A look back a 5 key matchups from Cowboys-Giants I

I did the same post 3 weeks ago, and I thought it would make some sense to go back and look at who won some of the key matchups the last time around:

Giants wide receivers vs. the Cowboys secondary

What we said last time:

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.

What happened?  Hakeem Nicks had 8 catches for 163 yards, Victor Cruz had 6 for 74, and Mario Manningham chipped in with 2 for 62, as Eli Manning bent the Cowboys’ secondary over his knee to the tune of 400 passing yards.  As long as the Meadowlands aren’t frigid and/or very windy, I expect more of the same.  Just FYI, the trend of picking on Newman continued as he was targeted 10 times, although the Giants only connected on four of those attempts.  The Eagles also targeted Newman 7 times last week on just 26 pass attempts.

Doug Free can't block JPP on his own for 4 quarters.

Jason Pierre-Paul vs. Doug Free

What we said last time:

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.

What happened? JPP beat Free for 2 sacks. Bad mismatch for the Cowboys. They’re going to have to give Free a ton of help.

Cowboys pass rush vs. the left side of the Giants OL

What we said last time:

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.

What happened? Ware and the Cowboys’ D got some pressure, but didn’t manage a single sack of Eli Manning.  This is a matchup the Cowboys HAVE TO take advantage of if they expect to go to the playoffs.  Kudos to the Giants for winning this battle the first time around.  Shame on the Cowboys for not exploiting what should be a clear-cut win.

Cowboys run D vs. Giants run O

What we said last time:

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.

What happened? Brandon Jacobs had his first 100-yard game of the season and actually looked like a competent RB.  Three weeks ago I talked about “not buying a Jacobs resurgence,” but he may actually be a very interesting player down the stretch.  The Giants have run 888 offensive plays this season.  Jacobs has been in on 284 of them.  That’s 32%.  He only has 145 carries.  In other words, in a league where pretty much every NFL player has his share of pain this late in the season, Jacobs is fresh.

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.

What happened? Tuck was invisible, and remains a shell of his former self. In an otherwise good rookie season, Tyron Smith struggled mightily last week against the Eagles pass rush.  He’ll have a much easier responsibility on Sunday.

12 Comments

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  5. retired jim says:

    As an Eagles fan, who do you root for? Hate both teams but live in an area where the fan base is equally divided between Giants and Eagles so I guess I will hear less if the Cowboys win. Root for the Cowboys? But if the Cowboys win you have to see the big grin on Jerry Jones’ face and a smile on the idiot Ryan. A tie makes the game better with neither team winning but Giants win division. What to do????
    Need to go out of the country to some jungle for a week and come back when the winning team loses the first playoff game by 20 points.

    1. Steve says:

      When in doubt, root against the Cowboys, every time.

      1. Leighton says:

        Completely agree. There’s just some part of me that wants to see the cowboys lose. What’s even crazier is that it actually happens. When they played the cardinals, i was praying that romo would get sacked every single down. And he did!

        Funny stuff how the nfl rolls.

        thats why they play the games

  6. joe says:

    Granted i am a cowboys fan, but with the lopsided nature of the things in the post going the gmens way, you would not have expected the game to be as close as it was….expecting a good game with cardiac finish

    1. brisulph says:

      swiss cheese secondary will do that for ya.

      1. youngwiz says:

        yeah thats why i dont call it a win for the OL that ware had 0 sacks. he was in the backfield. its on the secondary when the QB can get it out so quickly. newman 26 yards off on 3rd and 3, more specifically.

        1. brisulph says:

          I was referring to the Giants D… they got torched real good all game as well.

  7. giants fan says:

    I really hope Tuck can regain his form for this game. I think he’s looked better over the past two weeks but still nothing close to where we’ve seen him. With Tuck and JPP coming from the edges, we would give the cowboys aerial attack nightmares.

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