After an embarrassing 45-7 loss at Green Bay precipitated Wade Phillips’ dismissal in Dallas, the Giants face both the familiar and the unknown on Sunday in a talented Cowboys team looking to build for the future (4:15 p.m., FOX).
Looking to put Dallas (1-7) away until next season, Big Blue has an opponent with nothing to lose and an interim coach with a lot to prove. Once regarded as the head-coach-in-waiting, Jason Garrett needs his defense — second worst in the NFL with 232 points allowed — to do what they haven’t done all season: help the offense.
The Giants (6-2), stomping through a five-game win streak, have scored 41 points in each of their past two games. Eli Manning, who tossed three scores last week in his first win at Seattle, will try to string together back-to-back games without a pick for the first time this season.
Shuffling a stacked deck
Chemistry is an offensive line’s best asset, and the G-Men will be forced to sacrifice it on Sunday. Left tackle David Diehl (hip/hamstring) will be out, replaced by Shawn Andrews, while veteran left guard Rich Seubert will inherit center Shaun O’Hara’s (foot) duties. With banged-up backups, enthusiastic rookie Mitch Petrus is likely to get his first start in Seubert’s spot. Dallas’ defense may not be dominant, but DeMarcus Ware (29 tackles, 8 sacks, forced fumble) could be against a patchwork line.
Run away with the game
Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs combined for 201 yards on 36 carries in Cowboys Stadium, including Jacobs’ 30-yard scoring rumble. Bradshaw, the NFC’s second-ranked running back, has stormed for 426 of his 765 rushing yards at home, including back-to-back home games with more than 125 yards. Both backs could find a lot of room against a 24th-ranked run defense that’s allowed 10 carries of 20 to 39 yards, tying them for the league high with Carolina and Chicago.
Keeping vision on Witten
Committed to stopping the talented Cowboys’ receivers in their last matchup (Miles Austin and Dez Bryant combined for only seven catches and 92 yards, with Bryant scoring twice), the Giants allowed Jason Witten to gash them for nine catches, 95 yards and a touchdown, despite his fumble. Keeping a safety closer to the middle of the field with a linebacker shadowing Witten could remove him as a threat.
Forcing a loss, somehow
Always on the attack, the Giants’ defensive line notched three sacks against Dallas in their last contest, not including Michael Boley’s hit that may have ended Tony Romo’s season. With the less mobile Jon Kitna under center, the ’Boys offensive line could be forced into holding penalties when trying to keep their quarterback untouched. Either way, the G-Men should find ways to move the line of scrimmage backwards.