It's always a big exciting game when Giants and Cowboys tangle, whether it's up in the Northeast or down in Big D. It is definitely interesting how things have changed over the last few years in the relative standing of the two teams. In the early years of Eli's career, from 2004 through 2007, it was the Cowboys that were the dominant team in the NFL. Romo was the up and coming young stud, they had a huge, powerful OL with bruising Marion Barber and speedy Julius Jones at RB, a younger, faster Witten at TE. Most of all, they had dangerous WRs in TO, Terry Glenn and Miles Austin. TO has made himself a cartoon character nowadays, so we may tend to forget how dominant he was when he was at his prime. He was a tremendous athlete who, though he did drop a few balls, could run past every DB and overpower them with his size as well. He was the focus of every defense that played them and therefore opened things up for other players on the offense. In 2007, Giants lost twice during the regular season to the Cowboys and they put up 86 points in those two games, shredding a strong Giants defense. Cowboys were 13-3 that season, the #1 seed in the NFC and Giants were upstarts, hadn't yet won a playoff game and were trying to establish their QB as a legitimate player and one who they hoped one day could be a championship QB. When the Giants beat the Cowboys in the playoffs that year and went on to win the Super Bowl, things seemed to change. Parcells was no longer there to guide the drafting and player selection and while the Cowboys still have a lot of good players, and Romo is still a very good QB, it is the Giants that are widely considered to be the stronger team with two rings in the last 5 years and legitimate championship aspirations. Eli has the pedigree with his superlative play and great offensive weapons, while Romo is now in the position of defending himself to prove he is ring-worthy. It is interesting how the tables have turned a bit.
Having said that, this will be far from an easy game for the Giants as we saw the first week of the season where the Cowboys really controlled the game on both sides of the line of scrimmage. However, since that first week, the fortunes of both teams have turned a little bit. Giants are 5-1 since that opener, including a few easy wins against the weaker teams in the NFL, a strong statement win against the 49ers, one of the NFC's elite teams and a gritty win last week against a dangerous Redskins team. Cowboys, on the other hand, have been 2-3 since the opener with their two wins coming against below .500 teams Carolina and Tampa Bay. When they played the > .500 teams in the league, they are 0-3, losing big to the Bears and Seahawks, and fighting the Ravens hard before losing 31-29. None of that means that the Giants will win, but it does reveal something about the relative strengths of the teams.
NFL games are often all about matchups and there are some tough matchups for the Giants to deal with in this game. Specifically, the Cowboys front 7 is strong and really controlled the Giants OL in the season opener. Sean Lee is out now and the Giants OL has stabilized somewhat with the addition of Beatty to the starting lineup, but Ware, Spenser and Ratliff are tough to handle and can disrupt the Giants offense. If Giants OL can control the Cowboys DL, they will have a chance to be successful offensively. Cowboys in first game played a lot of conservative man-under, cover-2 defense, which blunts the threat of the deep pass and challenges the opposing offense to run the ball. Giants OL could not run the ball, so the offense was not very effective. Additionally, the Giants OL did not pass block well leaving a lot of pressure on Eli making it even harder to be productive offensively. Giants OL has improved since then, but handling the Dallas front is a big challenge.
More on game strategy later this week.