Welcome to the first of two divisional games between the New York Giants and the Dallas Cowboys. No matter the record, no matter the team, the match-ups between these bitter rivals are always hard fought, from both sides of the bench. Giants fans can attest to the fact that a team varies from game to game, even month to month. Using the Big Blue View's Flux Capacitor (yes, Ed lets me use it), we'll try to pinpoint who these two teams are right now.
Who Are The Dallas Cowboys?
Their most notable accomplishment this year is being one of only two teams that have taken down the San Francisco 49ers. Yes, the embarrassed the Buffalo Bills. However, they did so while the Bills were in the process of a steady decline, five grueling weeks to be exact. The New York Giants defeated the Bills when they were undefeated. The Cowboys have been inconsistent up until Week 8. After that, they got into a rhythm and won 4 consecutive games. Last week, they lost their rhythm as well as their game against the Arizona Cardinals, who were 4-7 at the time. They currently sit atop of the NFC East. But for how long?
Who are the New York Giants?
The Giants are a team who just lost four straight games. Two of those losses were quite possibly their best performances of the season against the two best teams in the NFL right now. Each of those games were just a finger tip's length away from being a victory. The Giants most notable victory this year was against the New England Patriots, a game that most did not think they could pull out. The Giants have been somewhat inconsistent as well. The six wins that they have on the season come from two separate 3 game winning streaks. As I said in an earlier article this week, the G-Men's level of play last week was set sky high. They had some things that they could have set higher. All in all, they played a great game and should be able to piggy back off of that game's performance to gain some momentum for the upcoming weeks. Let's break 'em down.
Tony Romo: He seems to be the same old Romo, except with a little bit of iron in his blood this year. The guy toughed it out after Frisco's Ahmad Brooks laid a hit on him, leaving Romo with a cracked rib and a punctured lung. The cherry? Romo led his team to victory. His numbers:
ATT - 422
Comp - 273
YDS - 3325
Comp % - 64.7
Yds/ATT - 7.9
TDs - 22
INT - 9
Sack - 25
QB Rating - 97.3
Tony Romo is ranked No. 7 in the league.
Eli Manning: Even his critics agree, Eli manning has one of the hottest hands in the league this year. His 4th quarter comebacks are no longer just something Giants fans are aware of, but the entire football world can no longer turn a blind eye to the surgeon-like skill that Eli conducts himself with in the two-minute offense. He has been putting the ball right on the mark. Manning has forced everyone to take a second look at him this year, due to the reversal of fortune, so to speak, of his turnover problem. He lead the league in interceptions last season with 25, an issue that he has corrected this year. He is currently nestled under Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Drew Brees in the stats department. Put the elite debate to rest. His numbers:
Comp - 276
YDS - 3705
Comp % - 62.4
Yds/ATT - 8.4
TDs - 23
INT - 11
Sack - 21
QB Rating - 96.0
Eli Manning is ranked No. 4 in the league.
The running game of the Cowboys boils down to one thing, their 2011 3rd round Draft pick, DeMarco Murray. This rookie out of Oklahoma has 886 rushing yards for the year, is averaging 5.5 yards per carry and has fumbled only once this season. not bad for a rookie. Expect great things from this RB in the years to come.
Dallas is ranked 14th in rushing.
The running game for the Giants? It's bad. It's all bad. There is definitely something wrong when Ahmad Bradshaw has less rushing yards than Michael Vick. The planets are out of alignment when Brandon Jacobs has less rushing yards than the rookie QB, Cam Newton. BJ has shown some strides during the year, last week in particular. But the rushing game for the G-Men is virtually non-existent. Move along, folks. Nothing to see here.
New York is ranked 32nd -- aka last -- in rushing. Thanks guys.
The leader of the Lone Star pack in receiving is the tight end, Jason Witten. He has wreaked havoc on the Giants before, and given the chance, he would love to do it again. At 6-foot-6, 265 pounds our linebackers are going to need to be on point in order to limit his day. Let's not forget about Dez Bryant and Laurent Robinson - all very capable receivers with Gorilla Glue on their gloves. Miles Austin, a great receiver in his own right, has been out for the last four weeks with a hamstring injury, and is expected to be back this Sunday. That could mean trouble.
The Cowboys are ranked 7th in receiving.
Get ready to do a little salsa dancing because the story here is Victor Cruz. We all saw what he could do back in the 2010 preseason game against the New York Jets. Unfortunately, he sustained an injury and was out for the entire year. Yet, the little bit of time that he was in during that game was enough to show the front office that this guy is worth keeping. Let's hope that they remember that come the offseason. Victor Cruz is now the third-leading receiver in the NFL. He is over 1,000 yards on the year already. But he is not the only member of the Big Blue receiving corps. who will be seeing 1,000. Hakeem Nicks is en route to having his secondconsecutive 1,000+ yard season. This is his third year in the league. The Giants also have a long ball threat in Mario Manningham, a workhorse in Jake Ballard and a slew of other receivers that can make any secondary's day regrettable, if left to their own devices.
The Giants are ranked 4th in receiving.
Dallas made an excellent 1first-round draft choice last year in Tyron Smith. At 6-5, 311 pounds, this guy was born to play this position. The tweaks made to Oline in the offseason, waiving Leonard Davis and Andre Gurode, haven't seemed to hinder their performance, as some anticipated. Instead, Jerry Jones saved some money and the Boys got younger on the line. Despite Romo's injury in Week 2, they have been protecting him pretty well and punching holes for the run.
Dallas' Offensive Line is ranked 14th in the league.
Giants fans everywhere were shocked at the changes madden the off-season. Veterans, Shaun O'Hara and Rich Seubert, were waived by the front office, much to their surprise. The Oline was ranked No. 2 last season and these two guys were a huge part of the reason for it. They were also the oldest line in the league. This season, the coaching staff has had to make a number of changes and adjustments. Last week's starting lineup with Kevin Boothe and Mitch Petrus seemed to work out well. They have been keeping Eli protected but haven't been helping much in the run department. They are now the second-oldest Oline in the NFL.
New York's Offensive Line is ranked 7th in the league.
The Dallas Cowboys Offense is ranked No. 7.
The New York Giants Offense is ranked No. 9.
The Cowboys' linebacker resume, this year, can be summed up in one word - DeMarcus Freakin' Ware. OK, three words. Ware leads the NFL in sacks, 15.0 in total. He has forced two fumbles and recovered one. Sean Lee, a second-year man, has been keeping with the Joneses himself. 78 tackles, six pass deflections and three interceptions are nothing to sneeze at. It would serve the Giants well to stay clear of their side.
Well, there's not a lot to talk about on the Giants' side. The linebacker crew has not exactly given us a lot to cheer about. We have seen some glimpses from young players like Jacquian Williams, Mark Herzlich and Spencer Paysinger. Some of it has been good. Some of it, not so much. Michael Boley has been picking up his play lately, as has Mathias Kiwanuka. If the Giants want to have any kind of chance at a playoff run, this bunch of guys is going to have to kick it up a few notches.
The three up front for the Cowboys are Kenyon Coleman, Jay Ratliff and Jason Hatcher. They certainly don't get a lot of pressure on the quarterback. But together with their linebackers, they become a pretty good wall that stops the run.
The Cowboys have the 9th-ranked rush defense.
The defensive line battle belongs to the New York Giants. Historically, we have been spoiled with great linebackers. Today, we are getting our best pressure off of the line. Jason Pierre-Paul has the fifth-most sacks and is the third-ranked defensive line. Linval Joseph and Chris Canty have also been doing a notable job. Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora have been hindered by injuries. But they are still managing to record some big plays when in the game. Pressure they've got.
The Giants have the 23rd-ranked rush defense.
Terence Newman heads up this band of pass defenders. They are an average secondary, giving up 246.8 yards per game. This is the area that an opposing team will want to exploit. Look for Eli Manning to have big numbers on Sunday.
Dallas' pass defense is ranked 17th.
When a team plays against the likes of the Green Bay Packers, the New Orleans Saints and the San Francisco 49ers all in the same season, namely this one, your pass defense numbers are bound to decline. It has been difficult watching the inconsistencies of the New York secondary. On the flip side, there have been some real head's up plays by Kenny Phillips, Corey Webster and Aaron Ross. Antrel Rolle leads the G-Men in tackles, again. Unfortunately, we haven't seen much out of our 1st Round Draft Pick, Prince Amukamara, due to injury. Hopefully, we'll see much more since he is starting to get some playing time.
New York's pass defense is ranked 29th.
Dallas is ranked No. 2 in FGs, due to Dan Bailey, and a lack of finding the end zone for TDs. In touchdowns, the Cowboys are ranked 19th. But they're not punting the ball away that much, 25th in punt yardage. Their return game is not much to speak of, 23rd in the league.
The Giants have shaken the punting woes from last season off of their shoulders with the addition of Steve Weatherford. In punting, the Giants are ranked 11th. With Domenik Hixon out, and missing all of last season due to injury, the G-Men have lost their best return man to date. There is still no one go to return man. Hence, there is nothing major to speak of here. Special Teams was the single biggest problem of the 2010 Giants. This year, there has been sow improvement. The Giants are dead last (32nd) in FGs, due to their ability to find the end zone this year. Eli and co. are fifth in TDs.
The Dallas Cowboys defense is ranked 11th.
The New York Giants defense is ranked 29th.
The tides are always changing in the NFL. We've seen some great starts for certain teams this year. Now they are spiraling down to the bottom of the barrel. We've seen some teams get off to a bad start, only to find their way back up to the top of their division. Dallas did find their niche for a few weeks. But with their inconsistency, before the four-game winning streak, and the loss last week against the Cardinals, my suspicion is that they are on their way back downward.
The Giants, on the other hand, have lost four in a row. They played a tremendous game last week, but lost nonetheless. The tides are about to change for the Big Blue Wrecking crew as well. Only their tides are going to bring them to the top of the division.
And now for the "go taunt a Cowboy fan" stat of the week. Dallas has not won a Week 14 game since 2007. Have at it, friends.