Dallas Cowboys @ New York Giants: Manning's men to march on to a fifth straight victory

Eli Manning is throwing less, but throwing better

The Giants are on an irresistible run of four straight wins and with Andre Brown helping to balance the attack they should make it win no.5 to shake up the NFC East playoff picture, says Neil Harvey... 

"Andre Brown's return has given New York a balance to their attack, taking some of the responsibility of the shoulders of Manning, and giving opposing teams two threats to worry about instead of one."

New York Giants to win @ 1.758/11

Dallas Cowboys @ New York Giants
Start Time: Sunday,  21:25
TV: Live on Sky Sports 3

This is a hugely important contest in the NFC East, which will most likely decide which of these teams makes it to the play-offs. A month ago, you'd have pegged this for a straight-forward Dallas win, over the then-winless Giants. But four games, and four victories later, it's New York who go into this one as slight favourites.

Yes, the Giants, woeful in losing their first six games, have now turned their season on its head. At (4-6) they go into this fixture knowing a win would draw them level with Dallas (5-5) in the division, and keep alive their play-off aspirations. If the Giants do reach the post-season, and who knows, perhaps even win it given the rate at which they are improving, then it would surely rank among world sport's all-time greatest fairytales.

New York's turnaround in form has been remarkable. A defense that allowed its first five opponents to score more than 30 points each, has now limited its last four opponents to a miserly average of less than 14 points. The same defense that allowed Carolina's DeAngelo Williams to rush for 120 yards in a 38-0 drubbing early-season, recently shut-down the league's undisputed number one rusher, Adrian Peterson, allowing him a laughably small 28 yards. And that, my friends, is borderline miraculous.

Whatever medicine the Giants took to fix their early-season ailments, it certainly worked. And it didn't cure just one part of this sickly Giant, it cured all of it. For example, New York's two-times Superbowl winning quarterback Eli Manning was playing like a man with one arm tied behind his back, and a blindfold on, for the first few weeks. Through games one to six, he threw nine touchdowns and in incredible 15 interceptions. So basically he was doing more harm than good for his team every time he stepped onto the field. Compare that to his form through games seven to ten, where he threw for three touchdowns and just two interceptions.

It's also noticeable that Manning threw the ball less during those four straight victories. He threw less and he threw more carefully. And it's no coincidence that this change coincided with the return from injury of running back Andre Brown. Out for the first two months with a broken leg, Brown has returned fresh and energized and at the peak of his powers. His presence has given the Giants a running game they were sorely missing when reliant upon David 'Hooves for Hands' Wilson at RB.

Perhaps more significantly, it's given New York a balance to their attack, taking some of the responsibility of the shoulders of Manning, and giving opposing teams two threats to worry about instead of one. 

Brown could prove a game-winning player for the Giants in this game. Firstly, he has an uncanny knack of getting into the endzone, as shown by his run of eight TDs in just ten games last season. And secondly, Dallas resemble a chocolate-fireguard in front of a bonfire, when they try to stop the run. In week 10, the ponderous Mark Ingram waltzed though Grand Canyon-sized holes to rack-up 145 yards rushing for New Orleans. If he can do that, then Brown should be able to at least as much, because he's better.

So extreme is the turnaround in New York's form, that it's very difficult to assess their stats, because of the Jekyll and Hyde nature of their season. But what we can do is look at their Week One loss to the Cowboys, by 36 points to 31, in Dallas. Now given the close nature of that game, combined with the huge improvement in New York's form, there's every reason to expect the Giants to win this time. Plus we've recently seen several sides score home victories against opponents they'd previously lost to on the road, suggesting that the power of home advantage is significant in the NFL.

When these sides met first time around, it was a high-scoring shootout between the QBs, with Tony Romo and Eli Manning throwing on just about every play. This time though, we can expect the Giants to focus more on the run, which should eat up the clock, and produce a comparatively lower score.

Dallas have a (1-4) record on the road, and the league's worst pass-defense bar none. But they do possess a powerful passing game, and in Romo and wide receiver Des Bryant they have a couple of all-star performers. Given the crucial nature of this encounter, there are sure to be plenty of nerves on display. So while I fancy the Giants to turn the tables on that Week One loss, I think Dallas could keep this interesting and take the result right down to the final few moments, in what could be a thriller.


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