This is it. Finally a big time game to get excited about. The Cowboys head into the game with the NFC East lead but for some reason I get the feeling they need to win this one or the season will end without a playoff appearance.
I know the Giants have lost 4 straight. But they come into the game with a lot of confidence after going toe to toe with the defending Super Bowl champions last week and nearly coming away with a win. Eli Manning is on fire. And the defensive line can be scary good when they are motivated. They will be this week.
I don't want to make it sound like the Cowboys can't win this week. They can and I think they will. But the running game is going to have to be great this week so the Cowboys can keep control of the ball and keep this game from turning into a shootout. Thankfully Tony Fiammetta will be back at fullback after missing the last few games with an inner ear infection. Hopefully his presence will get the running game back on track.
And, just as importantly, Miles Austin will finally be back on the field for the offense. It was painfully obvious last week that the Cowboys missed his speed on the outside last week as the Cardinals put 8 men in the box and dared Dez Bryant and Laurent Robinson to beat them deep. They couldn't and they allowed the Cardinals to shut down the running game of the Cowboys all game long. With Austin back the offense gets a deep threat that helps prevent the defense from selling out against the run.
My biggest concern heading into the game is whether the defense can contain the explosive passing game of the Giants. Eli Manning has been playing very good football this season. As usual with a hot quarterback the key is getting pressure in his face. Eli is similar to Tony Romo in that most of his errors happen when there is pressure right in his face. He'll make a few bad passes every game that can be picked off if he is under pressure. Rob Ryan needs to attack and stay aggressive all game long. I'm tired of seeing the three man rush show up in critical situations. The defense needs to dictate the pace of the game to the offense. That means they need to be attacking.
Sean Lee having use of his hand is going to make a big difference. He probably isn't going to be back to picking off passes with a partial cast on his wrist, but at least he'll be able to wrap up with two hands when he tackles. The Cowboys can't afford to let the Giants have success running the ball because they'll have enough trouble stopping the pass without worrying about the run. The defensive line needs to control the line of scrimmage so we don't have to see Brandon Jacobs steamrolling anyone. I don't want to have to watch that idiot running his mouth. If they keep him moving sideways he becomes a terrible running back. That can only happen if the Cowboys are winning at the point of attack.
The secondary needs to have a good game covering Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks, Jake Ballard and Mario Manningham. But I think they can only be successful if Anthony Spencer, Jay Ratliff and Demarcus Ware are keeping Eli Manning from getting comfortable in the pocket. I don't think the Cowboys can win if they are planning to sit back and let Eli Manning survey the field.
Dez Bryant on punt returns could be the X-factor in the game. Of course that can only be the case if there aren't yellow flags flying every time he returns the ball. Dez is a dangerous returner and the blockers need to be smart about avoiding penalties.
I'm fired up for this game. I'll be at the stadium doing my part to help the Cowboys win. A victory in this game would nearly wrap up the NFC East. A loss could spell doom for the season. The stakes are high. And that is what makes this game so exciting to think about. I'm picking the Cowboys to win the game 27-26.