Saturday, December 31, 2011 Week 17 Game Preview: New York Giants vs. Dallas Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys (8-7) at New York Giants (8-7), Sunday, January 1st at 830 pm at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey
By Ben Kelly - 12/31/11

What happened last week?
Dallas avoided its first home shutout since 1991 by scoring its only touchdown with seven seconds remaining in a 20-7 loss to Philadelphia. The Giants victory over the Jets rendered the Dallas-Philly match up meaningless by the middle of the first quarter, setting a de facto divisional championship game between New York and Dallas in the Meadowlands. New York’s victory over Rex Ryan’s Jets let the Cowboys rest some key players. A banged up Tony Romo left the game midway through the first with a bruised hand, while Felix Jones carried the ball only four times before he was pulled. Romo injured his throwing hand on his second pass attempt when he knocked it into a defender’s helmet. The hand swelled and Romo did not return, though the quarterback said he would have returned if the Giants hadn’t rendered the game irrelevant. The offense sputtered behind backup quarterback Stephen McGee, but the week prior Romo guided his offense to 399 total yards in Tampa Bay, while the Dallas defense held the Bucs to just 190 total yards.

Run game
The quarterbacks in this matchup hog the bulk of pregame media attention, especially the man in Dallas with the bruised hand. While Romo insists the bruise will not affect his throwing ability, he and Eli Manning will have to manage 40-degree temperatures and steady 20-mile per hour gusts expected by kickoff in the Meadowlands. The two quarterbacks combined to throw for over 700 yards in their face-off three weeks ago in Dallas’ indoor stadium, but both teams also supplied 100-yard rushers; Brandon Jacobs gained 101 yards on 19 carries and Dallas’ Felix Jones tallied 106 rushing and 31 through the air. Jones only saw action in the first two Dallas drives last week before being pulled after gaining 24 yards on four carries. His backup this week is veteran and ex-Patriot Sammy Morris, who wasn’t even on the Dallas roster until two weeks ago. Dallas signed Morris when leading rusher DeMarco Murray sprained his ankle in week fourteen against the Giants. In two games with Dallas, Morris has averaged 3.3 yards on 25 carries and added 4 receptions for 10 yards. Against a rested Felix Jones and the veteran Morris, New York boasts a backfield advantage between a rampaging Brandon Jacobs and healthy Ahmad Bradshaw. Bradshaw bullied his way into the end zone twice in the second half against the Jets, and Jacobs had two of his own in Dallas three weeks ago. All three Giants running backs knifed through the Jets defense for long gains. Jacobs rambled off a 28-yard rush on a third quarter touchdown drive, and DJ Ware’s long run of 17 yards late in the fourth quarter turned into 32 when a 15-yard personal foul penalty was added to the run. Dallas’ run game will fade on the legs of finesse Felix Jones, while the Giants’ rotation will set the stage for a strong fourth quarter ground control attack.

Can the Giants do it again?
Season sweeps in the Cowboys-Giants series aren’t as rare as you’d think. The Giants have swept the Cowboys in a season five times since 2000, the last occurring in 2009, and the Cowboys also have done it twice since then. When Dallas led the Giants 34-22 with less than six minutes remaining, it appeared the Cowboys would have a chance for the sweep, but the Giants victory propelled the teams to identical 8-7 records and set up the NFL’s only head-to-head win and you’re in regular season game. The winner hosts a home playoff game, against either 10-5 Detroit or 9-6 Atlanta, and the loser goes home.

Get your brooms ready…
Because the Giants will complete the Dallas sweep and finally lay claim to the 2011 NFC East division title. I almost wish the game was in JerryWorld in Dallas, just to have more cameras to capture Jerry Jones melting like the Wicked Witch of the West as another season slips away. But the scene in New York will be daunting for Dallas, a team that performed poorly the only time it played in cold weather this season on Halloween weekend in October. Playing in 42-degree Philadelphia weather on a snowy weekend, the Cowboys were dropped by the Eagles, 34-7. Romo completed just over fifty percent of his passes at 18 for 35 attempts, throwing one interception to go along with one touchdown pass. Spurred by a 30 carry, 185 yard performance by LeSean McCoy, the Eagles held the ball for 42 minutes and led 34-0 by the time Dallas found the end zone. The Giants will game plan a similar approach in the cold, windy home they call the Meadowlands. Romo’s bruised hand will play a psychological if not physical role in the game, especially if he loses a couple early passes in the wind. The wind will affect Eli’s accuracy as well. He’s completed just 47% of his passes in the last two games at MetLife Stadium, down from 62% in the previous thirteen weeks. More than ever, the Giants have relied on the reborn run game, sponsored by a healthy Ahmad Bradshaw and motivated Brandon Jacobs. Though quite nice, an offense can’t rely on 99-yard Victor Cruz touchdowns every week. Giants out-slug the Cowboys, 26-20.

Who has the matchup edge when the NY Giants battle the Dallas Cowboys for the NFC East division title and a playoff berth?

 Brandon Jacobs and the Giants look to run over the Cowboys Sunday night.
Sharon Ellman/ AP
Brandon Jacobs and the Giants look to run over the Cowboys Sunday night.
By Hank Gola - NY Dailynews 12/31/11

Between Tony Romo, Jerry Jones and Jason Garrett, there's no reason to like the Dallas Cowboys

Tony Gutierrez/AP
If a standing Tony Romo doesn't infuriate Big Blue fans to the max, how about the fact he is five spots ahead of Giants QB Eli Manning in NFL quarterback ratings?
By FIlip Bondy - NY Dailynews 12/31/11

NY Giants' Hakeem Nicks has no setbacks, appears to be ready for Cowboys

 Giants WR Hakeem Nicks says after successful practice it’s full speed ahead.
Kathy Willens/AP
Giants WR Hakeem Nicks says after successful practice it’s full speed ahead.
By Christian Red - NY Dailynews 12/31/11

Giants rookie cornerback Prince Amukamara earning more playing time for game against Cowboys

By Mark Hale - NY Post 12/31/11

Steve Serby on Ahmad Bradshaw being ready to run vs. Cowboys

By Steve Serby - NY Post 12/31/11

Rob Ryan, Cowboys defensive coordinator, brimming with confidence entering Giants showdown

Cowboys' Ryan brings family to see 'when we win the East'
By Keith Whitmire - NY Post 12/31/11

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