NFL Playoff Picture: 3 Keys to Giants Winning NFC East over Cowboys

Michael MillSenior Analyst IIIJanuary 1, 2012

ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 11:   Hakeem Nicks #88 of the New York Giants celebrates with  Victor Cruz #80 of the New York Giants while taking on the Dallas Cowboys at Cowboys Stadium on December 11, 2011 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

One of the few games this weekend that has playoff implications will be featured on Sunday Night Football when the New York Giants take on the Dallas Cowboys.

The NFC East has stumbled this year. Even though both teams sit at an 8-7 record, the winner will take the division.

That means the winner will be in the playoffs. The loser will go home empty handed.

The New York Giants appear to be the slight favorite heading into the intense rivalry game, especially after pulling out a close win when the two teams faced off a few weeks ago.

Here are three keys to them pulling out another victory this weekend.

1. DE Jason Pierre-Paul vs. OT Doug Free

Jason Pierre-Paul is going to be one of the best defensive lineman in the league for years to come.

He has exploded in his second year, compiling 81 tackles, 15.5 sacks and two forced fumbles.

He had his way with Cowboys' offensive tackle Doug Free in their Week 14 matchup. Typically, Free can handle speed rushers. That wasn't the case with Pierre-Paul.

JPP finished the game with two sacks and a safety. He also blocked the field goal that would have sent the game to overtime as regulation expired.

Today is his 23rd birthday. Look for him to have a huge game to celebrate.

2. WR Victor Cruz vs. Cowboys Secondary

Wide receiver Victor Cruz may be the biggest Pro Bowl snub in the league this season.

After starting the year as a backup, Cruz has managed 76 catches for 1,358 yards and eight touchdowns this season.

He has officially been listed as a starter for only six games.

The weakness of the Cowboys defense is clearly the secondary. They have struggled all year long to contain big plays.

The first time the teams faced off it was Hakeem Nicks who went crazy. He gained 163 yards on eight catches.

Victor Cruz managed six catches for 74 yards. I expect that to be flipped this time around.

3. Giants Secondary vs. Cowboys Receivers

As great as the New York offense has been this year, their defense has struggled equally as much.

It's the reason they are only sitting at an 8-7 record.

The first time these two teams faced off, Tony Romo picked apart this secondary. Cowboys receivers were running open the entire game.

Romo finished with four touchdown passes.

The Giants are going to score plenty of points. This secondary doesn't need to shut the Cowboys out completely, but they need to step it up from their Week 14 play.