By late Sunday night we'll know the fate of the Dallas Cowboys - either they're a playoff team or one of the masses that failed in their mission. To get to the playoffs, the Cowboys must defeat the New York Giants. So once again, we check in with Ed over at Big Blue View to get his take on some key elements of the game.
Big Blue View: Well, Osi surprised by practicing early this week. I'd assume he will play unless he has a setback, but as well as Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck are playing I can't imagine Osi doing much more than playing as a pass-rusher on third down. Let's face it, Pierre-Paul is the Giants best defender and maybe a candidate for Defensive Player of the Year. Taking him off the field is just doing Dallas a favor.
The Giants expect Nicks and Manningham to play, although how healthy they will be I just don't know. Ballard is iffy, and he is a huge loss. Without him, the Giants just don't have much of a threat at tight end.
BBV: The Giants are still hitting their share of big plays (thank you, Victor Cruz) but they have been having issues with their receivers and with their protection. With the re-shuffled offensive line (David Diehl back to left tackle without Will Beatty), and center David Baas in and out of the lineup the pass protection has not been as good. Eli is having to do a lot more moving around in the pocket and he is throwing a lot of balls away because of the pressure.
The other issue is the banged-up receiving corps. Manningham has missed a couple of weeks. Nicks was playing through a hamstring injury a week ago and was not effective. Ballard was out and the Giants got zilch from his replacements. Plus, with all their ailments, a lot of these guys haven't practiced much in recent weeks. So, we've seen a few more plays where the timing isn't right, where receivers aren't in the right place or where backups like Travis Beckum, Ramses Barden and Jerrel Jernigan are on the field and just can't get open.
BTB: The Cowboys and Giants seem to be having similar seasons, high and lows, sporadic great play sprinkled with very disappointing weeks. Give us your evaluation of the team going into the game, and the the feelings of the fanbase.
BBV: Right now the fan base would have to be considered to be on a high. After shutting up Rex Ryan and the Jets, especially after walking into MetLife Stadium and finding all the Giants' Super Bowl murals with tarps covering them up, it's a good week. Nobody likes the fact that it's come down to a winner-take-all season finale, but we've known for a few weeks that this was really the only way in. The fans are pumped, the rally towels will be waving and we'll just see what happens.
BTB: Tom Coughlin. Where do you stand on him and does the outcome of this game affect his standing for next year?
BBV: I believe Coughlin is safe, and I honestly believe he has done an excellent job this season. The issues that this team has were not caused by the coach. The injuries to several key defensive players (like Terrell Thomas, Jonathan Goff, Umenyiora, Tuck, Prince Amukamara and a slew of other guys), the re-shuffled and beaten-up offensive line, Ahmad Bradshaw missing a bunch of games, dealing with a roster that has had 10 or more rookies on it most of the season.
Thing is, this is not a championship-caliber roster as currently constructed. There are too many parts missing, or limited. You can make an argument that it's a miracle they have a chance at all going into the final week of the season, and that Coughlin deserves credit for not allowing negativity and any 'oh, we have no chance' sentiment to filter in.
That said, if the Giants get absolutely humiliated on Sunday night -- or suffer a meltdown like last season's against the Eagles -- anything could happen.
BTB: Give us the game plan for the Giants to win. What areas must they do well grab the victory?
BBV: On offense, they have to continue running the ball with some efficiency. They have run the ball somewhat better in recent weeks, and that needs to continue. In the passing game there have been some bad drops and mis-communications the past couple of weeks, and that can't happen. You can't drop 55-yard touchdown passes when you are five yards behind the defense. In short, Manning needs some help -- from his line, his running backs and his receivers. He's had a phenomenal year, especially since he has done a lot of it with no running game and with receivers learning on the fly, but the guys around him have to give him a chance. And take advantage when he gives them a chance.
On defense, the Giants simplified their coverage in the secondary and that seemed to eliminate some of the breakdowns that had been occurring. They need for that to continue. They need to make the Cowboys earn their points, rather than gift-wrap them by letting guys run around uncovered.
Thanks for the knowledge, Ed. Visit Big Blue View for more on the Giants.