When it comes to Sunday's critical NFC East matchup between the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys yours truly is as conflicted as I have possibly ever been about what to expect -- from either team. I have no idea what we will see from the sometimes good/sometimes mystifyingly awful Giants. The Cowboys? They are a team that has lost three straight, is starting a quarterback who has never played for them, a new running back, and has some defensive players who weren't there when the teams met in Week 1.
So, to try and figure all of this out we turn to Dave Halprin of Blogging The Boys for this week's "Five Questions" segment. This, for me, was one of the most interesting "Five Questions" posts I have participated in for quite some time. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Ed: Why did the Cowboys make the switch from Brandon Weeden to Matt Cassel and what do they hope to gain from it?
Dave: The main reason is the Cowboys went 0-3 under Weeden. Even though he didn't play poorly, he also didn't make the plays needed to win games. He was somewhere in the middle and played very conservatively. The Cowboys could no longer continue on that path so they switched to Cassel. The hope with Cassel is two-fold. One, that he'll take a few more chances downfield. Weeden was checking down and rarely stretching the defense, Cassel should throw more of the mid-range stuff that will hopefully open up the running game a bit by pushing the Giants defense back. Secondly, Cassel has won in this league before, most observers think he'll have better command in the huddle and handle the leadership role better. They are banking on some of his intangibles.
Ed: I don't see any dominant team in the NFC East. Do you agree with the notion that it might take only nine, maybe 10, victories to win the division?
Dave: Absolutely, every team in the NFC East is flawed and the division is likely to only produce one playoff team and that will be the division winner. With everybody in the division sitting at .500 or worse, and we're already heading into Week 7 of the season, that shows you just how poor the division is playing. The Giants, Cowboys and Eagles all have a pretty even shot at the East, but I don't think Washington is ready to compete for the crown just yet.
Ed: What is your take on the Giants? Do you see them as a better team than the past couple of years, or as the same bumbling group that can't get out of its own way?
Dave: It's hard to say as an outside observer, I don't necessarily get to watch all of their games. So a lot of what I take in is from people's opinions and highlights, etc. Still, from the games I've seen, the Giants are just killing themselves with unforced errors. Of course there was the debacle at the end of the first Cowboys games, and the defensive penalties that allowed drives to continue during the Eagles game on Monday night. These are things that flawed teams have to avoid to win, not to mention the turnovers. So right now they look like the bumbling team that can't get out of their own way. The upside of that is if they can finally figure out how to limit the mistakes, they could be a good football team.
Ed: Where do you see advantages the Cowboys can exploit Sunday? On the flip side what, if anything, worries you about the Giants?
Dave: The Cowboys finally have their full arsenal of front-seven players on defense. That is going to be something that are going to try and exploit. Greg Hardy and Randy Gregory will be playing along with the other regulars, so that will make our pass rush much stronger. The Cowboys were able to get to Tom Brady two weeks ago, but the offense couldn't do anything to help them out. But that is what Dallas is going to try and do, get pressure on Eli from all angles. For the Giants, I would make sure Dallas can't run the ball, make them one-dimensional and force Matt Cassel to win the game. He hasn't played for a while and he hasn't been with Dallas long, so if it's all on him, it could be an issue.
Ed: Greg Hardy is, obviously, a polarizing figure. The guy is a terrific player, but he isn't helping the perception of himself with some of the things he has said since returning to action. What are your thoughts on Hardy, on the field AND off?
Dave: On the field, he's as good a pass rusher as they come. He was phenomenal two weeks ago against the Patriots and he makes the Dallas defense much stronger. He forces the other team to account for him and double-team him. That frees up other players. Off the field, I have nothing good to say. Whatever actually happened on the night of his domestic violence incident, he bears some if not all of the responsibility. The things he's said since, especially a couple of weeks ago, were poorly thought out if he thought them out at all. So off the field, it brings me no pride that he plays for Dallas. And I'm a guy who believes in second chances and that people are still entitled to earn a living after arrests, etc. But for me to support you, you have to show that you "get it", it doesn't seem like he gets it.
Thanks, as always, to Dave. Behave yourselves -- please -- when you visit BTB in the coming days.