The New York Giants (3-2 SU & ATS) and Dallas Cowboys (3-2 SU & ATS) entered this campaign with high expectations. It's taken a while to live up to them but both teams are now playing good football. The NFC East rivals look to build on strong performances from last week when they meet at Texas Stadium tonight on MNF.
New York stumbled out the gate this season, however, losing two of its first three, with the low point being a four-turnover, 42-30 loss at Seattle on Sept. 24. However, the bye week, which has historically hurt the Giants' play in their next game, seemed to come at the perfect time. New York regrouped during the week off and has since posted back-to-back victories, including a 27-14 come-from-behind win over Atlanta on Sunday. New York trailed 14-3 early in the third quarter before scoring 24 unanswered points. The game included a solid rushing attack and the Giants are 28-8 ATS in their last 36 games after accumulating more than 150 yards rushing in their previous game.
The Cowboys, especially brazen wide receiver Terrell Owens, seem to have done the same. Dallas opened with a 24-17 loss to Jacksonville before recording victories over Washington and Tennessee.
The Cowboys failed in their next challenge, losing 38-24 to Philadelphia in Owens' return to Lincoln Financial Field, but seemed to finally put it all together in a 34-6 win over Houston. Owens and quarterback Drew Bledsoe found their groove, connecting for two of Owens' three TDs, while the defense grabbed two interceptions, forced a fumble and defended nine passes.
The Cowboys have had little to weep about at home this season, outscoring opponents 61-16 in two wins. Bledsoe has a 93.3 passer rating in those games, throwing for four TDs and no interceptions, as opposed to a 53.7 rating in three road contests with 7 interceptions.
Julius Jones helps to balance the Cowboys' attack with 98.8 rushing yards per contest. Dallas is fourth in the NFL in points (29.4) and yards per game (369.4).
The Cowboys and Giants are tied for third in the league with 151.8 yards rushing per game. New York's success on the ground is due to Tiki Barber, the NFL's leading rusher with 533 yards. Barber ran for a season-high 185 yards last week to earn NFC offensive player of the week honors, but repeating that performance this week could be much tougher against a Dallas run defense that is the league's stingiest at 67.0 yards allowed per game.
While Barber is crucial to the Giants' offense, New York can utilize other weapons, having finally rediscovered the diverse attack that allowed it to score 422 points last season. The Giants rank second in the league in yards per game (417.6), third in passing yards (250.0) and sixth in points (25.4).
QB Eli Manning has spread his throws around between top receiving targets Amani Toomer and Plaxico Burress, each of which has more than 300 yards receiving, and TE Jeremy Shockey got into the mix last week. Shockey recorded the first 2-TD game of his career, catching 6 passes for 55 yards.
New York has also given more work to 6-foot-4, 264-pound RB Brandon Jacobs, who has 34 carries for 177 yards and two TDs. He had only 38 rushes in his '05 rookie season.
The Giants defense has also vastly improved since the bye. After allowing 92 points over the first three games, New York has given up 17 in the last two.
The Giants sacked Michael Vick seven times last week, their most since recording eight against Arizona on Oct. 18, 1998. New York hopes Michael Strahan can help it maintain that strong pass rush Sunday against Bledsoe, who's not known for his scrambling ability. Strahan has 13 sacks in his last 10 games against the Cowboys and needs two to match Lawrence Taylor's team record of 132.5.
However, the Cowboys 7-1 SU against the Giants on MNF, and Owens has typically been at his best in that situation. He's averaged 122 receiving yards and has nine touchdowns in his last six Monday night contests. As well, Dallas is 5-1-1 ATS in their last 7 MNF games.
Dallas leads the series with the Giants 51-34-2 SU, including 23-10 at Texas Stadium. The teams split two meetings last season, with the home team winning each time. Both clubs trail first-place Philadelphia by a half-game in the division.
Overall, the Giants are 5-2-1 ATS in their last 8 meetings. However, the Giants are 2-5-1 ATS in their last 8 meetings in Dallas.
Notable game trends:
– Giants are 6-2-1 ATS in their last 9 vs. NFC East.
– Giants are 12-5-1 ATS in their last 18 vs. NFC.
– Giants are 9-4-1 ATS vs. a team with a winning record.
– Giants are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 games following a SU win.
– Cowboys are 5-1-1 ATS in their last 7 games in October.
– Cowboys are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 games in Week 7.
– Cowboys are 4-1-1 ATS in their last 6 games as a home favorite.
– Cowboys are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 games following a S.U. win.
– Favorite is 5-2-1 ATS in their last 8 meetings.
– Home team is 10-4-1 ATS in their last 15 meetings.