Rare does a mid-November matchup featuring two non-winning squads own the pizzazz or enticement to merit must-see theater. It’s equally infrequent to see the NFC East, historically known as one of the more puissant divisions in football, reduced to the laughingstock of the league.
Not to say it’s lacking in spirit or competiveness. As Philadelphia sits atop the standings with a 6-4 mark, even the lowly Washington ball club, they of a 3-7 record, is very much a part of the playoff conversation. This up-for-grabs environment renders this Sunday’s Giants-Cowboys affair all the more important, and serves as our FOX NFL Game of the Week.
The Dallas secondary is giving up a league-worst 329.9 yards per game and coming off a 49-17 beatdown at the hands of the Saints. There’s also an 82.4 percent chance that Monte Kiffin has retired and a cardboard cutout is calling the defensive shots for the Cowboys. And if that’s the case, promote the silhouette to GM. Can’t do a worse job than Jerry Jones has done in the role, right?
Although Eli Manning leads the league with 17 interceptions, the Giants field general has been more secure with the rock in the past month. If the Cowboys hold aspirations of leaving the Meadowlands victorious, knocking Manning off his game will be imperative.
Matchup Watch: Giants defense versus Tony Romo
In its past four victories, the New York D has surrendered a meager 47 points. The front seven is holding the opposition to 98 yards per contest (seventh-best in the NFL) and the secondary has been just as stout, stifling passing games to 6.5 yards per attempt (fifth-lowest in the league).
This defensive aptitude will be put to the test against an explosive Cowboys strike. Under the direction of Tony Romo, the Cowboys are posting 27.4 points per game, fifth-best in the NFL. Most of these feats can be traced back to the 33-year-old arm, who’s enjoying a career-year with 21 touchdowns (third-most in the NFL) with a modest six picks. Romo’s excelled this fall in spreading the pigskin around, as Dez Bryant, Jason Witten and Terrance Williams have each been targeted 50-plus times on the season. As the rookie Williams further assimilates into the offense, one could make the case that the aerial assault has never been better in Romo’s eight-year tenure as Dallas starter.
In this rivalry’s first bout, Romo emerged victorious, hitting 73.5 percent of his targets for 263 yards and a touchdown. For the Giants to come out on top, Romo will need to be hassled early and often.
Spotlight: DeMarco Murray
As good as Romo and the air attack have been in Big D this fall, the same cannot be said for the ground game. The Cowboys rank 28th in rushing yards, largely a byproduct of a porous offensive line and injuries to Murray. However, it would be a misnomer to proclaim this lack of production as an upshot of Murray’s inability. In truth, when given the chance, the third-year back has shined, flaunting a solid mark of 4.9 yards per carry.
With growing cries for more work allotment to Murray, envision the Oklahoma product to be a featured component in Dallas’ strategy against the Giants. What he does with those opportunities likely decides this contest.
For real, Jerry?
I love having Jones around, as the presence of an engaging villain seems to liven up the proceedings. Conversely, when the Cowboys owner said, “The facts are I really do think, the way things have rolled out, I’m getting to do some of the best work that I’ve done, relatively speaking in my career, over these last several years," I mean, what the hell, right? Should be noted that, since taking over as general manager, Dallas is .500, and firing Rob Ryan this offseason might have been one of the dumbest personnel moves in recent memory. Also, you can’t say, “The facts are,” followed by the phrase “I think.” That’s a paradox! But sure Jer, you’re kicking tail and taking names, my friend.
The Cowboys win if…
Romo stays within himself, Murray sees 15-plus touches, Eli’s “Manning Face” makes its triumphant return…
Sorry Cowboys fans, don’t think you’re getting away with beating Manning twice this year.
Prediction: Giants 23, Cowboys 20
Joel Beall is a writer for FOXSports.com and WhatIfSports.com. He lives with a Golden Tee machine and a jump shot that’s currently broken. Reach Joel on Twitter @FOXSportsBeall