Giants wide receivers vs. the Cowboys corners
Maybe more specifically, the key matchup will be Terence Newman vs whoever he’s covering, and the Giants aren’t without weapons in the passing game. Last week in OT, we all remember LaRod Stephen-Howling’s 52 yard walkoff TD, but before that play happened, Kevin Kolb’s obvious target was Newman. On the final drive, Kolb targeted WR Andre Roberts three times, with Newman in coverage. Roberts had 2 catches for 30 yards and also drew a devastating pass interference call on Newman on 2nd and 19. According to PFF, Newman gave up 7 catches on 8 targets for 117 yards. Obviously, that’s atrocious. Without those three plays in OT, maybe Stephens-Howling never gets his chance. Expect the Giants to notice Newman’s poor play on film and attack him early and often. Advantage: Giants.
Jason Pierre-Paul vs. Doug Free
JPP is a star. I think we all kinda know that by now. But what really impresses me about JPP is his mentality. Against the Saints, on the meaningless run-it-up late TD run by mark Ingram, once Ingram broke into the clear, the entire Giants defense stopped and watched. Except for JPP, who sprinted downfield the whole way. Meanwhile, Doug Free hasn’t been the same player he was in 2010 – average at best. The Cowboys are going to have give him a lot of help against the relentless 2nd year pro. Advantage: Giants.
Cowboys pass rush vs. the left side of the Giants OL
I was shocked how well the Giants OL played a week ago against Green Bay. Giants LG David Diehl and Cowboys C Phil Costa had been battling it out for the NFL’s worst offensive lineman. With Will Beatty out, the Giants were forced to move Diehl to LT. Ruh roh. Filling in for Diehl at LG was Mitch Petrus. Ruh roh again. And with C David Baas out, in comes Kevin Boothe. Ruh roh x 3. And they actually played OK. However, Erik Walden ain’t exactly DeMarcus Ware, and one of the “three bullies” I picked on during the preseason, Jason Hatcher, has played well at RDE. I suspect the Cowboys will also shade Jay Ratliff to the shaky side of the Giants line on passing downs.
Division rival, Sunday night, major playoff implications on the line, and the guy that’s trying to block you is far outmatched physically. These are the kinds of games back in the day that Lawrence Taylor would absolutely take over and win on his own. DeMarcus Ware is unanimously considered by some to be among the 5 best defenders in the game. Post-career jokes aside, does DeMarcus Ware have little LT in him? It’ll be interesting to see if he can dominate in a game he should dominate. Advantage: Cowboys, in a big way.
Cowboys run D vs. Giants run O
In the first 6 games of the season, the Cowboys allowed just 418 rushing yards, or 69.7 per game. At the time, statistically, they were the best run D in the NFL. In the next 6 games, they allowed 788 rushing yards, or 131.3 per game. If you compare that to rest of the NFL through 12 games, 131.3 yards per game would put them at 25th. Very Jekyll and Hyde. If the Giants want to keep DeMarcus Ware away from Eli Manning, they’ll HAVE TO run the ball well to stay out of long down and distances. Unfortunately for the Giants, they can’t run the ball. They’re dead last in the NFL not just in rushing yards, but also yards per carry, with an embarrassing 3.3. Three… point… three. Wanna guess how many NFL teams are 3.5 or worse? Just one. The New York Football Giants. It’s kind of crazy really. When you think “Giant football,” you think good defense and good run game. The Giants have neither.
Ahmad Bradshaw returned last week, and your eye test may vary, but he didn’t pass mine. I’m also not buying a sudden resurgence of Brandon Jacobs’ game after one decent day. Those two guys aside, the fact of the matter is that the Giants OL simply gets no push in the run game no matter who you give the ball to. Advantage: Cowboys.
Justin Tuck vs. Tyron Smith
Justin Tuck does a weekly radio interview with WFAN’s Mike Francesa that lines up perfectly with my drive home every Monday. And pretty much every week lately, the interview started off with the pull-no-punches Francesa noting something to the effect of “Another quiet game,” which Tuck would sheepishly acknowledge. Justin Tuck, up until last week, has been completely invisible. This past week, however, I thought he was very active. He was getting pressure, he was effective in the run game, and he even came away with his first full sack since September. Tuck is now merely the “second most dangerous guy” you have to worry about along the Giants’ D Line. I suspect he’s going to see his share of one-on-one matchups against the talented rookie, Tyron Smith.
Smith has been very good this season, although when he has faced top-end pass rushers, he has struggled (see Jason Babin and Cameron Wake). Call this more of a hunch than anything, but I think Justin Tuck comes to play Sunday night. Advantage: Giants.
Jason Witten vs. um… ???
The Giants don’t have anybody that can cover Jason Witten, period.
With Michael Boley out, are you going to try to match up Jacquian Williams on Witten? Romo and Witten will shred him. Mathias Kiwanuka? No way. Chase Blackburn? Lolz. Deon Grant? He’s probably still having nightmares of Jimmy Graham repeatedly abusing him 2 weeks ago. Antrel Rolle? Well, Rolle can probably run with Witten but he’s giving up 6 inches and 60 pounds to him.
Really the only guy that has a shot is Kenny Phillips, and he has yet to practice this week with a sprained MCL. Advantage: Cowboys, in a big way.
Update: Whoops. Terrible job by me. Boley played last week (and not just a little – 51 snaps0, and somehow I didn’t even notice him. Slightly embarrassed.
DeMarco Murray vs. the Giants run D
After going off for 601 yards on better than 8 yards per carry in his first four starts, DeMarco Murray has since cooled off considerably. In his last 3 starts, he has run for 198 yards on 3.6 yards per carry. We already talked above about the Giants’ inability to run the ball, but they also struggle stopping it. The Giants give up 127 rushing yards per game (23rd in the league), and give up 4.6 yards per carry (24th). Advantage: Neither.