Cowboys-Giants Preview & Prediction

The game could turn on the ability of RBs Julius Jones and Marion Barber to keep Romo out of long passing downs so he has the time to attack downfield against a still-shaky Giants pass defense.

KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:15 ET

GAMEDATE: 11/11/07

SURFACE: FieldTurf

TV: FOX, Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Pam Oliver

SERIES: 91st meeting. Dallas leads the series 53-35-2. Dallas won the season opener 45-35. Dallas has won three of the last five meetings.

PREDICTION: Dallas 33 New York 27

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Giants have 30.0 sacks, just two shy of their total last season. However, only one of those came in the loss in Dallas as Romo enjoyed great protection. Romo will again focus on getting rid of the ball quickly and trying to exploit the Giants' linebackers in coverage. The game could turn on the ability of RBs Julius Jones and Marion Barber to keep Romo out of long passing downs so he has the time to attack downfield against a still-shaky Giants pass defense. ... The Giants don't have time to shake off any rust coming out their bye week. The offense has to produce early and consistently, and RB Brandon Jacobs (5.6 yards per carry) has the ability to help keep the defense fresh -- as long as the Giants aren't constantly playing from behind. The Giants have outscored their past six opponents 155-79, so they know they have the firepower to go toe-to-toe in a slugfest.

KEY INJURIES: Cowboys: FB Oliver Hoyte (stinger) is expected to play after missing six games; CB Anthony Henry (ankle) will remain the nickel corner for now; WR Terry Glenn (knee) hopes to return by December. Giants: WR Plaxico Burress (ankle sprain) was finally able to practice some this week; RB Derrick Ward (ankle sprain) and WR Steve Smith (shoulder) are uncertain.

FAST FACTS: Romo is 13-5 with a 98.1 passer rating in 18 career starts. ... The Giants are just the fifth team in NFL history to reel off six consecutive wins following an 0-2 start.

COWBOYS PERSONNEL NEWS: --WR Terrell Owens has been fined $10,000 by the league for flashing his touchdown towel in the Eagles game. The towel is against the rules because it is not an officially sanctioned NFL product.

--DT Tank Johnson will play mostly on rushing downs against the Giants this Sunday. Cowboys coach Wade Phillips said he can help the Cowboys against the run but has special quickness and could make an impact on the pass rush.

--CB Anthony Henry will only play on nickel downs as he still is not ready to be a fulltime cornerback, coach Wade Phillips said. This is Henry's second game back since missing three games with a high ankle sprain.

--FB Oliver Hoyte missed six games with a strained neck. But he has been cleared to play against the Giants and will be ready to go on Sunday. He had no problems hitting full speed in practice on Wednesday.

GIANTS PERSONNEL NEWS: --RT Kareem McKenzie will draw Dallas LDE Marcus Spears on Sunday, a man over whom he holds a height and weight advantage. "It's not that," he said. "It's the quickness. Marcus is a very quick man." But he has only one sack.

--RB Brandon Jacobs, who a week ago declared "I hate the Dallas Cowboys," has vowed not to talk out again. "I have had two or three good games," he said, including a 132-yard performance against Miami the week before the Giants' bye, "and I think that's how I got there. I just concentrate on the game."

--SLB Mathias Kiwanuka, generally a quiet man, has made the transition from DE smoothly and effectively, although when questioned, defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo admits that he doesn't exactly play the usual strong-side linebacker role. "He's moving around some," he says. "It a case of utilizing what our 11 best players can do best."

--LCB Aaron Ross, the first-round draft pick, is the only rookie starting so far, but that might change as soon as this week if the coaching staff decides to keep Michael Johnson (seventh rounder) at the SS position. He started there vs. Miami because incumbent James Butler was injured, but Butler hadn't been playing well and Johnson apparently opened a few eyes.

--QB Eli Manning doesn't think this will be an intense game simply because both teams are strong. "It's a division game," he says, "and no matter who you play in your division, it's a tough, important game."

INSIDE THE COWBOYS CAMP: The Cowboys and Giants will meet this Sunday with the NFC East title on the line.

Both teams look nothing like the teams that met in the season opener, won 45-35 by the Cowboys at Texas Stadium.

They have combined records of 13-3 and have won nine of their last 10 games.

The Cowboys were scolded by their fans following the season opener because they gave up 35 points to the Giants.

But that was a Cowboys defense that played without cornerback Terence Newman and linebacker Greg Ellis.

Newman is the team's best cover corner and Ellis is the team's second best pass rusher. The Cowboys also lost their starting nose tackle (Jason Ferguson) in that game.

The Cowboys defense is better and healthier now.

Ellis is back. He has 5.5 sacks in the last five games. Newman has returned to play corner after missing the first two games.

And cornerback Anthony Henry, who missed three games with a sprained ankle, is also ready to go in passing situations.

Jay Ratliff has played well in place of Ferguson, but he will get help in the middle this week because Tank Johnson will make his season debut after serving an eight-game suspension for violating the league's personal conduct policy.

"I think they're playing well and playing with confidence," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said of the Cowboys. "They have scored a lot of points, and their defense is doing a good job. And so, if there's a difference along those lines, that would be it. There have been some adjustments here and there with personnel, obviously, which everyone has to accommodate."

The Giants are a better team as well, especially on defense.

Michael Strahan has come into his own after missing the entire training camp in a contract dispute. He hadn't even practiced before playing the Cowboys in the season opener.

The Cowboys also lost defensive end Osi Umenyiora, running back Brandon Jacobs and quarterback Eli Manning in the season opener.

All are healthy again and playing at a high level for a Giants team that won six straight after losing the first two.

INSIDE THE GIANTS CAMP: The talk this week, leading up to the "Son of Indianapolis-New England" game between the Giants and Cowboys, has concerned, in part, the top two receivers in the encounter -- the Giants' Plaxico Burress and the Cowboys' Terrell Owens.

Who's better? Can either one influence the direction of the game? Will either or both be the offensive linchpin around which these two NFC East combatants plan their attack?

"T.O." is obviously much flashier and better known, and this season so far he has 44 passes for 730 yards and six touchdowns. A touchdown almost once in every seven catches is hard to beat.

However, Burress has caught 37 passes for 564 yards and eight touchdowns. That's a six-pointer virtually once in every six receptions.

Owens has roughly 25 percent of the Cowboys' passing yardage gained while Burress has accounted for a third of the Giants' yardage gained through the air.

Is there a difference? Yes, Owens practices every day and Burress doesn't. Plaxico has a "severely sprained ankle," according to orthopedic guru Dr. Robert Anderson in Charlotte, N.C., to whom Plaxico was taken by the team's chief trainer, Ronnie Barnes. The prescription was for "total rest," except that's not possible during the season, so he rests all week and then plays on game day.

Except this week. Plaxico practiced with the Giants on Wednesday, taking part in most of the individual and team drills, and participated in the sessions that incorporated the specific plans and plays for the Sunday battle for supremacy in the NFC East.

"He said during our walk-through that he wanted to try it," said head coach Tom Coughlin. "If he felt good enough to do it, we all agreed that he should try."

Sore or not, Plaxico will play Sunday. So will "T.O." Will they decide the outcome of the game? Perhaps not, but they'll surely play a large role in it.

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