Can the Giants beat the Cowboys?

Paul Schwartz: Kudos to you, Kenny, for writing in this space a few weeks ago that the Cowboys were the team to beat in the NFC East. I opted for the Eagles, not knowing of course, that Donovan McNabb would get hurt. Kudos to both of us for believing that the Redskins would falter and not be a huge factor here.

Now that I'm done with the pats on the back, let's get back to throwing stones instead of bouquets. I know how unevenly the Giants played in Dallas back in mid-October but nothing in that game convinced me the Cowboys are clearly the best team in the division. Here's a promise: If the Giants force three first-half turnovers this time they won't go in at halftime training, 7-6. The Cowboys have yet to prove they can run on the Giants. They showed they can pass it on the Giants and that might be a problem, but the way to solve that problem is to get in Drew Bledsoe's face. The Giants can do that with Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora. They have to do it. Plus, I think the Giants can find a way to exploit safety Roy Williams in coverage. They did it back on Oct. 16, when Jeremy Shockey erupted in the fourth quarter and caught a 24-yard touchdown pass to force overtime. The rematch comes at Giants Stadium, where the Giants clearly are more comfortable. Remember, Bill Parcells doesn't live there any more.

Ken Palmer: Of course the Giants can beat the Cowboys, and they most likely will Sunday at Giants Stadium. But when all the dust settles, it will be Parcells' Cowboys wrapping up the NFC East, not the Giants. So much talk came out of the Giants/Cowboys matchup in Big D about how poorly the Giants played and yet they almost won. Why doesn't anyone mention that the Cowboys were God-awful all afternoon as well, yet found a way to win? That to me speaks volumes. We all know the later it gets in the season, the more dangerous a coach Parcells becomes. And while Tom Coughlin has done a tremendous job this season, he has to know that he's no match for his mentor. The Cowboys have the great defense with stars such as Williams and Demarcus Ware making noise, two solid lines, a strong running game and a QB that, for the most part, hasn't been hurting his club with mistakes. That might be the major difference here down the stretch. Eli Manning certainly has more ability to win ballgames than Drew Bledsoe, but he also possesses more ability to lose them as well at this point in his career. Don't worry, Paul, the Giants will be in the playoffs, just not as the NFC East champs.

PS: I guess the best way to settle the Giants vs. Cowboys debate is on the field, which will shut one of us up. Speaking of shutting up, how about the way Tom Coughlin threw Willie Ponder under the bus after Ponder fumbled away the opening kickoff against the Vikings? Here was Ponder, averaging a healthy 27 yards a kickoff return, good for first in the NFC and third in the entire league, getting benched the very next week, as Coughlin opted to go with Chad Morton as the kick returner. Not only was Ponder benched, he was deactivated, not even in uniform. You can either buy Coughlin's explanation that the demotion wasn't simply a result of the fumble, but rather because "we needed a jump start there.'' I don't truly believe Morton is going to be much better than Ponder but here's why I don't mind the harsh move: It sends the proper message. This is the serious time of the season for the Giants, pushing ahead in the playoff chase and sloppy, careless mistakes cannot be tolerated. You screw up, you may not get the chance to screw up again. If the editors at this newspaper laid down the law, Kenny Palmer's contributions for this publication might be reduced to dropping the papers off at your local deli. Actually, he might not mind that, as long as he can get some cold cuts to go to wash down his beer. Maybe Ponder resurfaces again this season, maybe he doesn't, but the urgency Coughlin demonstrated surely will be felt inside the Giants locker room. Fear is a great deterrent.

KP: Fear is also a fool's way of trying to motivate. Ponder is the best kick returner the Giants have had in forever and Coughlin's going to just take him out because of one mistake? Message sent, now put him back in the lineup. Nothing against Chad Morton, who's been nothing but ordinary after breaking a punt on opening day, but Ponder deserves to be in the lineup and the team needs him in the lineup. After leading the universe in kickoff returns last year, we all thought the league would catch up to Ponder and figure out a way to slow him down this year. Hasn't happened. The only person that has slowed the dangerous Ponder down is his foolish coach. Perhaps there's more to this than the one fumble, and if there is no one is saying. But Coughlin removing Ponder from the kickoff return team is even more foolish than when he benched Plaxico Burress in San Diego in Week Three. While that message got across, the opportunity to win that game disappeared. Coughlin's headed for the same danger zone with this move. Ever heard of cutting off your nose to spite your face? Here's exhibit A. And by the way, how'd you find out I also deliver TGI?

PS: Wasn't it quirky and interesting that Tiki Barber and Amani Toomer became the first Giants to ever amass 500 career receptions and they did it in the same game? Well, at least I found it quirky and interesting. The only thing you would find quirky and interesting is if pizza could be deep-fried. As far as Toomer and Barber, the race is on to see which one will finish up his career as the Giants all-time receiving leader. My bet is on Toomer for a few reasons. No one makes a catch without the quarterback throwing it to him and Eli Manning for the foreseeable future is going to be the guy pulling the trigger. Manning wants to throw the ball downfield. He naturally looks to his wide receivers first and hasn't yet mastered the art of the check-down to his running back. Both guys are in great shape and show no signs of slowing down but Barber certainly takes more of a pounding as the feature back. Plaxico Burress has supplanted Toomer as the main target and in his new role as the flanker there's less wear-and-tear on Toomer. As this season progresses, Toomer is becoming more of a factor and less of an afterthought as teams pay special attention to Burress and Jeremy Shockey. Toomer is more than capable of making opponents pay for that strategy and that should lead to more passes thrown his way. After all, he is a receiver and he'll wind up with more catches than Barber.

KP: Hate to throw some obvious math at you, but Barber accomplished the feat in 12 less games than Toomer, close to one full season's worth of opportunities to catch passes. Clearly Barber's going to play a few more years, while Toomer, despite the recent resurgence, is clearly on his way out of New York sooner rather than later. And your point about Manning learning to check-down? Thanks for making my point for me, not that I needed your help, mind you. Manning will continue to improve on that and will learn that it's a lot easier to get 20 passing yards with a 2-yard toss and Barber run than to fire a missile 20 yards downfield and hope that Toomer's open. We all know that Barber's a higher option on more passing plays than Toomer is. That said, it would only take a fool to predict that Toomer – who took more games to accomplish the feat, has less games remaining and is not as high on the food chain – would end up with more catches than Barber. This will be yet another record that Tiki takes with him into retirement after the 2008 season.

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