DeMarco Murray and the Cowboys aim for sole possession of the NFC East when they host the rival Giants
The New York Giants hope to bounce back from one of their worst performances in years, while the Dallas Cowboys hope to continue their unexpected ascent to the top of the NFC mountain, as these two classic NFC East rivals collide this afternoon on FOX. Dallas won both of last season's meetings, with Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray rushing for 86 yards in both games — a respectable number, but one that would disappoint Murray this season as he chases history.
New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys
Kickoff: 4:25 p.m. ET
TV Channel: FOX
Spread: Dallas -6.5
Three Things to Watch
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1. Romo's Roll
Don't look now, but Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo has played like a Hall of Famer during this five-game winning streak. Since a three-interception performance in the opening loss to San Francisco, Romo has thrown 10 touchdowns to only two interceptions in the ensuing five games, without a passer rating below 93.5. Making Romo's life easier? A running game that relieves much of the pressure that has so often forced Romo into critical mistakes. Dallas is averaging a league-leading 33.3 rushes per game, and Romo's 191 pass attempts are the fewest of his starting career through Dallas' first six games. "We've had good running games in the past before -- probably not as many in a row — but my job is to obviously get us into good plays and get the ball to DeMarco and run the ball to the right looks," Romo said. "On third down, the running game doesn't help you as much — you've got to go out and execute it." So far, that execution has been nearly flawless.
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2. Good Eli or Bad Eli?
Giants quarterback Eli Manning is a popular whipping boy, but it's still a bit unfair to lay all of New York's struggles at his feet. In the Giants' 27–0 loss to the Eagles, which snapped a three-game winning streak for the G-men, Manning was pummeled, getting sacked eight times and hit seven more. But it is fair to say that Manning's production is an accurate bellwether for the Giants. In the three-game winning streak that preceded the Philly loss, Manning threw eight touchdowns and only one interception, completing 70.1 percent of his passes. In the Giants' three losses this season, Manning has thrown three touchdowns and four interceptions, completing 60 percent of his throws. Now, the Giants hope that good Eli makes an appearance, even without star wideout Victor Cruz, lost for the season to a torn patellar tendon. "You just hate it happened to Victor because he loves playing this game," Manning said. "He has a great attitude, and so to see him get injured and be out for the season, I feel for him."
3. When will the mileage catch up with DeMarco Murray?
Dallas running back DeMarco Murray has been remarkable this season, leading the NFL in rushing by a wide margin with 785 yards and joining Jim Brown as the only two players to rush for 100 yards or more in each of a team's first six games of the season. But production like that has to come at a price. Murray has the fourth-most rushing attempts in NFL history through six games, having toted the rock 159 times, an average of 26.5 carries per game. Over a full 16-game season, that extrapolates to 424 carries, which would set an NFL record. It's a sad fact of life as an NFL running back that there are only so many carries a body can take. Will the Cowboys start to taper Murray's carries a bit to save him for the stretch run? Look for Joseph Randle (fresh off a shoplifting scandal) to get a few more relief carries, starting this week — especially when (and if) Murray cracks the 100-yard barrier for the seventh time. Randle can't outrun the mall cops, but he is averaging 7.1 yards per carry this season.
Combine the Cowboys' positive mojo, their eye-opening win at NFC kingpin Seattle and their two wins over the Giants last season, and this has the makings of another Dallas statement win. Anything's possible in a division rivalry like this one, but the Cowboys appear poised to keep the magic going.