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Cowboys vs Giants: Who is Better Prepared for Wind and Cold?

When the Dallas Cowboys face the New York Giants on Sunday, they will be met by an opponent that claims to have a "playoff mentality" and has vowed to spill blood. As stark and definitive as that may sound, there is an invisible force of nature that may play a much greater role in how this game is played. The wind.

The forecasted wind speed for this game is 24 mph, more than enough to impact the passing game and cause both teams to rely more on the running game. The high for the day will be 32. In the second half it will no doubt be in the 20’s. Running the ball effectively will be of paramount importance.

The team that can best execute a sound running game coupled with a short-yardage passing game while avoiding turnovers will win this game. Anyone with a fumbling tendency will likely ride the bench, so Lance Dunbar and David Wilson will probably be relegated to cheerleading.

Given the reliance on shorter passes, logic would dictate that the team with the more productive yards-after-catch receivers would end up moving the ball more efficiently.

So the question becomes, "who has the better YAC guys? Glad you asked.

Dallas Cowboys

YAC

New York Giants

YAC

DeMarco Murray

6.45

Hakeem Nicks

4.88

Dez Bryant

6.01

Ruben Randle

4.9

Terrance Williams

5.96

Victor Cruz

3.05

Cole Beasley

5.19

Brandon Myer

3.7

Jason Witten

4.21

Note from the above table that Dallas has four receivers with better YAC numbers than the Giants best YAC receiver this year. Also note that the Giants don’t have a running back in the above table. That’s because they’ve caught so few passes.

This next table shows that the Cowboys backs have caught five times more passes than the Giants backs.

Dallas Cowboys

Rush

Y/Att

Receiving

Yards

YAC

New York Giants

Rush

Y/Att

Receiving

Yards

YAC

DeMarco Murray

4.9

31/189/6.1

6.45

Brandon

Jacobs

3.3

2/13/6.5

8Joseph Randle

2.5

8/61/7.6

7.8

Andre

Brown

3.8

4/31/7.75

Lance Dunbar

3.2

4/21/5.3

David

Wilson

3.3

2/8/4

*some glitch with the table prevented me from getting the missing YAC #'s in there, nothing earth shattering is missing, however.

Another thing to note from the above table is that when used, Randle has been a productive receiver for Dallas. It’s a small sample size, but his 7.8 YAC number is very good. As with Murray, he typically catches the ball behind the LOS and gets all of his yards with his feet, none of it delivered through the air.

Be careful concluding from this that the Giants won’t throw the ball to Brown and Jacobs. I think they will. Brown has only four catches this year because he has only played two games. Last year he had 12 catches for 86 yards, so keep an eye on him in the passing game. And if they can toss it to Jacobs with a head of steam, that could be trouble.

Toughness Among Receivers

The bottom line is, Dallas has tougher, more physical receivers than the Giants. This is going to be a hard hitting game featuring plenty of short routes, so the receivers are going to need to secure the ball, deal with impact and break some tackles.

The hope for both offenses will be that a short pass to their most dangerous receiver will turn into a long gain often enough to keep drives alive. But New York’s most dangerous guy is Victor Cruz and he certainly isn’t as tough or physical as any of Dallas’ main receiving options, and his YAC numbers make that clear.

For a guy so fast and elusive, his YAC numbers are only half as good as Bryant's. Cruz is a guy that wants space around him when he catches it so he can run away from everyone and dance in the end zone until you throw your remote through your TV. But finding that kind of space and catching the ball in stride should be difficult in the wind they are predicting.

Hicks and Meyer are receivers to watch out for for NY. Both are big and physical and will be called up repeatedly. If Manning can spin the ball with accuracy in that wind, then of course all their top receivers are a threat, but it looks like that will be an iffy proposition

Running the Ball

Both teams will need to rely on running the ball more, so it’s tempting to say Dallas has the edge here, given that Murray is by far the best back in the contest and Dallas has the better o-line. But it isn’t their backs against our backs; it’s their backs against our defensive front seven, minus Sean Lee and with a dinged up Jason Hatcher. And it’s our backs against their front seven, which has been very tough against the run.

That is why I've focused on short-yardage passing and yards-after-catch, specifically passes to backs. Dallas will likely need to rely on this more than the Giants. I think Coughlin will want to come out and pound the rock and he will stick with it the entire game. He knows this won't be the conditions for an interception-prone Eli.

And he probably wants to know how Hatcher and Ware (dealing with injuries) can stand up to a heavy running attack with two backs that weigh 227 and 260 lbs on a cold day in a hostile stadium. I think he will bet on the Cowboys wearing down and possibly even some injuries popping up in the front half of our defense.

I believe that Dallas will want to mix in more throws to backs in place of actual runs, especially if running is difficult early on. The concern though, is that Garrett and Callahan won’t’ be as patient and will shift too heavily to favor passing (sound familiar?). Dallas has superior targets for short passes, but if the Giants don’t have to worry about the run at all, then they are going to be all over the shorter routes.

But Look, We Can Run On These Guys

In their first meeting this year, Murray ran 20 times for 86 yards and caught a season high eight balls for 39 yards. Twenty eight touches and 125 yards of production is a very good number for this offense and it didn’t involve much risk. This needs to be replicated on Sunday. Of course, they now have a linebacker named Jon Beason, who is much better than Dan Connor, so that is a concern.

Where New York is relatively weak against the run is at the perimeter, especially runs going wide left, where they are ranked 18 th. Dallas is most effective running behind Tyron Smith at left tackle, but they haven’t been that successful bouncing it out wide to the left. For those runs they are ranked 22. But that is the spot where New York has been the weakest.

Conclusion: Dallas will continue to run behind Tyron Smith, but if Murray needs to bounce it further out to the left perimeter, he may have more success against the Giants than other teams.

The Dreaded Brandon Jacobs is Back

Jacobs could play a big role for New York. His yards per carry is only 3.3, but he’s the kind of guy almost no one looks forward to tackling. Jacobs really exposed Chicago for being the soft, poor tackling team that they are.

He’s a relatively slow guy with a bad knee and he ran for 106 yards on 22 carries. In other games, though, he has averaged less than 2 yards per attempt on three occasions and 3.4 yards per attempt against the Eagles.

Where Jacobs could be a factor is if the Giants are still pounding it in the second half. With the temperature down in the upper 20’s and that nasty wind chill, the question becomes "who really wants to tackle a 260 lb running back?". If Dallas’ defense can’t man up to that challenge, his runs will become as much psychological warfare as anything else. On the bright side, Jacobs is slow enough that Ernie Simms can actually catch him.

Final Question: Is the Cowboys Offensive Line Tough Enough to Dominate This Game?

If Brian Waters were still in this line up, I would have far more confidence in Dallas to win this game. Waters is a warrior. He answers nastiness with more nastiness than many defensive linemen want to deal with. His toughness is infectious.

But does this group still channel that kind of toughness and will they be ready to fight in a cold, hostile stadium against a stout run defense?

Because when you look at the weapons Dallas brings to this game and the kind of numbers Romo has put up this year, the only thing that could really derail this team is an offensive line that isn’t ready for this challenge. On paper, they are far superior to the Giant's O-line. But we haven’t seen them get it done on the road in freezing weather against a team with nothing to lose.

Despite Jerry Jones’ comments to the contrary this week, this unit better realize that they are playing for their coach’s job. Because if they don’t keep Romo comfortable and open some holes for Murray, this thing is going to implode and no one is going to want to hear excuses, not from anyone.

Ninety percent optimism, with a chaser of dire warnings about possible impending doom. It’s what I do.

Another user-created commentary provided by a BTB reader.

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