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Dez or No Dez, These Cowboys Have To Find A Way To The W

The Cowboys have a huge match-up this weekend against their divisional foe and after a three-game skid, they need a win anyway they can get it.

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The Cowboys have been fortunate enough to still hang on in their division despite losing three straight games for the first time in Jason Garrett's tenure as head coach. In each of those losses, the offense found ways to get worse than the week before. Without Dez Bryant and Tony Romo on the field, this offense has struggled in just about every aspect of the game. During the bye, the coaches made every adjustment they could in hopes to spark something until both Pro Bowlers make their return. Matt Cassel is in for Brandon Weeden, La'el Collins is in for Ronald Leary and Christine Michael just may get his chance to run the rock.

The hopes were that Bryant would be ready to take the field this Sunday but those chances seem highly unlikely as he continues to rehab a broken foot suffered against the same opponent in week one. These players and coaches understand that it's a delicate situation they are in. Though Bryant would be a boost for the offense, rushing him back and risking re-injury is not the right approach. That means the Cowboys will have added pressure to a shuffled unit that hasn't taken the field together until last week. Now they must go into hostile territory against a superior quarterback that is coming off a bad game. When it comes to Eli Manning, you never know who you are going to get, Dallas sure hopes they get the Eli from this past Monday night. Heck, they may even take the Eli that played the week prior against San Francisco.

So what do the Cowboys have to do to crawl out of New York with a win? Dallas is only a half game back from the lead in the division, they are also 2-0 in the division albeit with Romo. This division has not been playing well and the Giants have their own issues. Attrition is a part of the problem with every team in the NFL. Though Dallas has lost two huge stars, the Giants have ten players currently on the injury report. The Cowboys are a relatively healthy team despite the aforementioned losses. They have to play to their strengths and exploit the Giants weaknesses. Here's the plan:

Take Advantage Of Open Receivers

The Giants' secondary is banged up and they will likely be without their best cornerback in Prince Amukamara. The Cowboys receivers have had a hard time making plays in the past three weeks. Though they certainly need to do a better job at getting open, the quarterback has to be willing to make the play. We'll never know if Weeden was playing scared or the coaches were afraid to let him loose but I imagine it's a bit of both. The conservative game has not been working for this team and they must figure out a way to make plays in the open field. Cassel is a guy that will throw the ball down the field but it can also come back to bite them if he's inaccurate. The hope is that Cassel, more so than Weeden, will not be afraid to make the play when it's there for the taking. Though the Cowboys are banged up at receiver, they have to find a way to get open against this secondary that is 30th in the league at stopping the pass with nearly 300 yards given up per game.

Dominate At The Line

This offensive line needs a bounce back game in the worst way. So far this season, they have been anything but a consistent unit. They have to start dominating on the offensive line and the Giants are the team to do it against. The last time the two teams played the line looked pretty good on the final drive. Of course they had Romo then but these are All Pro players we're talking about. They have been lost over the past few weeks and they need to get back to their old selves. Christine Michael having success could be the spark that takes this offense forward and allows them to return to the level of play we're accustomed to seeing. This is still an above-average unit with the ability to be even better, they just need the back that can get it going. If they can establish the run and maintain decent pass blocking, this could be a huge boost in the right direction.

Unleash The Dogs

In the past, Cowboys' fans have longed for a team with some 'dogs' on defense. They definitely have that now with Greg Hardy, Sean Lee and Rolando McClain. They have more dogs than these two but these are the guys that single-handedly can take over games. The pass rush was revitalized against the Patriots in a losing effort but did they ever excite? That Patriots offensive line was starting three rookies as some of their guys were banged up. The Giants are no different where their best lineman in Will Beatty is on the shelf. Their right tackle struggled mightily against the Eagles' front seven as did their guards. This is perhaps the biggest area the Cowboys must exploit much like they did against New England. Greg Hardy played like a man possessed in his first action since the preseason. He obviously gives this defense a huge spark but he's not the only one. DeMarcus Lawrence, Tyrone Crawford, Jack Crawford all played well and now they get Randy Gregory back in the mix. With a young, strong, and ferocious defensive line, they were able to get home using only three rushers. This is what Rod Marinelli dreamed about and it's here. Eli is going to try and ramp up his ability to get rid of the ball quick, Dallas has to win their battles just as quick.The Cowboys must pressure Eli because everyone knows what happens when Manning is rattled.

Get Physical With Odell Beckham Jr.

In week one, J.J. Wilcox laid a clean hit on Beckham that even he claimed was the hardest he's ever been hit in his young career. That's is exactly how they must continue to play him. This secondary has been playing a lot of man coverage seeing as it plays to the strengths of their corners. In man coverage as opposed to zone, the eyes of the corners are on their receiver instead of the quarterback. Now, this secondary hasn't got the turnovers that many hoped they would but just perhaps it has something to do with the way they line up. These corners haven't been all world but they haven't played atrociously either. One of their strengths is their physicality and while Beckham is still young, it's imperative to try and bully him. They had success in week one and they needs to apply the same gameplan because they do not want Odell cutting loose and making them pay.

Forcing Takeaways

This defense is predicated on their ability to create turnovers, at least it used to be. The Cowboys are currently tied with the Jacksonville Jaguars at the bottom of the league in this category. They have not been without their chances though, they just haven't executed well. They could easily be sitting in double digit takeaways but suspensions, injuries and just poor play has got in the way of that. The Cowboys must return to their opportunistic ways and it starts with the linebackers. Much like they did in Philadelphia, they have to get Sean Lee in a takeaway rhythm. The linebackers from a year ago feasted on turnovers and they can return to that form with the help of their monstrous front seven. These guys on defense just have to do a better job at closing out plays. Don't just force the turnover, execute and make the offense pay for their mistake. Eli Manning will give a few away if they can start the pressure early and often. these Cowboys have to keep their eyes up and take advantage.

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