NFL Preview - Dallas (7-3) at NY Giants (3-7)
By Shawn Clarke, Contributing NFL Editor
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Dallas Cowboys had the fortunate chance to visit London before getting rest and relaxation on the recent bye week.
The party is over and it's back to work for the Cowboys Sunday night at MetLife Stadium versus the NFC East-rival New York Giants.
The Cowboys are tied with Philadelphia atop the division standings with an identical 7-3 record and easily disposed of the Jacksonville Jaguars in England on Nov. 9. The victory ended a two-game slide for Dallas and gave America's Team something to smile about during their lengthy time away.
Now it's time to prepare for a possible playoff run and improve.
"Coach (Jason) Garrett said it, but I think our team understands it ... we got out of it (bye) at 7-3, but there's so much we can get better," Cowboys tight end Jason Witten said. "We used the bye week to evaluate and kind of self- scout ourselves, and then we go into it and take it one game at a time."
Dallas has a challenging schedule ahead with New York on the docket. The Cowboys will not sleep on the Giants with two upcoming games against the Eagles over a three-week stretch. Chicago is mixed in between a Thanksgiving affair and a trip to Philly on Dec. 14.
Witten discussed further what Dallas' mindset will be.
"You can't look past New York, and the focus has to be on that. There's been times I felt like we were going to be great in December, and we didn't play well," Witten said.
The Cowboys' offense was deadly most of the time before the bye and sits second in rushing yards (153.2 ypg) thanks to DeMarco Murray. The Cowboys are sixth in total offense (387.5 ypg) and seventh in points scored (26.1), but Murray has been the leader on offense.
Murray ran for 100 yards against the Jaguars and has reached the century mark nine times already this season. Murray and Texans running back Arian Foster are tied with seven rushing touchdowns apiece, while the former hasn't carried the football more than 19 times in the past three games.
Murray, the only player in NFL history with at least 100 rushing yards in nine of his team's first 10 games to begin a season, is first in the NFL in rushing yards (1,233) and yards per game (123.3) and isn't worried about cold weather possibly slowing him down.
"In this part of the year, you know it's cold, the weather, so I think the running is going to be a little bit more of a factor," Murray said. "It's good ... we've got a strong offensive line, we've got some backs who can run and also we've got a lot of guys on the edge who can go up and get the ball. It's going to be huge for us."
Either way, Murray's ready and opponents beware.
"I'm ready. I'm ready to go," said Murray, who has rushed for 431 yards and a score in the past four meetings with the Giants. "Like I said before, whatever they ask me to do, I'm going to do it times 10. It's going to be an exciting next couple weeks for us."
The last couple of weeks have been far from exciting for Eli Manning and the Giants as evidenced by five straight losses. The Giants were 3-2 at one point, but now the wheels are beginning to fall off.
Manning did not put the Giants in position to win in Sunday's 16-10 loss to San Francisco in their own backyard, throwing five interceptions. He has been picked off six times the last two games after not throwing an INT in each of the previous four games.
"I think our concern is try to get a win. After the run we had, just get a win, and get some positive energy, and feel excited about what we are doing," Manning said. "It will be a great opportunity against a division rival, and a team we played. We played them tough last time. I think there are still some things that I thought we made some improvement in areas this weekend, kind of regressed in some others. We've just got to put it all together and try to get a win this weekend against the Cowboys."
Giants head coach Tom Coughlin said it was a good week of preparation for the 49ers and was pleased with the defense for how badly it played in previous weeks. The defense has struggled and is 22nd against the pass (252.7 ypg), 26th in points allowed (26.3), 31st in total yards allowed (397.7 ypg) and dead last in rushing yards (145.0).
Frank Gore ran for 95 yards on 19 carries for San Francisco.
New York is winless in its last two home games and welcomed back its leading rusher, Rashad Jennings, versus the 'Niners. Jennings saw his first action since Oct. 5 because of balky knee and posted 59 yards on 18 carries. He missed the first meeting with Dallas and is excited for Sunday.
"Yeah, I missed the last one," Jennings said. "So yeah, the first one, I am excited."
Jennings said he felt good after being out for some time.
"Well, I don't develop rust because I am always moving; it was just a matter of fine tuning," Jennings said.
New York dropped a 31-21 decision in Dallas on Oct. 19. Manning threw for 248 yards and three scores, while rookie wideout Odell Beckham Jr. caught two of those TD passes. Murray rumbled for 128 yards and a score on 28 carries for a Dallas offense that racked up 423 total yards.
Manning (247) needs one TD to surpass Boomer Esiason (247) for 16th place on the NFL all-time career passing touchdowns list. He should easily get that against a Dallas defense that is 14th against the pass (239.8 ypg).
The Cowboys lead the all-time series with New York by a 60-42-2 advantage and have won three straight and four of the last five meetings in the series.
"Every week, it's a new challenge," Jennings said. "This is a division game and they're a team that's playing well. We are excited for this next challenge."
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
The Giants are fifth in the NFL with 13 interceptions. Prince Amukamara, Antrel Rolle and Quintin Demps are tied for the team-lead with three, but Amukamara is on injured reserve (biceps).
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie has one INT and is questionable Sunday.
Dallas quarterback Tony Romo passed for 279 yards with three touchdowns and one interception in the first meeting with the G-men and has won the last three meetings against them. Romo is 7-1 in his last eight starts overall.
Look for Romo to try and establish a rhythm early with talented wideout Dez Bryant. Bryant hauled in nine passes for 151 yards against New York and had similar numbers before the bye against Jacksonville with 158 yards and two TDs on six receptions. Bryant has scored a touchdown in each of the past three games (4 total) and owns eight this season.
Bryant and Witten are always tough to defend. Witten has found the end zone four times in the last three matchups in this series.
Giants middle linebacker Jameel McClain has been a tackling monster the past two weeks. He had 12 stops in the loss at Seattle, then made 14 tackles at home versus San Francisco. McClain said the Giants have to move on from their recent losses and get prepared for a tough Dallas team.
"The mentality is, in reality in this game, you get can opportunity to lick your wounds at this point and this is what we get within this day," McClain said Sunday. "To absorb what happened and to see how we can get better, that is the mentality right now. We know we all have got to and play a great game, regardless. Next time is the next time, and we've got to go in and put in a great effort and come out with a win."
Giants defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins (calf) and linebacker Jacquian Williams (concussion) did not practice and their status Sunday is unknown. Defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka (knee) is also on the infirmary list.
Coughlin said he believes Manning will "bounce back" and have a "good game" versus the Cowboys. The same cannot be said for the offensive line. Right tackle Justin Pugh (quad) is dealing with injury and Charles Brown played poorly in his place Sunday, according to Coughlin.
Jennings will have more reps this week and could surprise the Cowboys because they haven't faced him yet this season. The rookie Beckham has 21 receptions for 357 yards in his last three games. Beckham, wide receiver Rueben Randle and tight end Larry Donnell will have to match Bryant and Witten. Donnell will put his size and athleticism to the test and had seven catches for a career- high 90 yards versus the Cowboys in Week 7.
Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell could be counting down his days of employment and maybe DE Jason Pierre-Paul can help bail him out. JPP has recorded seven sacks in the last seven games in this series and had two in the first encounter.
Kiwanuka and sack leader Robert Ayers could have an impact on the outcome.
But even if they do, it won't be enough to slow down Murray and the Cowboys, who have to keep pace with the Eagles in the NFC East. Philadelphia should have an easy time with 2-8 Tennessee visiting Lincoln Financial Field.
The Cowboys will have their own party up I-95.
Sports Network predicted outcome: Cowboys 28, Giants 17
11/20 15:24:10 ET