Here’s how I envision the way in which Dallas can defeat the Giants for yet a third time this season:
1. Establish the running game. The offensive line has got to create some creases for Julius Jones and Marion Barber to get some running room early in the game. With three Pro-Bowlers anchoring one of the biggest and best OL’s in the NFL, this should not be a problem. C Andre Gurode has, by all accounts, completely recovered from his late-season knee sprain and Marc Colombo and the gang should be completely healthy for this game, unlike the end of regulation.
2. Pass Protection. After accomplishing number 1 above, the offensive line should be able to provide adequate protection for Tony Romo from the ferocious pass rush of Strahan and Umenyiora. Despite the Mexican vacation hype, Romo will and must have one of his best games ever completing over 75% of his passes to Witten, Owens and others. No less will do it. Owens has been at practice the last two days and showing very good promise of playing on Sunday, although Phillips still lists him as a game-time decision.
3. First Down Yards. The offense has to gain 4+ yards on first downs to alleviate the third-and-longs and open up more options for the deep passing game. This also reverts back to number 1 which will allow for optimum play-action passing. Romo can, and most likely will, make some plays out-of-the-pocket with his legs, but he must have time to make the downfield throws also. If Terry Glenn and Owens are both in the line-up, that should help Romo alot and the check down to Barber is always a good option. And, of course, there is always Witten to get the job done when needed. This will also slow down the rush of the Giants.
4. Stop Jacobs and Giants run game. The defense has got to stop the running game of the Giants, especially on first down. Brandon Jacobs can wear you down and then the fresh legs of Ahmad Bradshaw can finish you. They must hold the Giants’ running game to under 100-yards putting the pressure on Eli Manning to beat them through the air. At Tampa, Manning was efficient, but not brilliant, and the offensive line played well. DeMarcus Ware and Greg Ellis must get constant pressure on him to prevent the big plays to Burress & Co.
5. Special Teams play. The Special Teams units must, at a minimum, be effective. By this I mean that they can’t give up a big punt/kick-off return for points and make plays, when possible, in both. The kicking game has got to make the FG’s they should and maybe one long shot. The return of Keith Davis and Patrick Watkins will be key to both the punt/kick coverage teams and reserve LB Kevin Burnett has got to have a good game as well.