NFC East rivals headed in opposite directions will put a bow on Sunday’s slate when the Dallas Cowboys face the New York Giants tonight on NBC. The Cowboys (7-3) come out of their bye rested and probably with one eye on Thursday’s showdown with the Eagles. The Giants (3-7) are reeling, losers of five in a row and looking like a team that already has one eye on next season.
Dallas beat New York 31-21 back in Week 7 and has won three in a row against its longtime divisional rivals. One big difference between then and now is that the Giants were without leading rusher Rashad Jennings, who was out because of a knee sprain.
Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants
Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: NBC
Spread: Dallas -3.5
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Dallas' Key to Victory: Stick to the Game Plan
The Cowboys’ bye last week couldn’t have come at a better time. Even though Tony Romo threw for 246 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions in the 31-17 win over Jacksonville in London, it was pretty apparent that he wasn’t completely healthy. Romo missed the previous game with a back injury and given how stiff he looked moving around the pocket against the Jaguars and the extra time he took to get up off of the turf, Dallas is very fortunate he was able to finish the game relatively unscathed. The bye gave Romo an extra week to recover, so he should be in pretty good shape for tonight’s game. That doesn’t mean, however, that the game plan should call for him to throw it all over the field, even though the Giants’ secondary has been decimated by injuries. A big reason the Cowboys are 7-3 is because they have let DeMarco Murray and one of the NFL’s best offensive lines do the heavy lifting. Murray is leading the league in rushing by nearly 300 yards, as Dallas is averaging 153.2 yards per game on the ground. New York entered this week dead last in rushing defense (145.0 ypg) and has yielded nearly 500 yards in the last two games alone. In all three of the Cowboys’ losses, the offense had more pass attempts than rushes. A heavy dose of Murray has worked well for Dallas so far, so there’s no reason to change up things now.
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New York's Key to Victory: Get Rashad Jennings Back on Track
The Giants are 3-7 and have lost five games in a row. While the defense has been a huge issue during this losing streak, allowing 431.4 yards and 30.4 points per game, the offense has offered little support. In particular, the running game has really struggled, gaining less than 80 yards per game. This of course puts more pressure on Eli Manning and the passing game, which hasn’t been able to carry the load. Manning has seven touchdowns and six interceptions in the last five games, with five of those picks coming last week against San Francisco. New York won three in a row from Weeks 3-5 and it was due in part to a ground game that averaged 157 yards per contest. Jennings, their No. 1 running back, was responsible for 286 of those yards, before leaving the Week 5 win over Atlanta early with a knee injury. Jennings missed the next four games, all Giant (no pun intended) losses, as Andre Williams and Peyton Hillis were unable to replace his production. Jennings returned last week and picked up 59 yards on 18 carries, but it should be pointed out that New York only lost by six points despite Manning’s five interceptions. This Giants’ offense is clearly a different animal when Jennings is in the backfield, so it’s critical that coordinator Bob McAdoo and Manning get the ball in his hands early and often. Besides, it’s not like the pass-heavy approach has worked that well these past five games right?
Dallas has lost two of its past three games, but coming off of a bye that seems like a long time ago. New York has lost five in a row and it has been a long time since it beat Atlanta back in Week 5. The Cowboys should be rested and pretty healthy as they gear up for a stretch run that includes two games in a span of 17 days against Philadelphia and a date with Indianapolis. The Giants won’t roll over, since this is a divisional rivalry, but this defense is too banged up and has offered little to no opposition recently. Dallas should be able to control the clock with its running game, which will open up big-play opportunities down the field for a healthier Tony Romo. Cowboys tune up for Thursday night’s showdown against the Eagles by beating the Giants for the fourth time in a row.