Tonight the 6-6 New York Giants travel to Dallas to take on the 7-5 Dallas Cowboys. What has been a down season for both clubs can turn around in an instant on Sunday. If the New York Giants win they will tie the Cowboys record wise and be in good position to take the division title home. With games remaining against the Redskins, Jets, and Cowboys. The Dallas Cowboys have games remaining with the better-than-their-record-indicates Philadelphia Eagles, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The only way either team can assure the division title is to beat the other is to sweet the season series.
There are a lot of story lines to watch for including: Who is the better quarterback (Giants fans will take Eli Manning and the Cowboys fans are going to side with their man Tony Romo. But those stories, to me, are secondary. I like to focus on the development of the young players here at NFLmocks. Here’s what to watch for.
Justin Tuck vs Tyron Smith
In the games I’ve watched this year I’ve been impressed with the play of the #9 overall pick. He’s a bit lean, but he’s long with huge hands and a powerful motor. He’ll be lining up against a rapidly improving Justin Tuck, who has battled injuries all season, but finally looks to be getting back to his old-self. Tuck is one of the best two way defensive ends in the game and can really ruin an offensive game plan if he’s on. Smith will have to bring his A game to contain Tuck.
Jason Pierre Paul vs Doug Free
On one side the Cowboys will have their young OL going up against the Giants experienced Dl. On the other side the Cowboys have their experienced offensive linemen going up against the Giants young defensive end. Jason Pierre Paul has been the Giants best defender this year in a pro-bowl worth year (though he’s not officially on the ballot). Pierre Paul has 10.5 sacks, but even that doesn’t tell the whole story. He bats as many balls down at the line of scrimmage as any other defensive linemen in the league (personal opinion not rooted in facts) and can also pay the run. Last year against the Cowboys Pierre Paul two total tackles in two games, but the Cowboys faced him early in the season. Since week 12 of lat year Pierre Paul has 15 sacks (18 games). Good luck Doug Free!
Prince Amukamara against Miles Austin
When the Cowboys go three wide receivers deep the Giants will likely swing Corey Webster on Dez Bryant, Aaron Ross into the slot against Laurent Robinson (if he plays) and Prince Amukamara up against Miles Austin. This will be Amukamara’s toughest matchup of the year. If he struggles the Cowboys will be in for a long day.
Sean Lee’s performance
Early in the year Sean Lee was playing one of the best middle linebackers in the league (in my opinion). He has a veteran savvy. I’m interested to see if he’s still playing at the same high level because he seems to have slow downed a bit (perhaps due to injury).
Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks against the Cowboys secondary
What I’m interested in seeing here is how the Cowboys roll their coverages. This year Hakeem Nicks has seen all of the double coverages, and Kevin Gilbride just mentioned a day or two ago that Victor Cruz has yet to see anyone double him in the slot like they use to do with Steve Smith. But will the Cowboys? Rob Ryan likes to blitz, but with the way Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks have been playing can they afford to blitz that much.
What’ I’m really curious about seeing is will the Cowboys be the first team to start doubling Victor Cruz who has 1076 yards receiving and 7 touchdowns already this year even more impressive is that in the first two weeks of the season Cruz only had 17 yards receiving. That means that in the last 10 games Victor Cruz has 1059 yards receiving, or 105.9 yards receiving per game.
Demarco Murray against the Giants average run defense
The Giants are not that great of a defense. This year the Giants are allowing 127 yards rushing on the ground a game. DeMarco Murray has huge speed and can easily take advantage of the Giants over-aggressive defense. The Giants need to control DeMarco Murray in this game, force a few three and outs and give their offense enough opportunities to win the football game.
The young rookie linebacker has beenthisclose to making some huge plays this year. Nearly intercepting a pass to Jermichael Finley last week in the final 58 seconds of the game. Coming very close on a few blitz opportunities, and countless other close plays this year. However, close but no cigar will only get you cut in this league. One of these weeks Williams is going to have to make the big play he almost always makes. Will it be this week?
Be sure to chck out my tale of the tape preview for the Giants Cowboys game here.
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