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Giants vs. Cowboys: Who Has the Edge in Their NFC East Showdown?

Louis MustoContributor IIIDecember 29, 2011

Giants vs. Cowboys: Who Has the Edge in Their NFC East Showdown?

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    As the New York Giants cling onto the NFC East lead and a playoff berth following a rebound victory over the New York Jets in Week 16, they are preparing for Round 2 with the Dallas Cowboys—this time at home inside MetLife Stadium.

    It’s a dream scenario for die-hard football fans everywhere as the final game of the season will decide the fates of each team, culminating in a playoff berth and a home playoff game.

    In their last meeting, the Giants overcame an 11-point deficit with just over three minutes remaining in regulation to defeat the Cowboys in the final minute, 37-34. The glories of the Giants’ victory were short-lived, however, as New York stumble with an opportunity to run away with the division, losing to the Washington Redskins at home, 23-10.

    Perhaps it was simply the way it was meant to be, as there might not be a more exciting game going into Week 17 than this Sunday night matchup between the Giants and Cowboys with everything on the line.

    With both teams preparing for another exciting battle like the one they put forth in Week 14, who holds the edge on the field in their Week 17 rematch?

Giants Pass Offense vs. Cowboys Pass Defense

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    In Week 14, Eli Manning and the New York Giants passed for 400 yards against the Dallas Cowboys and did a fantastic job tearing apart the Cowboys secondary throughout the evening.

    Since that game, Manning has thrown four interceptions in the Giants’ last two games and put a strain on the Giants’ playoff run. Fortunately, Victor Cruz picked up the slack in Week 16 and sparked a great second-half march that led the Giants past the Jets and into perfect position to take the NFC East title.

    Manning has had substantial success in his career against the Cowboys, as his Week 14 performance shows, but does tend to struggle in the colder months of the season at home. On a cold Sunday night inside MetLife Stadium, it’s very possible weather will inhibit his performance against the Cowboys’ defense.

    Still, the Cowboys secondary has a tough time against the NFL’s top quarterbacks—which the Philadelphia EaglesMichael Vick gladly took advantage of in Dallas’ Week 16 loss—and with a handful of injuries hampering the Cowboys’ best defensive players, Manning and his receivers should be able to have a very good game.

    Edge: GIANTS

Giants Rushing Attack vs. Cowboys Run Defense

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    Despite still being ranked last in the NFL in terms of rushing, the New York Giants have vastly improved their ground attack and have put up solid numbers on the ground since Brandon Jacobs’ 101-yard performance against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 14.

    In the Giants’ last four games, they are rushing for 4.4 yards per carry and have six touchdowns on the ground.

    The Cowboys, however, are the seventh-ranked run defense in the NFL. They have allowed only four rushers to have 100-yard games this season and just one—Brandon Jacobs in Week 14—in their last six games.

    If Dallas can contain the Giants’ rushing attack, it will force the Giants to be one-dimensional and could place Eli Manning and the passing attack under pressure in New York’s blistering cold.

    Edge: COWBOYS

Cowboys Pass Offense vs. Giants Pass Defense

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    The New York Giants played well against the New York Jets and Mark Sanchez in their Week 16 win. Unfortunately, Tony Romo is not Mark Sanchez.

    Synonymous with choking in December, it’s fun to assume Romo will have a poor game for the Dallas Cowboys. The reality is, it would be foolish to expect anything but Romo’s best with the Cowboys’ season on the line.

    Tony Romo went 21-for-31 passing for 304 yards and four touchdowns in the Cowboys’ Week 14 loss to the Giants. Two of Romo’s touchdowns came in the fourth quarter and, if not for a terrible Cowboys defense, would have given Dallas a much-needed victory.

    Throughout this week, Romo has been favoring a bruised right throwing hand. The injury will not likely keep him from starting against the Giants and shouldn't be an issue come game time.

    The Giants will need to pressure Romo, sacking the Pro Bowl-snubbed quarterback at every opportunity and forcing him to make dangerous throws. New York ranks fifth in interceptions and sacks and Week 14 hero Jason Pierre-Paul had two sacks and a forced fumble in the last meeting between these two teams.

    Ultimately, the Giants secondary needs opposing quarterbacks to make mistakes so that it doesn’t get beat. Romo has made very few this season.

    Edge: COWBOYS

Cowboys Rushing Attack vs. Giants Run Defense

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    The New York Giants run defense is not the best in the NFL. Ranked 22nd in terms of rushing yards allowed, teams have been able to pound the football successfully, racking up a large number of yards despite passing the football more often.

    In Week 14, Felix Jones rushed for 106 yards after DeMarco Murray went down with injury. Jones’ play helped to open up a Cowboys passing game that needed little aid to overcome a poor Giants secondary, but a costly fumble kept the Giants in the game.

    Jones has fumbled twice in the last three games for the Cowboys and five times this season.

    The Giants have not allowed a 100-yard rusher since their Week 14 victory over the Cowboys, but Jones’ 4.6 yards per carry in his last three games should be very concerning for a team that allows opposing rushers to run for 4.5 yards per carry.

    Edge: COWBOYS

Special Teams

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    Neither the New York Giants nor the Dallas Cowboys has had a dramatic contribution from their special teams unit this season, and there is no reason to assume that will change in Week 17.

    With both teams boasting high-powered offenses, it’s unlikely the punters will see the field often. Meanwhile, both the Giants and Cowboys have fairly accurate kickers, but it is worth noting that the Giants’ Lawrence Tynes has struggled with kicks beyond 40 yards—successful on four of seven tries.

    Cowboys kicker Dan Bailey’s recent struggles could be a concern for Dallas, but his consistent success earlier in the season gives the Cowboys reason to be optimistic about their young kicker.

    Edge: EVEN

Coaching

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    Tom Coughlin and the Giants staff may be on the hot seat, but it has to be tough being Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett knowing Jerry Jones is watching somewhere, likely dissecting every move Garrett makes.

    Under Coughlin, the Giants are 3-0 in the winter months at home against the Dallas Cowboys, clearly benefiting from the home-field advantage—though the Giants are just 4-3 all-time under Coughlin at home against the Cowboys.

    With the Giants coming off a big win against the Jets and the Cowboys coming off a rough Week 16 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, both coaches have a lot on their plates. Can Coughlin keep the Giants focused and prepared for another must-win game at home? Can Garrett motivate his team, guiding them to a bounce-back win in New York and clinching the NFC East title?

    The answers to these questions are what will decide the game—and possibly both coaching staff’s futures—in Week 17.

    Edge: GIANTS

The Giants Will Win If...

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    If there were ever a week where the New York Giants’ defense must show up, it’s this one.

    All season, Eli Manning and the offense has carried the Giants. Miraculously, the Giants can win the NFC East. Now the Giants need their defense to step up and do all they can to keep the Dallas Cowboys off the scoreboard.

    It will be cold, which plays favorably to the Giants. If the defense can get after Tony Romo and shut Felix Jones down on the ground, they’ll be playing in the playoffs for the first time since 2008.

The Cowboys Will Win If...

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    Tony Romo has had a career year, but it cannot stop yet. The Dallas Cowboys need Romo to have another solid performance against the New York Giants’ weak pass defense and light up the scoreboard with the Cowboys’ stellar group of receivers.

    With everything the line, Romo must break away from the stereotypes that claim he cannot be successful when it matters. Don’t be surprised if Romo finally gets the monkey off his back.

Prediction

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    This game will be another classic in the long-standing rivalry between the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys. With two high-powered offenses, the scoreboard is sure to be lit up quite often on Sunday Night Football, delivering football fans with an exciting NFC East championship game.

    The cold weather will put a damper on both teams’ passing attacks, but Eli Manning’s experience at home in the winter months, coupled with the Giants’ success against the ‘Boys at home during those months, will help put the Giants over and into the NFL playoffs.

    In the end, this game will come down to a big stop on defense for either team and which coaching staff has their team ready to play for all the marbles in Week 17. The Giants have to win this one.

    Giants 28, Cowboys 24

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