By Curt Macysyn
It would take a miracle for the New York Giants (3-7) to make the playoffs, and after Sunday’s disheartening loss to the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, it will be interesting to see what effort the team puts forth against the Dallas Cowboys. Dallas figures to come to MetLife Stadium invigorated having just gone through their bye week, and the fact that they are now tied for the NFC East lead should provide additional incentive. In the comfort of their own homes, the Cowboys were on the receiving end of some serendipity by the Green Bay Packers,who throttled the Philadelphia Eagles by a 53-20 count on Sunday night.
The bye should be especially helpful for quarterback Tony Romo, who was dealing with a back issue from the team’s loss against the Washington Redskins in week eight, but still played when the team won in London against the Jacksonville Jaguars 31-17 on Nov. 9th. Rest should also help running back DeMarco Murray, who has been a true workhorse with a career-high 244 carries after just ten games.
Quarterback Tony Romo has always been a competitor. Even though the veteran signal caller has battled back issues for the past several years, he has remained an elusive target for defensive linemen and completes almost 69 percent of his passes. Despite missing one game with a back injury, Romo still has thrown for 2,244 yards and has 18 touchdown passes versus only six interceptions. Romo trails only Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers with a 107.2 quarterback rating. Because of his poor playoff record, Romo is easily the most overlooked quarterback of this generation.
Running back DeMarco Murray leads the NFL rushing race by more than 400 yards. The workhorse tailback has 1,244 yards on the ground this season which already represents a career-high for him. Not surprisingly, Murray had 128 rushing yards against the Giants on Oct. 19 at AT&T Stadium. He has also caught 36 passes out of the backfield, which is good for third on the squad. The only blemish on Murray’s resume is the five lost fumbles that he has.
The receiving game centers around the combustible Dez Bryant. Bryant always ranks high in the receiving stats, and he has 56 receptions for 793 yards and eight touchdown catches. Jason Witten is the second-leading receiver on the Cowboys with 39 catches from the tight end position. Witten had only two receptions against the Giants in October, an uncharacteristically low output from him against his division rival. Wide receiver Terrance Williams has become a good compliment to Bryant and has six touchdown catches on the season.
As good as the playmakers on Dallas are, the offensive unit has been led by their resurgent offensive line play. Tackle Tyron Smith and center Travis Frederick are potential Pro Bowlers, while rookie Zack Martin has been a great fit at the guard position. Overall the defense is ranked sixth in the NFL in total yards with an average of 387.5 yards per contest.
Go To Church
Most evaluators thought the Cowboys’ defense could not withstand the release of sack machine DeMarcus Ware in the off season. But Dallas has done just fine with several NFL journeymen filling key positions on the defensive unit. Middle linebacker Rolando McClain has been a nice reclamation project, after being released by the Oakland Raiders and Baltimore Ravens. McClain has 44 total tackles in nine game and is tied for the team lead with two interceptions.
The team leader in tackles is Barry Church with 54 from his safety position, including eight against the Giants in their first meeting. Linebacker Bruce Carter missed four games with a calf injury, including the October contest against the Giants. Cater, despite missing four games, has two interceptions and 35 total tackles.
Another reclamation project is defensive lineman Harry Melton, who leads the team with 5.0 sacks. The team only has 15 quarterback sacks on the season, which ranks 28th in the NFL. But the porous Giants’ offensive line can make any unit look good at this point.
Even though the defensive unit lost Morris Claiborne to a torn patellar tendon, cornerbacks Orlando Scandrick and Brandon Carr have held down the fort adequately. They should be challenged by Odell Beckham, Jr., Rueben Randle and Preston Parker for the Giants to have a chance to win.
The Cowboys lead the all-time series between the two teams 60-42-2. On Jan. 18, 2008, the Giants won the only playoff meeting between the teams, a 21-17 victory by the G-men on their way to the Super Bowl XLII championship. Dallas has won the last three meetings between the teams, as Dallas swept the season series last year.
The Cowboys signed linebacker Dekoda Watson to replace Justin Durant, who tore a bicep muscle and was lost for the season. Watson was released by the Jacksonville Jaguars on Nov. 11th.
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Curt Macysyn has been covering the New York Football Giants for the past two seasons for Examiner.com. Born and raised in northern New Jersey, Curt has followed and covered the New York Metropolitan sports scene for 35 years. He attended Seton Hall Prep School in South Orange, NJ and is a graduate of Rutgers University, New Brunswick. His work can be found on Examiner.com.