Saturday, October 15, 2005

Giants Look To Make Statement In Big D

Imagine this. It's Week Six in the NFL and both the Giants and Cowboys will do battle in a key NFC East match-up with the division wide open. Unlike past seasons where the Eagles have dominated the NFC East, things are different this time. Heading into Sunday, Big Blue is tied with the Redskins for first with a 3-1 record. Right behind them are Dallas and Philadelphia, who each own 3-2 marks.

After an embarrassing Week Three blowout loss at San Diego, the Giants rebounded with a blowout win of their own at home over St. Louis two weeks ago. Second-year quarterback Eli Manning threw for 296 yards and four touchdowns in the win while favorite target Plaxico Burress torched the Rams secondary with 10 catches for 204 yards and two TDs.

The NFL's number one rated offense (34.0 PPG) looks to pick up where it left off October 2nd when they visit Dallas today at 1 PM on Fox.

What must concern the Giants though is their history off bye weeks. They are only 3-13 in games after a week off. When asked about whether he was worried about his team not being as sharp off a bye, Coach Tom Coughlin said, "I’ve been asked so many questions about the bye week and coming out of the bye week, I get sick of talking about it."

"There are positives about the bye week as well that people seem to overlook....For the coaches, I think it’s a great chance to study all kinds of things – yourself, top teams in the league in different areas. You can practice your team in such a way that you work on things that you need to work on."

"The questions that you get are, can you maintain the same pace coming out of the bye that you had going into the bye? Well, that’s what you certainly hope for. The question speaks to a level of focus and intensity. And I honestly think our intensity has been good this week. And it is largely because of who we play this weekend."

There's little doubt that Coughlin should have his team ready for a Dallas team that comes off an impressive 33-10 pasting of the Eagles. Drew Bledsoe was 24-of-35 for 289 yards and three TDs. He became the eighth QB in NFL history to throw for 41,000 yards. In the victory, he hooked up with primary target Terry Glenn for two scores. Bledsoe and Glenn have carried over their chemistry from when they played together at New England, where they helped current Dallas coach Bill Parcells reach Super Bowl XXXI before losing to Green Bay 35-21 in 1997.

Bledsoe was signed in the offseason from Buffalo. He has been brilliant so far in a more wide open offense in Big D, tossing for 1351 yards with 10 TDs, just three picks along with a QB rating of 102.0.

One way the Giants D can slow him down is by pressuring the 12-year vet. Bledsoe can be sacked and is prone to fumbling. In his previous two seasons with the Bills, he was sacked 86 times and fumbled 24 times, losing 15 of them. So far this year, the Dallas offensive line has done a good job protecting Bledsoe but he's stll been sacked 10 times and fumbled four times (1 lost).

New York must get big games from Michael Strahan (3.5 sacks) and Osi Umenyiora (2 sacks) or it could be a long trip back home.

Parcells is uncertain whether second-year back Julius Jones will play. Jones rushed for 72 yards in the first half last week before sitting out the second half with a sprained ankle. He missed practice all week and is uncertain. If he can't go, Parcells might turn to rookie Tyson Thompson, who ran for 75 yards last week. The other option is Anthony Thomas. Either way, Parcells isn't saying who it will be.

"You're not going to know until Sunday no matter who you ask, because no one knows, because the answer isn't there," Parcells said. "No one knows. I don't know which one it's going to be."

Against Parcells, expect the unexpected.

Though the Dallas defense is coming off a solid performance in which they held the Eagles to 129 total yards, they are susceptible in the secondary. Look for the NFL's fourth rated passer Manning (97.8) to test it early. The Giants should also give Dallas a dose of Tiki Barber (333 rushing yards, 3 TDs) on the ground and newly re-signed tight end Jeremy Shockey (17 receptions, 2 TDs) in the air.

Look for a lot of downfield throws by both offenses and a ton of points in a shootout.

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