This will be the first game for the downtrodden Dallas Cowboys since Wade Phillips was fired and replaced by offensive coordinator Jason Garrett. That makes this the start of an eight-game audition for Garrett, who has long been thought to be the coach-in-waiting. Given how awful the Cowboys have been (outscored 80-24 in their last two games), the Giants fear the coaching change might give the Cowboys a spark they wouldn’t have otherwise had.
Keys for the Giants
• Don’t turn the ball over. It’s been their Kryptonite all season. They have 22 turnovers through eight games, which has hurt what is an otherwise unstoppable offense that has averaged 36.0 points over the last four games. When the Giants don’t give up gifts, they roll. But when they do, the turnovers tend to come in bunches.
• Protect Eli Manning. The Cowboys still have good personnel on defense, and the Giants are always wary of Dallas’ pass rush. If the offensive line gives Manning time, though, he’s money. He’s completing over 65 percent of his passes and is on a record pace in every offensive category. He also has two very dangerous receivers — Hakeem Nicks and Steve Smith. Defenses can’t double them both.
Keys for the Cowboys
• Hurt the Giants on special teams. This is the Giants’ other Achilles heel. They can’t cover on kickoff and punt returns, as Dez Bryant knows since he scored on a punt return against the Giants three weeks ago. Another return for a score would be a huge momentum-changer. But he doesn’t need to score. He can also hurt them with big returns that tilt the field.
• Run the ball. Unfortunately, no one has really been able to do that against the Giants during their five-game winning streak. But the Cowboys need to try to control the ball, keep it away from Manning, and to allow quarterback Jon Kitna to run a two-dimensional offense. If he’s forced to become one-dimensional, he’ll be a target for the Giants’ dangerous pass rush, and things could get ugly.
Don’t expect the Cowboys to roll over and die like they did the last two weeks. Garrett will get their attention, if the coaching change didn’t already do it. But with Kitna running the offense, the Cowboys just don’t have the horses anymore to keep up with the Giants’ high-scoring attack. Unless the Giants have five turnovers again, expect this game to be the rout the last one should’ve been. Giants 38–17