This will be a tough game.
It's hard to measure the Cowboys after only one game. They won big, beating the Tampa Bay Bucs 34-21. But if we graded the Giants defense on a curve against the Redskins, using my diving competition degree-of-difficulty analogy, we can certainly say the same for the Cowboys. The Tampa Bay Bucs are not very good. CBs when they lose a step can go downhill in a hurry, and that seems to be the case with Tiki's brother Ronde. There are several ways to look at this Cowboys game against the Bucs. From one perspective, the Cowboys were up only 20-14 after a Bucs drive of 84 yards and nearly 5 minutes ended in a TD with 11:45 left in the 4th qtr. Down less than 1 TD in the 4th qtr - that's a close game. However, after that, the Cowboys hit a couple of big plays to score two 4th qtr TDs and break the game open. Are the Cowboys a big play offense able to strike at a moment's notice or are the Bucs a weak defensive team that can give up big plays to any team. Is the Cowboys offense a threat because they can make big plays or not as dangerous because they were not able to sustain and finish any long drives. The Cowboys certainly have some weapons, but perhaps not as strong as last year - I don't think Roy Williams is as dynamic a player as TO was. Certainly Romo is a very good passer and can make big plays, especially when he is out of the pocket. Marion Barber is a good runner and Felix Jones looks dangerous, but I think their OL may be in a bit of a slide which could hamper their offense.
On the defensive side of the ball, I think the Cowboys are not as good as they were a few years ago. For one thing, their massive DT, Canty, now plays with the Giants. DeMarcus Ware is a great pass rusher, but their DB-field is questionable. The Bucs put up 450 yards of offense against them last week. It is true that 72 of the Bucs' yards and the last TD came in garbage time, when the Cowboys had opened up a 20 point lead and were playing soft defense. But in the final analysis, the Bucs with a retread QB in Byron Leftwitch were able to move the ball against them on the ground and through the air. The other reason I think the Cowboys defense may have slipped just a bit from a few years ago is that Parcells is no longer their coach and Wade Phillips is. I think if you can block their DL, you can make some plays against them.
So - is the Cowboys offense dangerous because they can make big plays. Or is their offense ordinary because they did not sustain long drives and had to rely on mistakes by a bad Bucs secondary in order to score their points. It probably is more to the dangerous side - the NFL is all about play makers. A way to look at the league is that there are lots of good solid football players on all teams that are about equal. If your team has a few players that can make big plays, whatever the circumstances, whoever they are playing against, on offense or on defense, they will win a lot of games.
For the Giants, Aaron Ross is still out but Dockery is returning and participated fully in practice this week, beginning on Wednesday. He will be an important addition to the Giants defense this Sunday.
I just heard a report on NFL Network that said that Canty strained his calf last week, different from the hamstring injury that had him out earlier, but still, Canty will not play this week against the Cowboys. The Giants still have a solid rotation of DTs to use, but Canty would have been highly motivated to go back to Dallas and send a message to the team that let him leave. This is a blow for the Giants if it is true.
I really think that this game will be determined in great measure by the play of the OL and DL on both sides of the ball. I know I'm not saying anything too deep with that last statement, because the battle at the line of scrimmage often determines victory. But in this game, the Cowboys weakness on offense is their OL and the Giants strength is their DL. Cowboys have players that can make plays and if Romo is given time, he will certainly put up some points. If Corey Webster can lock up Roy Williams this week like he did Santana Moss last week, it will be a big boost for the Giants defense, but the pass rush is key so Romo does not have too much time. I look for the Giants to do a bit more blitzing this week than they did last week and try to force Romo into some mistakes.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Giants need a big game from their OL. The Cowboys LBs and DBs are not their strength, their DL is. The Giants lost to the Cowboys as one of their defeats when they lost 3 of their last 4 at the end of last year. They lost that game because they simply could not block the Cowboys. Burress was out, the Cowboys stacked the line of scrimmage against the run and when the Giants had to pass, they blitzed Manning and were able to sack him and pressure him all game long. The Cowboys sacked Eli 8 times that night, and Eli was only sacked 23 times the entire season. It is true that the OL was hurt because Kareem McKenzie was out with back spasms form the 2nd quarter on and Rich Seubert missed the 2nd half because he was sick with the flu. Regardless of the circumstances, the Cowboys DL won the game against the Giants OL and the Giants OL has to have a big game to make up for that. The Cowboys will probably try to do the same thing this time and the Giants OL has to stand up to them. The Giants also have to have a more aggressive game plan and be prepared to pass on running downs. A selective dosage of play action passes will be effective this week as well. That Cowboys loss last year was the worst game of the year by the OL and the offense. The Giants OL is very good, has a great deal of pride, is ticked as heck about their performance last year and wants to atone (sic) for their play in that game. The OL has one other thing going for it: Pat Flaherty is probably the best OL coach in football. You can bet that they will come up with the plan and the techniques to play better this time.
The reason this will be a tough game, however is the environment and the emotions that will be running through the stadium for the game, the home opener of the Cowboys in their new mega-stadium. It's impossible to predict how that will affect the players. Giants are tough and I don't think they will fold their tents and go home. But the Cowboys will really be pumped and we'll see how it affects them. The other reason the Cowboys will be tough is that the calendar says September and that is Romo time.
The Giants have one significant edge in this game - the coaching. I simply don't think that Wade Phillips is a good coach and Coughlin is an excellent HC with a proven track record and the hardware to prove it.