Until the actual Super Bowl rolls around, the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys’ Week 14 meeting will be the biggest game of the year.
The New York Giants can’t slip now. They’ve won six or their last seven games and still hold the fifth seed in the NFC playoff race. They’re coming off an undeniably ugly performance last Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers, however, that didn’t inspire much confidence in anybody surrounding the team.
Another abysmal loss for the Giants could send them into a spiral they may not be able to escape.
The Dallas Cowboys are coming in on Sunday for a primetime rematch. The Cowboys are seeking to avenge theri only loss on the season. They’ve won 11 straight, looked mostly impressive doing so, and are no where near the same team the Giants beat in early September.
Rookie quarterback Dak Prescott has emerged as more than a Rookie of the Year candidate; he may be an MVP candidate. Sensational rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott has proved why Jerry Jones and company took him so high in the 2016 NFL Draft by rushing for 1,285 yards this season.
The Cowboys feature the best offensive line in football. It can take over the game in the second half and tire defensive fronts out. Wide receiver Dez Bryant has started to find his chemistry with Prescott and has finally made a lethal pair with Cole Beasley on the outside. Moral of the story: the Cowboys have weapons and are a nightmare match up for any team in the NFL.
“There won’t be one guy stepping up to replace JPP; it will be a group task.”
That doesn’t mean the Giants don’t have the personnel and scheme to win this game. In fact, Big Blue matches up better with Dallas than most teams in the NFL.
On the defensive side, the Giants’ main goal should be to neutralize Dallas’ run game and force them to win the game through the air. To do this, Damon Harrison needs to continue to do what the Giants brought him in to do: plug up in the middle and stuff the run.
There’s a reason Jerry Reese gave a five-year, $46 million dollar contract to a two-down defensive lineman: he’s as valuable to this defense as any other player.
Expect defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo to send safety Landon Collins closer to the line to keep another defender in the box. Collins should thrive in this type of game plan. He can lean on his strengths of playing physical at the line to make him almost a hybrid linebacker.
The loss of leader Jason Pierre-Paul will no doubt have an impact on this defense, I don’t think anyone else needs to say that. He had a Pro Bowl level season following the uncertainty of his hand injury, but like coach McAdoo said, it’s about the next man up.
So who do the Giants have to replace JPP?
Expect Kerry Wynn to be on the edge in early downs. He has an ability to stop the run, but is unpolished in pass rushing right now. Romeo Okwara, an undrafted free agent out of Notre Dame, should see most of the third down or passing down opportunities.
Like Wynn, he’s a raw pass rusher right now, but Spagnuolo is impressed with his progress in practice. Linebacker Devon Kennard should also see some time rushing the edge, as he did in college at USC.
There wont be one guy stepping up to replace JPP; it will be a group task..
The Giants’ secondary should do a steady job against the Dallas receiving corps. Jenoris Jenkins has been reliable against the opposing team’s top threat; in this case it will be Dez Bryant. In the slot, rookie cornerback Eli Apple or veteran Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie should be matched up against Cole Beasely, who is one the key components to stopping the Dallas passing attack.
Beasely is Prescott’s first option on third down and possesses a Wes Welker like ability to move the chains and keep drives alive. Along with Beasely, tight end Jason Witten has torched the Giants his entire career. Even in a loss in Week 1, Witten had nine catches for 66 yards.
Given the Giants’ season-long struggles to defend tight ends (Steelers tight end Ladarious Green broke out for six catches, 111 yards, and a touchdown last week) expect Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett to get Witten involved early and often.
This has been said numerous times over the course of the season, but the Giants’ dormant offense is poised to breakout at some point and Sunday night may be that time. The possible returns of left guard Justin Pugh and running back Shane Vereen should give the offense a spark.
The interior left side of the line has been a revolving door all season,
“Odell Beckham Jr. is a generational talent who deserves the ball in his hands as often as he can get it, but force-feeding him the ball will make this already unbelievably predictable offense even more stagnant”
which may contribute to some of Ereck Flowers’ struggles on the outside. Pugh’s veteran consistency should help ease the young left tackle’s hardships.
In case you haven’t noticed, Victor Cruz and Sterling Shepard haven’t been getting enough targets. Two weeks ago against the winless Browns, Shepard was ignored by Manning. Last week against the Steelers, Cruz went without a target.
To keep the Dallas offense off the field, and for the Giants’ sake of getting into any kind of offensive rhythm, McAdoo and Manning need to spread the ball around to the triplets. The Dallas secondary can’t match up with the depth the Giants have at receiver.
In Week 1, that was exposed for a portion of the game. Yes, Odell Beckham Jr. is a generational talent who deserves the ball in his hands as often as he can get it, but force-feeding him the ball will make this already unbelievably predictable offense even more stagnant.
Sunday night is a chance for the Giants to reestablish themselves as serious NFC contenders, but it’s going to take all hands on deck.