The New York Giants "welcome" the Dallas Cowboys to their home field this Sunday and many analysts are talking up the Giants winning streak. In fact, Vegas has the Giants listed as 2.5 point favorites.
After a very bleak prediction in my last post (which detailed why Dallas will lose this Sunday to the Giants and end up cleaning house--post season) I am going to do a 180 here and deliver tons of little facts that suggest Dallas should actually beat the Giants. Because as much as I love arguing with you, I love arguing with myself even more. And now, on to debunk the myth of the rising Giants….
Debunking the Meme of Giants on the Rise
The Giants are still struggling with an offense that is out of synch and failing to put up the numbers they’ve grown to expect in recent years. Their offensive line appears to be the main culprit, which isn’t helping Eli Manning, who is having a terrible season.
But, on the strength of four decent performances by their defense over inferior offenses, the Giants have notched four wins and appear (to less inquisitive minds) to be surging. Perhaps a little reality check is in order though, before we buy into the notion that their defense is back to its usual form.
First, the obvious: the Giants gave up big points to every healthy, competent offense they faced this year. Their only four wins came against teams missing a qualified QB. Also, they never faced the Saints, Lions or Chargers, ranked 2,3 and 4 in passing. Dallas did that and played all three on the road.
Which is why the apparent massive defensive advantage New York suddenly appears to hold is primarily a mirage. Yes, Dallas has been terrible defensively, but the Giants aren’t really much better. Let’s look at some other numbers that will be fun for Dallas fans.
(edit made: special teams numbers added)On Special Teams
- New York is ranked 31st in covering kickoffs and 32nd in covering punts
- Dallas is ranked 2nd in returning kickoffs and third in returning punts
This means Dallas could be working with substantially shorter fields on offense, if not outright scoring on punt returns. Dwayne Harris could be looking at a big, big afternoon.
- New York is 29th in returning kickoffs and 22nd in returning punts
- Dallas is 7th in covering kickoffs and 8th in covering punts
New York will not receive the same benefit as Dallas, due to their poor return games and Dallas' solid kick coverage.
Again, this has the potential to greatly benefit Dallas. I didn't originally have this in the article and when I came across it, I had to come back and add it. This disparity in kicks and punts could really hurt the Giants badly in this game. It could be what wins the game for Dallas.
Red Zone Scoring Percentage (TD only)
- Dallas is ranked second, at 66.67%
- On the road, they are still 66.67%
- Over the last three games: 60%
- NY is ranked 26, at 48%
- At home, they are 46.67
- Over the last three: 37.50
As much as this offense has frustrated Dallas fans, it’s very good in the red zone this year. If this trend holds and Dallas is able to cash in on red zone visits while New York continues to struggle, it makes this match up very favorable.
Yards per Point
- Dallas is ranked second, at 12.0
- Last three: 11
- NY is ranked 26, at 16.7
- Last three: 13.8
This is a good metric of offensive efficiency, in favor of Dallas. If Dallas can improve their ability to get Dez Bryant the ball and maintain drives, they will outscore the Giants, assuming equal defensive efforts from both teams.
Offensive touchdowns per game
- Dallas is ranked sixth, 13 for last three games
- NY is ranked 26 , 30 for last three games
Dallas has been much better at scoring TDs this year than NY, but recent trouble getting the ball to Bryant has killed their ability to remain competitive. If Dallas finds a way to get Byrant back into the mix, they will return to scoring dominance and win this game.
Scoring Per Half
First-half points per game
- Dallas ranks 14
- NY ranks 30
Second-half points per game
- Dallas ranks second
- NY ranks 26
Looking at scoring per half is always interesting. The old Eli used to rally his team and come back from just about any deficit on a good day. He isn’t having many good days this year. NY gets behind early against good offenses with starting QBs, then fails to do enough to mount a comeback in the second half. With Dallas ranked second in second-half scoring per game, the odds favor them keeping any lead they amass in the first half.
- New York is last in the NFL in sacks, with just 14 on the year. Amazing.
- Dallas has been a bit below average, despite the weekly casting call for rushmen. With DeMarcus Ware, Jason Hatcher and George Selvie all playing in the same game for first time in forever, expect a big improvement if pass rush.
Sacks per game
- Dallas is 21st
- NY is 32nd
Other tidbits in favor of Dallas:
- Manning was sacked four times last week, so clearly their pass protection is still poor.
- New York has no runners that are averaging more than 3.8 yards a carry.
- DeMarco Murray is third in the NFL in yards per carry, averaging 4.9
- New York is very solid against the run this year, but Dallas can throw to Murray to keep him involved if they are unable to open holes for him.
- The Giants have allowed 36 points to Dallas, 41 points to Denver, 38 points to Carolina, 31 points to the Chiefs, 36 points to the Eagles, and 27 points to Bears. They lost all of those games.
QB's Giants Have Defeated
- Josh Freeman, Vikings in New York. His only start. A terrible QB not ready to run the Vikings offense, or any other offense for that matter.
- Matt Barkley, Eagles on the road. His only start. Deer in headlights doesn't begin to describe his game.
- Terrell Pryor, Raiders. Enough said.
- Scott Tolzien, Packers in New York. Tolzien did what you’d expect from a rookie in his fist NFL start, he threw costly interceptions, three of them. But he still completed 24 passes for 339 yards against the Giants secondary.
Offensive Lines the Giants Have Defeated
- Football Outsiders ranks their O-line pass protection as follows: Minnesota: 17, Philadelphia: 26, Oakland: 32, Green Bay: 20.
- For perspective, Dallas has the seventh ranked pass protection line in the NFL. Imagine how bad it must be for QB's with lines ranked between 17-32. If you think Dallas can't go deep because of their line, think how bad it must be for these teams.
- Against these lines, New York has 9 sacks. Against the rest of the teams they have played, they have only five more, for an NFL lowest, 14 sacks this year. Eight of their sacks came against the league's worst line in pass protection, Oakland and the 26th ranked line, Philadelphia with Matt Barkley at QB.
The idea that New York is suddenly a great defense is absurd and merely the product of a very lucky four game span in which they faced four QBs that simply were not fit to run the offense they were attempting to execute. During that time the Giants rehabilitated all of their defensive statistics and managed to fool many NFL analysts into believing they were seeing the old Giants defensive domination.
NFL.com had the Giants ranked 31st in their power rankings from weeks 5-7 and had this to say in week six:
"Their biggest issues are clear. The secondary is blowing coverages. Overall, the defense has given up the most points (182) through five games since the 1961 Raiders (who were terrible). Meanwhile, Eli Manning is on pace to throw 38 interceptions..."
This is the last meaningful snapshot of what the Giants defense was doing against starting quality NFL QB's. It's possible that Romo could have one of his zero-composure outings against New York this week and make the Giants defense look better than they are. But it is more likely that Romo will stay calm enough to pick their defense apart and put up 30 or more points, which should be enough to win this, unless Eli suddenly reverts to 2012 form.
Dallas and It's Bye Week
The Cowboys limped into their slaughter against the Saints missing several key starters and clinging to the hope that their game plan to run Murray more and keep Brees off the field would work. After a resounding bit of corrective feedback, Dallas coaches will hopefully be ready with a better plan that gets their QB in rhythm and helps deliver the ball to their best playmakers. Much has been written about the failure to move Dez around and get him the ball. If this coaching staff is up to the task, we should know early on in this contest.
The week off will end with several valuable players returning to the line up. J.J. Wilcox returns at safety. Jason Hatcher returns at defensive tackle. Miles Austin returns at WR. DeMarcus Ware is in his second week back and DeVonte Holloman returns to start as strong side linebacker.
These are significant upgrades at key positions. Add to that the additional time the Dallas coaches have had to prepare for this matchup and there is every reason to believe that Dallas has an excellent chance to win this game. If they don't get it done, one has to wonder if this won't be the beginning of the end of the Garrett era.