
The Giants need to determine if they want to run around him or try to isolate him in the short passing game.
3. Cowboys QB Tony Romo vs. Giants CBs Corey Webster and Prince Amukamara. Romo played as well as he could play in the first meeting, burning the Giants for two-thirds of his offense from outside of the pocket. He went an amazing 22-of-29 for 307 yards with three TDs and one INT. Romo directed scoring drives of 73, 80, 65 and 82 yards.
Webster (hamstring) came off the injury report this week, so we’ll see if his burst returns. Amukamara’s coverage has been getting better each week. WR Miles Austin has been Romo’s big threat thus far, averaging about 17 yards a catch while Dez Bryant is only putting up about 10 yards per reception and Kevin Ogletree (8-114-2 TDs in Week 1) has disappeared. TE Jason Whitten, however, has put together three solid weeks.
Prediction: Giants 31, Cowboys 20
Prediction record vs. the spread: 3-3-1
What’s your prediction? Be heard in the comments below!