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Giants vs. Cowboys 2015, Week 7: When the Cowboys have the ball

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How can the Giants build on the 58 minutes of success they had week 1 in Dallas?

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After six weeks and six days of waiting, the New York Giants have the opportunity to right a pair of wrongs. After six games of waiting, the Giants can redeem their loss to the Dallas Cowboys in week one. And after six days of waiting, they can fully put their embarrassing performance in Philadelphia behind them.

Of course all that is much easier said than done. The Giants will have had to quickly put the Philly game behind them to prepare for the Cowboys. Also this game comes with a host of unknowns.

Will Matt Cassel be an upgrade over Brandon Weeden? Will Dez Bryant play? If so, how will he play?

Will Robert Ayers and Devon Kennard play? Will the Giants be able to mentally rebound and stop the bleeding, or will they let the mistakes from Week 6 snowball and swallow their season?

At least with the personnel questions, we might be best served to prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

With so many unknowns it is difficult to say precisely what will happen Sunday, but we can make some educated guesses.

Stats At A Glance

Total Points Total Yards Passing Yards Rushing Yards
Giants Defense 22.7 (14th) 391.5 (28th) 298.5 (30th) 93 (6th)
Cowboys Offense 20.2 (20th) 348.2 (14th) 242.0 (17th) 106.2 (18th)

Defensive Line

The Giants could potentially get a big boost to their defensive line, and pass rush in particular, if Ayers returns. But Ayers hasn't played since Week 2 when he had three tackles and a sack against the Falcons. If he is able to come back from his hamstring injury this week, he still might not be able to play at the level the Giants are used to seeing and be one of the most efficient pass rushers in the league. And still, the boost in pass rush brought by Ayers could be negated if Damontre Moore is benched to get Ayers on the field.

That being said, against the Cowboys, the pass rush is secondary. The primary goal of the front 7 will be to stop the run. The Giants have to assume that, until confirmed otherwise, Dez Bryant will be playing, and playing at his highest level. But even if Matt Cassel is up to speed in Dallas' offense and has a rapport with his receivers, Cassel has never been the type of quarterback who can take a team on his shoulders and carry it to victory.

His best season was 2008, when Tom Brady went down with a knee injury. After inheriting one of the best offenses in NFL history, Cassel went 10-5, completing 63 percent of his passes for 3693 yards, 21 touchdowns to 11 interceptions. He had a better TD to INT ratio in 2010 with the Kansas City Chiefs, but a lower completion percentage with fewer yards.

If the Giants want to take advantage of a quarterback who is making his first since Week 3 of 2014, they will need to keep the Cowboy's running game from getting on track and keeping their offense on schedule. If the Giants can keep the ball in Cassel's hands, that gives them the chance to find some semblance of a pass rush, but it all starts up front with the defensive line holding the line of scrimmage.

Linebackers

It would appear that the Giants are set to get Kennard back from injury. Its difficult to understate the importance of getting a player like Kennard back. He is vital to their run defense, capable in coverage, and one of their best blitzers. Not only were his physical skills sorely missed, but his intelligence, preparation, and ability to communicate were missed as well. Steve Spagnuolo's defense relies on communication from every level and every player on his defense to attack an offense, not just the middle linebacker.

Against the Cowboys, the Giants will really need their linebackers to play well. There is no reason why Dallas won't continue their tactic of using a quick-strike passing game to supplement their running game and neutralize the Giants' pass rush. While the secondary will certainly have to do their part -- and we'll get to that in a minute -- the linebackers will have to contribute to the defense of quick slants, bubble screens, screen passes, and pitches. Discipline, awareness, and sound tackling -- regardless of who the Cowboys field at running back -- will have to be at a premium Sunday afternoon.

Secondary

The hits just keep coming for the Giants' secondary.

While Jayron Hosley played admirably as a backup to Prince Amukamara, the Giants sorely missed Prince's physical presence on the outside. Few defensive backs are ad physical dealing with blockers or sure tacklers as Prince, and while Hosley played well in coverage, the Giants are missing that dimension in run support.

After a week of practice, the Giants might turn to new signee Brandon McGee to man the slot corner position with Trumain McBride dealing with a groin injury. The hope is that whoever plays that position can contain Cole Beasley, who has gashed the middle of the Giants' defense. McGee has the speed and agility to match Beasley.

The big question when facing the Cowboys has been, and continues to be, Jason Witten. Landon Collins could be a tremendous asset here, as his learning curve has been one of the more impressive, if under the radar, aspects of the Giants' 2015 season. While the game may not have truly slowed down for him, he has played faster every week, more sure in his coverage and run defense. Collins is very quickly becoming the player the Giants envisioned when they moved up to take him at the top of the second round. After playing well in coverage of Zach Ertz, the Giants could turn to Collins to cover the incredibly savvy Witten.

Final Thoughts

I'm not going to say that this is a game the Giants should win. But this is a game the Giants can win, and after Week 6, it is a game they have to win.

The Giants won their first game against the Cowboys, at least until they lost it. They won the game when Dallas was at full strength and the Giants were playing their very first game in Spags' new defensive scheme. With the defense potentially the healthiest they have been in weeks, with time and experience in the new scheme, and an upset Dallas offense, this is a game the Giants can win.

More importantly after Monday night's debacle the Giants need to stop the bleeding. Last season they let a disastrous night avalanche into a season-killing losing streak. If New York wants to do anything this season, they can't let the mistakes in Philly snowball. The defense needs to step up and stop an injured Dallas offense.