In my first Scouting Report, of these two teams, we took a detailed look at the individual branches within each divisional rival franchise. Seeing as how only three weeks has passed since the first match-up, where the New York Giants toppled the Dallas Cowboys by a score of 37-34, in a come from behind victory, one might assume that nothing much has changed. At first glance, that might be the case. In the NFL, however, all teams are subject to change on a game-to-game basis. Are these two NFC East adversaries the same teams that met on December 11, 2011?
Who are the Dallas Cowboys?
The Cowboys have seen significant declines in many aspects of their game over the last three weeks. They have only improved one facet of their ball club since the first meeting with Big Blue. Making matters increasingly more grim for Jerry Jones' pride and joy is the questionable condition of Tony Romo, who was removed from last week's game after taking a helmet hit to his passing hand. Romo's hand ballooned and he did not return. Romo states that he will play this coming Sunday. With a hand that is still swelled, coupled with possible prolonged effects from a broken rib injury earlier in the season, will Romo be able to deliver the kind of playoff-caliber performance that he will need to in order to beat a hungry New York Giants football team?
Who are the New York Giants?
The Giants have made some adjustments which have paid off for them. There have been improvements in most areas of play, as we will discover further along in this article. They have maintained their presence in the top five in passing and receiving. Victor Cruz has earned the most receiving yards in a single season for the Giants franchise. Eli Manning has also broken a team best, with most passing yards in a single season. Manning has had some questionable performances this year, no question. His two lowest Quarterback Ratings of the season were 61.5 and 45.5. he has recorded an above 70.0 in all other games. That may sound reassuring but the two lowest ratings occurred in the last two games since we squared off against Dallas. The G-Men will need all of the other branches of their Big Blue Wrecking Crew to be at their best. Ultimately, the success of this team will come down to these two franchise record holders producing big numbers on Sunday.
Tony Romo has slipped down a rung in the stats since he last faced the Giants, partially due to missing ninety-nine percent of last week's game. While Romo did overcome a fractured rib and punctured lung earlier in the season, it is highly unlikely that he will be able to leap over his latest hurdle, an injured throwing hand. One point of interest, Tony Romo has only thrown two interceptions in the last eight weeks. Those two picks were thrown in week twelve against the Miami Dolphins.
ATT - 485
Comp - 317
YDS - 3895
Comp % - 65.4
Yds/CMP - 8.0
TDs - 29
INT - 9
Sack - 30
QB Rating - 102.2
Tony Romo is ranked No. 8 in the league (down from 7th).
Eli Manning has kept a firm grip on his place amongst the leading quarterback of the NFL. The last two weeks have been the most bleak, statistically, for Manning. Eli has thrown only one touchdown since the game against Dallas, and four interceptions. His numbers are down but not entirely of his own accord. His receivers have not been helping him as of late. Neither has the offensive line. Manning will need to rally his troops and deliver a stellar performance in a win or go home battle for the NFC East championship.
Comp - 335
YDS - 4587
Comp % - 60.3
Yds/CMP - 8.3
TDs - 26
INT - 16
Sack - 26
QB Rating - 90.3
Eli Manning is ranked No. 4 in the league.
The running game for the Cowboys has been dramatically altered, due to the broken ankle of DeMarco Murray. The rookie sensation was on his way to rushing for over 1,000 yards, only to find his season brought to an end against the New York Giants. Filling in is Felix Jones, who is coming off of an ankle injury himself. Jones put together two games with over 100 yards rushing, one of them against Big Blue. Jones has also been plagued by a hamstring injury which has been a factor as well. He was kept on the bench for most of last week's game against the Philadelphia Eagles, a game in which the top rusher (LeSean McCoy) ran for thirty-five yards. While the Giants rushing defense has been spotty, at best, they should be able to limit this ailing Dallas rush.
Dallas is ranked 15th in rushing (down from 14th in game one).
Not much has changed for the New York running game. There has been some slight improvement. Brandon Jacobs was able to put his first game with over 100 yards rushing. It just so happens that he did so against the Cowboys. Ahmad Bradshaw has showed some signs of life over the last few weeks but nothing to brag about. The G-Men have had their most success against Dallas' run defense this year. They will look to exploit that weakness again this Sunday.
New York is ranked 32nd in rushing (no change).
Slip, slide and away - this is another area where the Boys have suffered a decline in performance. Surprisingly, their leading receiver, Jason Witten, was not used much in the last game. Witten has been hard to handle for the Giants in the past. It would be no great surprise to find the coaching staff trying to figure their multi-Pro Bowl tight end into the master game plan on Sunday.
The Cowboys are ranked 8th in receiving (down from 7th).
The Giants are one of three teams in the league to have two receivers with over 1,000 yards. The Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints should be joining the list this week. Victor Cruz has the third most reception yards in the NFL. Hakeem Nicks is ranked eleventh. There should be some depth added to this receiving corps this week with the possibility of Mario Manningham and Jake Ballard being back in the active lineup.
The Giants are ranked 4th in receiving (no change).
In just three weeks Tony Romo's protection up front have backpedaled three positions. In the same three weeks, this offensive line has given up eight sacks, three to the Giants. With the increased pass rush that New York has been bringing over the last few games, expect this line to slip down another notch or two.
Dallas' Offensive Line is ranked 17th in the league (down from 14th).
The Giants have pretty much stayed put in this area. Although, they did find themselves in the sixth spot last week. The magic formula of Mitch Petrus and Kevin Boothe doesn't seem to be as magical as it once had. They have given up five sacks over the last two games. The Giants will need these guys to become a Big Blue wall if they expect to come out on top of this Sunday's game.
New York's Offensive Line is ranked 7th in the league (no change).
The Dallas Cowboys offense is ranked NO. 9 (down from 7th).
The New York Giants offense is ranked NO. 8 (up from 9th).
DeMarcus Ware continues to wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks. He is currently ranked third in sacks throughout the NFL (18.0). We're at the last regular game of the season. Naturally, there are some banged up players in the active roster. This linebacker crew happens to be one of them. Both Ware and Sean Lee, leading tackler for the Cowboys, have some lingering injuries. Yet, this group is still capable of making things happen.
Michael Boley and Mathias Kiwanuka have stepped their game up a bit. But they still aren't living up to the glorious Giants pastime of that particular position. It would do this team well to find a solid linebacker in the upcoming Draft.
This is an area of improvement for the Cowboys, largely due to their front three - Jay Ratliff, Jason Hatcher and Kenyon Coleman. Rob Ryan has been successful in getting his line to stop the run. It is his ability to limit the passing game that is lacking. Still, a solid corps of linesman.
The Cowboys have the 7th-ranked rush defense (up from 9th).
The Giants front four continue to be a dominating force. Jason Pierre-Paul is ranked third in sacks and at times, seems to have a twin of himself on the field. He gets to the quarterback better than anyone else on the Giants and is everywhere making tackles. Justin Tuck, Linval Joseph and Chris Canty have also elevated their game over the last few weeks. There has been improvement here. However, the run defense still as some holes.
The Giants have the 22nd-ranked run defense (up from 23rd).
Dallas has slid backwards, severely, in limiting the pass. They haven't been able to stop the big play down field in single or double coverage. They give up 238.3 yards per game. They are not the worst in the league. But this secondary is one of their biggest weaknesses. The Giants will certainly put them to the test on Sunday.
Dallas' pass defense is ranked 23rd (down from 17th).
New York's secondary is not exactly air tight. We have seen many big plays get away from them this season, most that simply shouldn't have. There has been confusion amongst this group of backs, in what appears to be a perplexing system. Whether it is Perry Fewell's schemes or Prince Amukamara's learning ability, our first round Draft choice, who most had high hopes for, has looked lost in space. Even with the miscommunications and poor coverage, the Giants have improved their pass protection. But if they hope to make a run in the playoffs, they'll need to step up their measures.
New York's pass defense is ranked 27th (up from 29th).
Dan Bailey continues to be one of the better field goal kickers in the NFL. He remains in second place throughout the league. More field goals means less touchdowns and that means Dallas has not been banging it into the end zone as much as they could be. Their kickoff return game, which wasn't much to speak of three weeks ago, has dropped dramatically. They are 30th in the NFL. On punt returns, they rank 34th. Their punting is decent. But it is in their ability to limit return yards where they excel.
The G-Men have attempted the second-least amount of field goals in the league. This is directly due to the performance of Eli Manning, who has been finding the end zone all year long. Steve Weatherford continues to earn his money in the punting department. Shocking as it may be, the Giants rank seventh in kickoff returns. You can thank Devin Thomas for that. Punt returns is a different story. They rank 30th. You can thank Aaron Ross for that. Special Teams tackling has seen some improvements with the re-signing of Chase Blackburn. But they still have a lot of work to do in this area.
The Dallas Cowboys defense is ranked 14th (down from 11th).
The New York Giants defense is ranked 29th (up from 28th).
Here we are at the end of the season and Dallas is on the move, downwards. As we have discovered, they have slipped in all facets of their game, except one - the offensive line. That is quite ironic given the hand injury that Romo is dealing with now. The Giants, on the other hand, have improved in most every aspect of their game while keeping a firm grip on the slots where they have been dominating the league.
When a team is at this point of the season, you want them to be showing signs of improvement. Teams that are fizzling out at the end do not have a great likelihood of going very far. This is what we have here. The battle for the NFC East championship and a playoff spot is at hand. We know that both teams have the ability to shine brightly as well as lose in heart-wrenching fashion. Dallas have some key injuries, are in a state of decline and will have to beat the Giants at home for all the marbles. You have to like the Giants chances here.