Sunday, January 13, 2008

NFL Division Round Preview, Giants vs Cowboys

Well we've got a great game on our hands in Indy right now.  LT out with a leg injury...Rivers having his best game of the year (14 of 19 and 3 TD's)...Manning has completed 26 of 29...but 2 of those passes were to the Chargers defense.  The crowd at the RCA Dome is AMAZING!!!  One can only hope that the crowd is anywhere near that at Texas Stadium at 3:30 today.  Now Philip Rivers is heading to the locker room with a leg injury...can it get any better???  Why yes it can...let's talk Cows and Giants.

New York Giants (11-6) +7.5 (-120) @ Dallas Cowboys (13-3)

How the Giants win:  Two things...Eli Manning and Tony Romo.  Manning has to be "better" than Romo today.  The Giants front 4 needs to pressure Romo early and often.  He's not Brady/Manning good...but give him time and he'll find Owens, Glenn, or Witten for big plays.  The Giants lead the league in sacks, but 23% of their sacks (12 of 53) came in one game vs the Eagles early in the season.  Take that game away, and their front four doesn't look quite as impressive.  They must keep Romo in the pocket and take away the deep ball.  In their 3 losses, he's had under 76.9 yds/attempt.  The other game in which he was under 6.9 was Buffalo...a game that the Cows should've lost.

Three Keys
 - Eli Manning needs to control the game.  With Shockey out for the season and Burress hobbled with a bad ankle, Eli must be patient and attack Roy Williams...err I mean the Cows secondary...when the opportunity presents itself.  Also, he can't make poor throws when under pressure.  A sack is better than an INT any day.
 - Brandon Jacobs and Co. need to wear down the Cowboys front seven.  Establishing an inside rushing attack will help keep Ware, Ellis, etc at home and buy time for Eli in the pocket.
 - Osi and Strahan have to get to Romo early!  The Cows go as Romo goes.  If he gets off to a good start then it's going to be a long day for the Giants defense.  Pressure him early and he is prone to making mistakes.

How the Cowboys win: As was posted yesterday, Marion Barber will be starting at running back for the first time in his Cowboys career.  TO is a question because of his high ankle sprain.  Tony Romo will be making his first playoff start at Texas Stadium (2nd game overall).  We've heard all week about Tony (and others) going to Mexico and been reminded of the bobbled snap in Seattly.  Am I worried?  Of course not.  The local talking heads are just stirring the pot and trying to boost ratings.  I'm confident that Tony is prepared for this game and will play a solid (if not great) game today.  Time to pump some sunshine into this one...

Three Keys 
 - Romo doesn't need to worry about forcing the ball to TO or Witten early.  The Giants are without Sam Madison and Kevin Dockery in the secondary so there should be plenty of opportunities for the Cows to take their shots downfield.  Take what you can get early and find out how much Terry Glenn can give you.
 - It's Marion Barber's time to shine today.  He's finally getting the starting nod that everybody has been waiting he needs to make it worthwhile.  Here's to hoping that Jason Garrett doesn't forget about his Pro Bowl running back.
 - 64, 88, 45, 101, 63, 88, 32, and 117.  Those are the QB ratings of Eli Manning in the Giants 8 road wins since losing at Dallas to open the season.  He's not a mobile QB and is prone to making bad decisions.  Constant pressure should lead to multiple sackes and a few INT's.  Be opportunistic and make sure somebody is playing safety valve for Roy Williams.

Prediction: Barber gets 20 carries and 100 yards.  Romo starts a bit slow but doesn't make any huge mistakes.  Eli Manning picks apart the Cows secondary early but an injury to Roy Williams takes away the hole in the defense and the combo of Pat Watkins and Keith Davis eliminate the deep ball and force Eli into 2 INT's.  The Giants start the year in Dallas with a loss and will end the year in Dallas with a loss.  Bring on the Packers...

Dallas Cowboys 28
New York Giants 24

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