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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
The Huddle
~ 2007 ~
Season Ticket
4:30 P.M. EST
8 P.M. EST
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4:30 P.M. EST

Prediction: NYG 20, DAL 27

Perhaps third time is the charm? The Cowboys beat the Giants 45-35 in the season opener in Dallas and then again 31-20 in New York during week 10. But the Cowboys have not been sharp the last several weeks while the Giants have turned in two very impressive performances in a row in games against the Patriots and Buccaneers. The Cowboys were 6-2 at home but the Giants are 8-1 on the road. This should be one of the harder fought games of the weekend. There are one of two outcomes here and probably nothing in the middle. Either the Cowboys shake off their late season malaise and return to their dominating ways with an easy win or they continue to struggle and a fired up Giants team gives them all they can handle - and maybe too much. This is truly an interesting game because it all depends on which teams show up. The Giants of the last two weeks or the worse one? The Cowboys of the last three weeks or the better one?

New York Giants (10-6)
Homefield: Giants Stadium
  Opp Score Spread Over/Under
1 @DAL 35-45 +5.5 44
2 GB 13-35 -2.5 38.5
3 @WAS 24-17 +3.5 40.5
4 PHI 16-3 +2.5 47
5 NYJ 35-24 -3 41
6 @ATL 31-10 -3 43.5
7 SF 33-15 -9.5 40
8 @MIA 13-10 -9.5 48
9 BYE - - -
10 DAL 20-31 +1.5 49
11 @DET 16-10 -2.5 49.5
12 MIN 17-41 -7 41
13 @CHI 21-16 -1.5 43
14 @PHI 16-13 +3 42.5
15 WAS 16-22 -4.5 40
16 @BUF 38-21 -3 34.5
17 NE 35-38 +14.5 44
P1 @TB 24-14 +3 39.5
P2 @DAL   +7.5 47
NYG vs DAL Rush Catch Pass
QB Eli Manning     220,2
RB Brandon Jacobs 70 20  
TE Kevin Boss   30  
WR Plaxico Burress   70,1  
WR Amani Toomer   40  
WR Steve Smith   30,1  
PK Lawrence Tynes 2 FG 2 XP  
Pregame Notes: The Giants have certainly redeemed themselves with two impressive games. They played the Patriots almost even and then won handily in Tampa Bay and in both games it was Eli Manning coming up big and limiting mistakes. The rushing game has been using Jacobs as the bruiser and now has turned to including Ahmad Bradshaw as a speedy complement. After losing to the Redskins in week 15, the Giants could have folded and no one would have been surprised since they had been playing poorly and had just lost Jeremy Shockey. Instead of getting worse, the G-Men turned it up several notches with a big win in Buffalo in week 16. Whether this is just a late season temporary bump or a true increase in effectiveness gets answered this week.

Quarterback: Eli Manning has certainly improved his timing. After scoring only once in seven straight games and then not at all in Buffalo, he threw for 251 yards and four scores against the Patriots and then completed 20 of 27 passes for 185 yards and two scores against the tough Buccaneers defense that he picked apart with short passes. For two weeks, Manning has looked better than he had since the season opener when he passed for a season high 312 yards and four scores in Dallas. Manning later passed for 236 yards and one score in week ten when the Cowboys were the visitor.

Running Backs: Brandon Jackson has not been as effective against the Cowboys has he has in most other games. In the season opener, he only gained 26 yards on six carries before getting hurt though Derrick Ward turned 13 carries into 89 yards in that game. In week ten, Jackson ran for 95 yards on 24 carries and did not score in either game. What will be new this time is that Ahmad Bradshaw has been given playing time with nice results. He ran for 151 yards on 17 carries and scored once in Buffalo during that rout and then was not used in week 16 against the Patriots. When Jacobs left the game with cramping in Tampa Bay, Bradshaw stepped in and again had 17 carries though he only gained 66 yards.

While Bradshaw may get playing time this week, he was never used in week 16 and only played last week because of the Jacobs injury. The Giants claim to want to use him more but so far that has only been in a game already decided and then last week when Jacobs was injured.

Jacobs is expected to play this week - they were only cramps in Tampa Bay and Bradshaw handled the rushing game well enough anyway.

Wide Receivers: Plaxico Burress has confessed that he tore a ligament in his ankle back in week two and literally tore it off the bone but has continued to play without practicing. He had a season high 144 yards and three scores in the season opener in Dallas when it was healthy but later only caught four passes for 24 yards in the second meeting. Amani Toomer also has a season high nine catches for 91 yards in the season opener but then settled for three receptions for 37 yards when the Cowboys visited in week ten. Toomer had a great game last week when he caught seven passes for 74 yards and a score but that was only his fourth score on the year and first in five games. Burress has been very ineffective in the last month with almost no production except for showing up with two scores and 84 yards against the Patriots. Burress has tended to either have a really big game or a really bad one with few in the middle.

Tight Ends: Kevin Boss scored in his first two games as the starter when Shockey was lost for the season but only had two catches for 14 yards in the road game in Tampa Bay last week. That strangely mirrors Shockey who only scored three times this year and all came in home games as well.

Match Against the Defense: This matchup all depends on which versions of the teams show up. Most likely, the Giants will have a problem mounting the same dominating run game that they showed against lesser defenses since the Cowboys have not allowed any visiting runner to gain more than the 89 yards that Ward had back in week one. Only three runners have scored against the Cowboys in Dallas and Jacobs has a tendency to get nicked up in games anyway.

Manning has been outstanding these last two weeks and not at all impressive for the eight or more previous match-ups including the rematch with the Cowboys in New York during week ten. The Cowboys secondary is healthy again and Burress has not been that productive outside of the one home game against the Pats but he gets the better matchup. Boss was not productive last week but could factor in more on Sunday though he remains unlikely to score. Expect Manning to throw for two scores here that should favor Burress and likely a player like Steve Smith pitted against a safety but at some point the Giants will stop playing over their heads. That may or may not be this week.

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Dallas Cowboys (13-3)
Homefield: Texas Stadium
  Opp Score Spread Over/Under
1 NYG 45-35 -5.5 44
2 @MIA 37-20 -3.5 40.5
3 @CHI 34-10 +3 41
4 STL 35-7 -13 47
5 @BUF 25-24 -10 42
6 NE 27-48 +5 52.5
7 MIN 24-14 -9.5 46
8 BYE - - -
9 @PHI 38-17 -3 46
10 @NYG 31-20 -1.5 49
11 WAS 28-23 -10.5 47
12 NYJ 34-3 -14.5 47
13 GB 37-27 -6.5 52
14 @DET 28-27 -10.5 38
15 PHI 6-10 -10.5 48
16 @CAR 20-13 -13 44.5
17 @WAS 6-27 +7.5 39
P2 NYG   -7.5 47
DAL vs NYG Rush Catch Pass
QB Tony Romo     270,2
RB Julius Jones 40 10  
RB Marion Barber 70 20  
TE Jason Witten   80,1  
WR Terrell Owens   40  
WR Patrick Crayton   60,1  
WR Terry Glenn   50  
PK Nick Folk 2 FG 3 XP  

Pregame Notes: This actually becomes a rather critical game for the Cowboys. After cruising to a 12-1 record, they have lost two of their last three and not looked anywhere nearly as sharp in those games. The high-scoring offense that had never scored less than 24 points in any of the first 13 games ended up with only 32 points over those final three weeks. Tony Romo threw for one score. The defense played reasonably well but there's plenty to point at that suggests the Cowboys have already peaked and are now ripe for losing yet another first playoff game. On the plus side, Romo hasn't been the holder for Nick Folk all year long.

Quarterback: Despite his three game slide to end the year, Tony Romo still turned in 4211 passing yards and a franchise record 36 passing touchdowns this year. Through week 14, he had only one game where he failed to pass for multiple touchdowns and then had just the one in the last three games. Add in some silly media-fed Jessica Simpson curse and his detractors have been kept happy since week 14. But Romo passed for 345 yards and four scores in the season opener with the Giants and later had 247 yards and four scores in the second meeting in New York. Perhaps more important than those stats is the fact that Jessica is not expected to attend this week.

Running Backs: The Cowboys have only had very limited success rushing against the Giants this year. In week one, Julius Jones only gained 32 yards on 15 carries and Marion Barber gained 65 yards on 11 runs with one score. In the second meeting, Barber had 12 carries for only 34 yards while Jones was slightly better with 11 runs for 48 yards. The Cowboys have been more successful passing against the Giants this year but only in recent weeks has Barber been getting a higher proportion of the carries.

Wide Receivers: The big question this week - will Terrell Owens play? There have been so many conflicting reports coming out of Dallas that it starts to appear to be done on purpose. On Wednesday, Owens was there for the walk-through although he was described as "limping through" because of his high ankle sprain. He has been noted as a fast healer in the past and has been diligently rehabbing but his status and effectiveness if he plays is still a question that may not be completely answered until game time - on purpose. He had a big role in both of the previous wins with two scores in each game and 212 combined yards from those games.

Terry Glenn is slated to make his return this week. He played last week but was jacked up on his only pass and then took to the bench. The plan is to use Glenn as the speed guy deep but he may be the primary if Owens cannot play. Patrick Crayton will figure in regardless but he never had more than 66 yards as the starting flanker against the Giants this year and scored once in the road game.

I am projecting for a limited Owens to play this week. It appears at this point that he very well may play but likely will be more of a decoy than the primary wideout. It all depends on that high ankle sprain that is only three weeks into what is usually a six week recovery time.

Tight Ends: Jason Witten becomes more of a wildcard if Owens is not healthy. He had six catches for 116 yards and one score in the season opener but then only managed two catches for 12 yards in the second meeting.

Match Against the Defense: The Giants on the road have been very good against the run and stunted the Dallas attack in both meetings this year anyway. There is a decent chance that Barber could run in a touchdown but it's likely that the Giants will keep both he and Jones to only moderate yardage. The Giants have allowed only two 100 yard runners this year and the Dallas backfield is split anyway.

Romo has been very good in games against the Giants with four scores in each but two came from Owens in those games. And Owens may not play and may not be effective even if he does. The addition of Terry Glenn adds another wildcard of sorts here but while Glenn was productive in 2006, he has almost no game experience this year. Hard to see how he could be effective in his timing with Romo in a game situation after having none since last year. Witten is the key to the passing game if/when Owens proves to be limited or out. He had a great game in the season opener at home and will have the confidence of Romo who needs a good game after three straight clunkers to end the year.

CB Sam Madison could miss this week. He did not play last week and did not practice on Wednesday. He would matchup against Owens normally. I like Dallas to pass for two scores in this game that favor Witten and either Owens or his replacement against a replacement corner. I also like the chance that the Cowboys manage one defensive score here though that could be a rush by Barber as well.

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