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Giants must win three key matchups to beat Cowboys



With the bookkeeping work almost done as far as standings go, the Giants simply need a win over the Cowboys Sunday night. They will not be heading to the playoffs regardless, but a loss will pretty much formalize it mathematically, since the Cowboys will have eight wins and a head-to-head tiebreaker advantage. With five other teams, including divisional foe Philadelphia, owning seven wins already, one can readily see the 3-7 Giants' dilemma.


So, we can now say that last week's loss to the Niners has reduced the Giants' role to that of a spoiler. In that, they would like nothing better than to make the playoff road a little tougher for one of their most hated rivals, especially on national TV. They'll have to win three key matchups to accomplish that, and they are hardly easy ones.

GIANTS OFFENSIVE LINE VS. COWBOYS FRONT 7: Anybody notice what happened last week after right tackle Justin Pugh came out with a strained quad? Charles Brown went in and it became open season on Eli Manning, which became part of the reason for his five interceptions. The Niners either sacked, hit, or hurried him on an inordinately high 24 of 47 dropbacks. The already banged-up line couldn't get for Rashad Jennings on fourth down, and the goal line offense didn't even consider running it from the 4 to overcome a six-point gap with five minutes remaining. Veteran guard Geoff Schwartz is set to return from the toe injury that cost him the first 10 games.

He'll upgrade an offense that has averaged 14.4 points during the five-game losing streak. The Cowboys don't put up a great pass rush, as their 16 sacks ranks them 28th, three notches below the Giants' own. They're in the bottom half of the league in yardage allowed, too, so it is possible to move the ball on them. The Cowboys do have 17 takeaways, however, and that includes the Larry Donnell fumble that prevented the Giants from coming back from a 21-14 fourth-quarter deficit in the last meeting. A fast start would be nice, but Dallas has posted four shutout halves this year, three in the first half. Given the Giants' overall scoring issues, the math ain't calculus.

GIANTS CORNERBACKS VS. DEZ BRYANT: Prince Amukamara covered him the first time around and, despite a final line that read nine catches for 151 yards, Amukamara kept him out of the end zone, intercepted one of Tony Romo's throws to him, and broke up two others. Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell would rejoice for a repeat performance, but Amukamara is out and a combination of a hampered Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (back and hamstring) and Zack Bowman will have to contend with the Cowboy's top play-making wide receiver. Bowman has a nose for the ball, but if a front seven that still goes MIA in key passing situations continues its current trend, Romo will have enough time to let Bryant work his elusive downfield magic. With eight touchdowns (eighth in the league), the Giants will have to bring all their forces to bear on Bryant. That will leave the rest to worry about tight end Jason Witten, running back par exellance DeMarco Murray (1,233 yards, 5.1 ave., seven TDs rushing, 36 catches, 281 yards, 7.8 ave. receiving) and the rest of a gang that has averaged a seventh-ranked 26.1 points per game.

GIANTS RED ZONE OFFENSE VS. DALLAS DEFENSE: Every point is going to count against the explosive Cowboys. So the Giants had best get back to what they were doing so well the first nine games of the season, which is scoring touchdowns inside the Red Zone. They went into last week ranked fifth in that area, but came away with just one touchdown in three trips thanks to a pair of interceptions. The last one came on fourth-and-goal from the 4 after three missed fades to Odell Beckham, Jr., Rueben Randle, and Donnell. A score likely would have kept their season alive. Instead, they face the Cowboys on the verge of extinction. The Cowboys are 3-1 in games determined by seven points or less.

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