By Curt Macysyn
Normally, the thought of a Sunday Night Football contest between the New York Giants (3-7) and the Dallas Cowboys (7-3) would be met with great anticipation and a playoff berth at stake. The Cowboys are fighting for a spot in the NFL’s post-season party, but that ship has already sailed for Big Blue, who will sitting on the sidelines for the third straight playoffs.
Dallas comes into the game off of their bye week, that came after a successful trip to London, where the ‘Boys dismantled the Jacksonville Jaguars 31-17. The week off should do wonders with the Cowboys, who show only two players on their injury report this week. In the Giants’ loss 16-10 to the San Francisco 49ers, the team did lose right tackle Justin Pugh to a quadriceps muscle injury. Pugh will miss Sunday’s game with the injury.
New York Giants
The Pugh injury causes the biggest headache for the New York Giants heading into the prime time affair. After Pugh left the games against the 49ers on Sunday, Charles Brown was inserted at right tackle and proceeded to block no one. Head coach Tom Coughlin categorized his play as “not very good” this week when Coughlin met with reporters. This assessment should not come as a revelation to anyone who saw Brown in training camp with New York, or watched film of his time in New Orleans, yet another case of a bargain basement pick-up by general manager Jerry Reese.
The team does get back offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz, a key off season acquisition for New York, who dislocated his toe against the New York Jets in the preseason. Schwartz was signed to play guard on Big Blue’s offensive line, but since Pugh cannot go on Sunday, then chances are that Schwartz will slide over to the right tackle position at least temporarily.
On defense, starting linebacker Jacquian Williams (concussion) will miss his second straight game, and reserve Mark Herzlich will once again see time with the first unit. The Giants are woefully thin at the linebacker position, ever since Jon Beason was lost for the season with a foot injury. Jameel McClain has manned Beason’s middle linebacker spot to a (-3.4) grade on the website Pro Football Focus (PFF). Given the fact that McClain was signed to man an outside linebacker (SAM) position, this grade should come as no surprise.
Herzlich played 48 snaps, as reported by PFF, against the 49ers to a (+ 0.6) grade, in what may have been his best effort as defensive player in his time with the Giants. Herzlich has primarily been a special teams performer, but his limited playing time at middle linebacker has not been exemplary. Despite missing last week’s game, Williams leads the team in tackles with 78, but he plays to a (-4.0) grade according to Pro Football Focus.
Defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins has been dealing with a strained calf muscle and is out for Sunday as well, so look for Mike Patterson and Markus Kuhn to fill the void at the position. Patterson, in particular, played well last week and came out with a (+1.2) grade for his work. Defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka missed practice on Thursday and was limited on Friday, but Robert Ayers and Damontre Moore might be better options at the defensive end position anyway. Ayers was the only Giant to pressure Colin Kaepernick last week, and Perry Fewell also moved Ayers to the inside because of the inability of the front four to get pressure on the quarterback.
The biggest news on the injury front for the Dallas Cowboys is the health of quarterback Tony Romo. The veteran signal caller injured his back three weeks ago against the Washington Redskins, and he missed the Nov. 2 contest against the Arizona Cardinals. Back-up Brandon Weeden took over for Romo against Arizona, and the Cards beat the Cowboys 28-17.
Pro Football Focus indicates that Romo had his best game of the season against the Giants, playing to a gaudy (+7.0) grade against Big Blue. In the Oct. 19 clash, Romo completed 17 of 23 passes for 279 yards and three touchdowns, and his quarterback rating of 135.7 was second best on the year for him. Todd Archer of ESPN Dallas reports that head coach Jason Garrett has been impressed with how Romo has not let his back injury derail his season.
“He’s responded well with the adversity with his back,” Garrett said. “We talk about being your best regardless of circumstances, whatever circumstance he’s been in, somehow he’s found a way to fight through it.”
The only other player listed on the Cowboys’ injury report is cornerback Tyler Patmon, who has knee and ankle issues.
NEW YORK GIANTS
DE Mathias Kiwanuka (Knee)
DT Cullen Jenkins (Calf)
OT Justin Pugh (Quad)
LB Jacquian Williams (Concussion)
QB Tony Romo (Back)
CB Tyler Patmon (Knee/Ankle)
For more Giants news and updates, visit Giants Central.
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.