Both teams are coming off Week 1 wins that were each impressive in their own right, but not without flaws. Dallas put on a prolific passing display, with over 350 yards and 3 scores through the air, but they also gave up over 450 yards and generated minimal pressure on the quarterback against a Tampa team widely recognized as “in transition.” The Giants showed off what could be a dominating defense in 2009. They controlled the clock and moved the ball against a stout defense. Their short yardage rushing and green zone efficiency left a lot to be desired however, and unless those areas are improved on, the Giants could struggle against more effective offenses this season.
How both sides follow up on their first performances of the season will reveal much about the nature of each team as well as the pecking order in the league’s toughest division. I think both teams are similar in many ways, and this weekend’s game could be one of the best from this early part of the season. Ultimately however, when it comes down to it, I believe that the Giants’ best is better than the Cowboys’ best, and they will prevail in a close contest.
Here are five reasons why:
5) The Road-Field Advantage. The Super Bowl-winning “Road Warriors” team of 2007 is still intact at the core. With more than 100,000 fans expected to join the celebration of Jerry’s creation, the stadium could be thunderous. For inferior or less experienced teams this could pose a big problem, but the Giants veteran group will be prepared for any challenges the environment might throw at them.
On the road again...
4) The Giants WR corps is stronger than the Cowboys secondary. With the exception of Terrence Newman, who has dropped off in recent years due to injury, I believe the Dallas secondary is mediocre at best. Orlando Scandrick and Mike Jenkins are very young and still developing. In the limited opportunities I’ve had to watch them (including against Tampa Bay), they’ve looked like liabilities rather than threats. In Week 1, Byron Leftwich threw for 276 yards. If not for a few air balls, who knows what that total could have been?
The young Giants receiving corps, in contrast, stepped up big with some clutch catches and key plays to help put away the Redskins. Manning completed passes to eight different receivers in Week 1. The absence of a clear number one, and the speed and play-making ability after the catch of each of Manning’s young targets, could work to the Giants’ advantage and put an inconsistent Cowboys secondary on its heels.
3) The Giants secondary will not give up 350 passing yards. While Dallas’s offensive display in Week 1 was impressive, it was not as dominating as some fans might think. Half of the yards came on three plays (80, 66, 42 yard TD passes), and all of the yards came against a disoriented, disorganized secondary attempting to muddle through an off-season of inconsistencies and transitions (See article). Outside of those plays, the Cowboys offense looked rather pedestrian for much of the game.
The Giants defensive backfield features a rotation of young veterans that are very comfortable in their scheme, and excellent in coverage. The unit also is home to one of the premier shut-down corners in the league, Corey Webster. Webster held perennial deep-threat Santana Moss to just 6 yards this past Sunday. With the possible return of CB Kevin Dockery to line-up, I am very skeptical Dallas can put on a similar show in Week 2.
CB Corey Webster will be critical to the Giants' success on Sunday.
2) The Giants run defense is superb. While Dallas does boast an impressive trio of runners, the challenge before the group is great. With the exception of a blown play on Washington’s first carry of the game, the Giants D held Clinton Portis to 28 yards on 15 carries last Sunday, continuing its tradition from last season of shutting down opposing backs. The wild-card for me is Felix Jones, who is a threat any time the ball is in his hands. If any defense is programmed to shut down a player like Jones however, it is the athletic and versatile Giants front.
1) The Giants will run wild on the Cowboy’s D. The Giants’ managed over 100 yards with two backs against a very good defense (4th best in the league last season + perhaps the most formidable defensive line presence in the game in Albert Haynesworth). Dallas gave up 174 yards on the ground to the Bucs, the 15th best rushing attack in league last season (Admittedly, a healthy Cadillac Williams and Derrick Ward are a big upgrade, but the OL has 4 of the same 5 starters).
Dallas will most definitely be looking to rebound after such a poor defensive performance, but so too will a Giants O-line that struggled with short yardage last week and struggled with the Dallas front seven last year. The influx of new personnel to the Cowboys defensive front injects an additional element of uncertainty to the Cowboys’ chances. Advantage: Giants
These two teams are evenly matched and I think we are in for a treat if we can control our anxiety long enough to appreciate the competition (not looking good on this end). Whichever team wins the battle for most effective running attack and most disruptive pass rush will go home with a “W.” If the Giants play their best football, I believe it will do the job.
Final score: Giants 27 – Cowboys 20
Sack Count: 4
Take-away Count: 2
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