For many reasons, Sunday's matchup between our New York Giants and the Dallas Cowboys at New Meadowlands Stadium will be one of the most interesting games of the season to date.
For starters, it as an NFC East game against Dallas and those are always interesting. The Cowboys coaching change, the Giants worsening injury situation and a looming game against Philadelphia a week from now all add some intrigue to this game, though. Let's take a look at What to Watch on Sunday.
1. The Jason Garrett Factor: Will the Cowboy players, who had obviously quit on former coach Wade Phillips, show some resolve and at least play with effort under Garrett? In a way, they embarrass themselves even more if they do, because it will be even more obvious that they had tanked under Phillips. Will they play with more discipline? Will Garrett, who has always been the offensive coordinator the past several seasons, reach into his offensive bag of tricks and pull out all the stops to try and win Sunday? It will be fascinating to watch.
2. How Will Steve Smith's Absence Affect Eli Manning?: Even with Hakeem Nicks emerging as a star, Smith has been incredibly important to what has thus far been the best offense in the league. He has 47 receptions, second on the Giants behind Nicks' 51, and we all know what he brings to the table. Great hands and better route-running that make him a third-down conversion machine. It will be interesting to see how the Giants go about replacing him, and how much of a dropoff there might be in productivity.
3. Can The Giants Offensive Line Hold Up?: Maybe the question should be can they all stand up and make it through the game? The Giants are running out of bodies on their re-shuffled line. How center rich Seubert, left tackle Shawn Andrews and the left guard combo of Kevin Boothe and Mitch Petrus work together will be a critical factor for the Giants. So will all of the offensive linemen actually getting through the game in one piece. If anybody goes down the Giants are pretty much out of replacement options.
4. Shawn Andrews vs. DeMarcus Ware: For years we have squirmed watching David Diehl try to handle Ware, the Cowboys DE/LB. Sometimes Diehl has done OK, other times he hasn't. With Diehl out we get to watch Andrews give it a try. Andrews was impressive last week against Seattle in his first-ever start at left tackle. He was not lined up against a three-time All Pro, however. This week he is.
5. Can The Giants Force Dallas To Throw?: You have to know the Cowboys don't really want to be in a situation where veteran backup Jon Kitna has to try and win the game. That, however, is exactly what the Giants want to accomplish. With the league's second-ranked run defense (80.9 yards per game) the Giants need to force Kitna to the air.