KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
TV: FOX, Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Pam Oliver
SERIES: 87th meeting. Dallas leads the series 51-33-2. The Giants have won
four of the past five games in New York. Eight of the last 11 meetings have
been decided by a touchdown or less, including five by four points or less.
2005 RANKINGS: Cowboys: offense 13th (15th rush, 14th pass); defense 6th
(9th rush, 10th pass). Giants: offense 8th (8th rush, 12th pass); defense
24th (7th rush, 27th pass).
KEYS TO THE GAME: The Cowboys want to test the Giants secondary, but they
won't have much success until they are able to set up the play-action pass.
Dallas is already forced to max protect QB Drew Bledsoe on most passing
downs, and Giants DEs Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora will have a big
advantage working against Cowboys OTs Rob Petitti and Torrin Tucker. So RBs
Julius Jones and/or Marion Barber need to establish the ground game and help
Dallas control the clock. The Cowboys aren't sure if CB Anthony Henry will
be available, and the Giants would like to go after 5-foot-9 CB Aaron Glenn
working against 6-5 WR Plaxico Burress. In what figures to be a close game,
the Giants' offensive line must play with more discipline than it showed in
committing 11 false starts against Seattle.
FAST FACTS: Cowboys: Bill Parcells is 67-32 (.677) as a coach in Giants
Stadium. ... Bledsoe needs three touchdown passes to pass Jim Kelly (237)
and Len Dawson (239) for 14th place all-time. Giants: RB Tiki Barber needs
401 rushing yards (80.2 per game) to break his own single-season franchise
record of 1,518 set last season. ... QB Eli Manning has a touchdown pass in
a league-high 12 consecutive games.
--C Al Johnson practiced Thursday and could play against the Giants.
Johnson underwent surgery Nov. 24 to remove cartilage from his knee. Andre
Gurode, however, could still start in his place.
--WR Patrick Crayton has practiced pain-free all week and will be ready
to play against the Giants after missing the last five games with an ankle
injury. The question is whether Crayton will be able to assume all of his
former duties, including serving as the team's primary punt returner.
--RB Marion Barber has got the short end of the stick since Julius Jones
returned to the starting lineup and he has had to share the load at running
back. Barber rushed for 222 yards in two starts against Seattle and Arizona
on 49 attempts. He has had just 37 attempts for 127 yards the past three
games while splitting time with Jones, who had 163 yards on 49 carries.
"You don't really worry about all of that - who gets the ball," Barber
said. "I knew what the situation was with Julius when he came back. I've
(split carries) before, so it's not a big deal. I just stay ready and
prepared and when it's my turn, I have to be ready."
--WR Keyshawn Johnson leads the Cowboys in receptions with 53 for 582
yards and six touchdowns. His receptions continue to be important - 32 of
his catches have been for first downs, including nine on third down.
--LB DeMarcus Ware has not had a sack in the five games, dating to the
Giants game Oct. 16 at Texas Stadium. He has four sacks for the season. But
Ware continues to make an impact on the defense. He has steadily improved as
a run defender. His pressure from the outside has helped free up defensive
end Greg Ellis for sacks. Ellis leads the team with nine sacks and has
benefited from opponents doubling and chipping Ware.
--RCB Will Peterson (lower back), who practiced Wednesday for the first
time in nine weeks, sat out practice Thursday. He is listed as doubtful for
--WLB Nick Greisen (ankle) returned to practice Thursday and is listed as
questionable. If he can't go, the possibility for yet another juggling of
the three-linebacker set is there -- Carlos Emmons would move to the weak
side, Antonio Pierce would stay in the middle and Reggie Torbor would move
up to the strong side, filling in for Emmons, who would be filling in for
--S Shaun Williams (hamstring) is listed as doubtful for Sunday's game.
--DT Kenderick Allen (hamstring) is listed as questionable for Sunday's
--PR/KR Chad Morton (ankle) was upgraded to probable for Sunday's game.
--QB Eli Manning has thrown at least one touchdown pass in 12 consecutive
games, moving him into second place on the Giants' all-time list. He is
three short of Y.A. Tittle's record. Manning has 20 touchdown tosses this
season, and all last season the combination of Manning and Kurt Warner
managed only 12.
--Several Giants who requested anonymity are convinced that the Seahawks
installed wireless microphones around the stadium to amplify the crowd noise
and make it as loud as it once was in the old building, the Kingdome.
--Overheard walking to the locker room exit, an exchange between TE
Visanthe Shiancoe and DE Michael Strahan, a 34-year-old veteran of 13 years.
"Michael, your rookie year was 1970, right? Or was it 1971?" Several players
within earshot laughed -- Strahan did not.
INSIDE THE CAMPS:
Cowboys coach Bill Parcells admits being frustrated by the ongoing
absence of cornerback Anthony Henry because of a groin injury.
He is now giving the silent treatment to Henry and the Cowboys' training
Henry has missed two of the last three games since being injured against
the Cardinals on Oct. 30. It now looks like he will miss this week's game
against the Giants, as he has not practiced all week.
Parcells says he doesn't talk to the trainers. All he says is hello to
Henry in the morning. And he's on a "need to know basis" with the trainers
and Henry regarding his injury.
"I've been watching this for four or five weeks now," Parcells said, "and
it's quite apparent to me that nothing much has changed, so I don't need to
go over new ground."
Asked what was taking the injury so long to heal, Parcells said, "I don't
know. I really don't know."
Asked if he was frustrated by Henry's long absence, Parcells answered, "I
would say that would be an accurate term."
Parcells' frustration is rooted in the fact that Henry is a big part of
the Cowboys' defense. He was probably their best defensive player through
the first eight games.
Most important, they gave Henry a $10 million signing bonus to come over
from Cleveland as a free agent for games like Sunday's against the Giants.
Aaron Glenn has played well in Henry's absence and will likely start
again if Henry is not ready to play. But the 5-9 Glenn is no match for
oversized Giants receiver Plaxico Burress.
Henry was signed to defend the big receivers in the division, like
Burress and the suspended Terrell Owens of the Eagles.
No less an expert then Dallas wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson has spoken
out on the Giants.
"There is no doubt they're better than us," he said. "When you look at
the teams they've beaten and how they've played, they are better than us."
Shocking? Controversial? A sign of surrender?
Nope, it's just the magical mind of Cowboys head coach Bill Parcells busy
at work, trying to keep his opponents off-balance.
And this is the game to do it. The Giants and Cowboys are tied for first
place in the NFC East, and with just five games remaining, every victory is
crucial, every defeat is potentially fatal.
The Giants believe they are better than the Cowboys. In fact, middle
linebacker Antonio Pierce doesn't think there's an offense that can
seriously hurt the Giants defense.
"We're the dictators now," he said. "Earlier in the season, we weren't
dictating to any offense."
Giants running back Tiki Barber had a cogent question after the Giants'
24-21 overtime loss in Seattle last Sunday.
"If that's the best the NFC has to offer, what does it say about us?" he
What is says is that the Giants could make the playoffs and go far. It is
merely a question of maintaining consistency and momentum.
"What we need to do to get out of this funk that loss produced is run the
ball a lot," left guard David Diehl said. "We (offensive linemen) love
running plays. We can get out there and deliver the blow instead of
pass-blocking and taking that punishment. Besides, running the ball
successfully will make it easier for Eli (Manning), make it easier for him
Barber has gained 1,118 yards and needs just 80.3 per game the rest of
the way to surpass his previous career high of 1,518 set last season.
Getting that 80-yard day against Dallas would please him greatly, to say
nothing of the horde of fans who will try to be as loud as the folks were in
Seattle last week. Maybe they can prompt some false-start penalties, too.
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