They've escaped for the last three weeks unscathed without him at full strength—sometimes, it's been easy, other times, it's come down to a few lucky plays—but it's starting to show. They need their playmaker.
In some ways, it's hard to argue that the Giants pass offense is lacking for anything, considering it ranks third in the NFL and accumulates 295.3 yards per game. In some ways, it's hard to argue that New York is missing its biggest playmaker when just last week, in a critical contest against division-rival Washington, Victor Cruz was the one who came up with the biggest play of the game.
But if the Giants had the 100-percent version of Nicks against the Redskins, perhaps they wouldn't have been in a position where they needed a game-saving, 77-yard touchdown bomb from Eli Manning to Cruz with just over a minute left.
Nicks gives the Giants yet another weapon—one of the best in the league—that is nearly impossible for opposing secondaries to contend with. It's already hard enough for them to deal with Cruz, but adding Nicks to the equation makes this offense that much more formidable.
It's not as though Nicks has been a non-factor—but ever since an explosive 199-yard performance in that nail-biter against the Buccaneers on Sept. 16, he's only played in two games and has gotten 15 targets combined. And in that game against the Bucs, he registered his only touchdown—not what we're used to seeing from Manning's weapon of choice.
Last weekend's game against Washington was a step forward for him. He got 10 targets, the most he's gotten since mid-September, and made five receptions for 53 yards. But he's still not 100 percent—not even close, according to head coach Tom Coughlin, who told the New York Daily News' Ebenezer Samuel:
I think he gets a little bit better each week. He’s mentally better. I don’t think he’s always physically able to do the things he wants to do, or we want him to do. But on the whole, he’s OK.
The key: He's getting better with each week, so we can expect him to be even more of a factor against Dallas this week than he was against the Redskins in Week 7.
The Giants dodged a bullet against Washington last week. If they had lost, they would have fallen to 0-3 in the division with three division games left. They got a little bit lucky and got that first win, and with Dallas coming up, they need to build on that and get their second division W—and, of course, they need to avenge the embarrassment they suffered in Week 1.
That’s the biggest reason New York needs Nicks to be a factor this week. They can’t afford another loss to Dallas, and they can’t afford to come to play with a meager passing attack.
Dallas isn't an easy team to pass against, and back when the Cowboys dominated the Giants 24-17 in the season opener, Nicks only recorded four receptions for 38 yards.
If this team is going to have any success against Dallas in the air, Nicks needs to be a big part of it.
And if the Giants are going to keep climbing up those division standings, they're going to need an assist from Nicks in that regard, too.
Projection: 7 receptions, 86 yards, 1 TD