There are so many crosscurrents in this game. I can see certain things that get us optimistic, yet there are many other things that can be very sobering.
1) 2 vs 6. Romo’s sacks vs Manning’s sacks. Despite a clear advantage of our defensive line, we only have 2 sacks on him… this needs to improve. Some of this is probably a holdover of the Kiwanuka experiment and Strahan’s first game back. But just like in baseball, where good pitching beats good hitting, so does a good offensive line beat a good defensive line. THIS NEEDS TO CHANGE. UMENYIORA, STRAHAN, TUCK (and LB/SECONDARY BLITZ) NEEDS TO GET TO ROMO.
2) To say our secondary is banged up is an understatement. Webster is not getting a hurt Galloway today. Webster was one of the main reasons why the Giants got through TB and he will have to be the reason why we get through Dallas. Webster is going to get beat, that is not an issue. The question is how many times. If it is once, that means he is blanketing coverage MOST of the time, and we can live with that and win the game.
3) Against the best teams you need 60 mins. Against the best teams this year (Dallas twice, Packers, Pats) the Giants played with their opponent for 2-3 quarters and folded late. This is a hurdle the Giants have to get over.
4) Terry Glenn? Jerry Jones was talking him up Friday. But there is no way Jones would help the Giants by waking them up to an unforeseen threat… smokescreen? The Giants should and will single him until he can prove more than that.
5) DeMarcus Ware on David Diehl. As mentioned before, Diehl is a wonderful player but he is not an Offensive Tackle. Yes, he can sub there, he can play a game for you when someone else goes down, but today is when he is going to hurt you because he is going to require some help when (not if) Ware beats him.
6) Dallas knows us well enough to know that the key to disrupting Eli is not making him comfortable in the pocket and giving him lots of pressure/less time.
1) One of the reasons why bye teams do better against the wild card winner is that they have two weeks to prepare. Since the Giants and Dallas are division rivals who have played each other twice this season (contrast that with the other 3 games this weekend, where only SD and IND have faced each other once), it negates the preparation advantage that the Cowboys would normally have.
2) Bradshaw, Smith and Boss look to make strong contributions today. If it was me I would start Bradshaw because I think he matches up best against the speed of the Dallas defense. Boss will get a record number of receptions today (5+). Smith will continue to help move the sticks.
3) From Bob Papa- put the speed of Gerris Wilkinson on Jason Witten. Wilkinson has steadily improved and he gives the Giants secondary help in this way. If you can slide (double) coverage to Witten because TO is not an overwhelming threat, then use Wilkinson. In a perfect world, this is how the Giants are going to beat the Cowboys.
THE USUAL SUSPECTS (previously discussed positive themes reiterated):
4) Strahan started the season late and he has fresh legs, playing his best football.
5) Burress is playing better than the midseason injury swoon.
6) See the “Manning pump fake” entry earlier this week for continued ideas of his improvement.
7) Penalties are down this year.
8) ROAD WARRIORS.
9) Special teams have steadily improved as the season has wore on.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
1) Pierce vs Barber. Don’t let this guy be Romo’s version of ‘Brady to Faulk.’ Is Pierce getting healthier?
2) Boss vs Williams
3) Toomer vs Reeves.
1) Home (bye) teams are 14-6 the past 5 years. 30% chance for The Giants.
2) Team winning first two games is 11-6 in the third game when they play again in the postseason. 35% chance for the Giants.
3) Moneyline implies ~24% chance for the Giants.
If the Giants had a healthy Madison in there vs TO I would feel so much better and bullish the Giants. As the week wore on and Madison became more and more “doubtful,” my optimism waned. There are plenty of variables which are simply not known- how effective are TO and Glenn? Does Bradshaw start? (That won’t happen but if it did I would like the Giants more.) Does Dallas get a lot of pressure on Manning and give us old Eli? Do we get Eli the time for him to be the new pump-fake Eli? Too many questions for me. Last week I called for a Giant win vs TB, this week I cannot be that bold. I do think it is possible, and greater a chance than the oddsmakers give us. I like the confidence of the Giants, but as a reminder, what wildcard winner ever had a lack of confidence after a playoff win? If the Giants do everything right we win a close game. If Dallas does everything right we get killed.
Very close game with a respectable shot at winning the game. Dallas 30 Giants 26. GO GIANTS!