Although Justin Tuck said this week he would prefer the Cowboys come to town without all of the current injury problems so they could beat Dallas with “no excuses”, the game was going to be tough anyway. With the Giants sitting on top of the NFC East and coming off a big win over the Steelers, whether Romo or Witten is playing or not, the game has huge consenquences for the division title picture.
At 5-3, the Cowboys can ill afford to get three games back of the Giants at 6-1 and hope to have any chance of repeating as division champs. The surprising Redskins already have a game and a half lead on the Boys as well with the Eagles close behind at 4-3. One way of looking at this situation is it might be possible that the Giants will underestimate a wounded Cowboys team and not play up to their potential either.
The Dallas defense stepped up big last week against Tampa Bay and will need an even stronger performance this week to stop a strong Giants rushing attack. If they can follow the Steelers’ game plan in stopping Brandon Jacobs and company in the red zone, they just might have a chance of pulling off the upset. And believe me, it is an upset situation for the Cowboys at this mid-season point with the likes of Romo, Felix Jones, Terrence Newman, Kyle Kosier, and now possibly Witten and Anthony Henry not able to play on Sunday.
Don’t misunderstand me, I know that Jason Witten will do everything in his power to play this week, and will most likely start the game. But if he proves to be not his usual Pro Bowl self, he will not play the entire game and rookie Martellus Bennett will have to step up and play his best game of the year.
After last week’s performance, the youngsters in the secondary can overcome a missing Henry for this one as the Giants’ passing game has lost some of it’s effectiveness recently. Plaxico Burress has had his share of troubles and Amani Toomer’s numbers are below-average as well. Steve Smith seems to be Manning’s main go-to-guy these days and either Jenkins or Scandrick should be capable of keeping him somewhat in check.
The biggest question and key to either team’s victory in this game will be the play of the offensive and defensive lines. For Johnson to be effective and hence, stay in the game, the O-line must do a better job of protection than they have in the past four weeks. The defensive line must stop the Giants’ run and put enough pressure on Manning to force some mistakes.
I wouldn’t put either of these factors as out-of-reach for the Cowboys but injury problems or not, this will be a match-up that both teams will look back on later in the year as the most important point of their season.