New York Giants
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 wondered.
What it 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 to throw."
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.
--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 Sunday.
--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 Greisen.
--S Shaun Williams (hamstring) is listed as doubtful for Sunday's game.
--DT Kenderick Allen (hamstring) is listed as questionable for Sunday's game.
--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.
Despite Mike McMahon's low 44.7 completion percentage in his two starts, coach Andy Reid said he's seen positive things from the young quarterback.
"He did some good things Sunday (in the Eagles' 19-14 win over Green Bay)," Reid said. "He had a couple of beautiful checks (play changes at the line of scrimmage). He made a great sideline throw to (wide receiver) Greg Lewis. He made some nice decisions to run.
"The only thing we need to do, and this is my job, is to get going a little bit earlier. And that's what we're working on."
McMahon has struggled in the first half of both of his starts. He completed just four of 12 passes for 27 yards in the first half against the Packers, and completed just five of 15 passes for 81 yards in the first half against the New York Giants the week before.
He improved to 8-for-16 in the second half against the Packers, including three completions in four attempts on the Eagles' game-winning scoring drive. Against the Giants, he was 14-for-24 for 217 yards in the second half.
"The more I play, the more comfortable I'm going to be," McMahon said. "I just need to be a little more accurate with my throws, because we're getting people open."
One thing Reid has been very pleased with has been McMahon's ability to protect the ball. He's thrown just one interception in 67 attempts the past two weeks.
--LG Artis Hicks practiced Thursday but still is listed as questionable for Monday night's game. Hicks missed last week's game with a knee sprain.
--G Adrien Clarke shared snaps with Artis Hicks on the first unit Thursday. Clarke started in place of the injured Hicks last week. Hicks practiced Thursday but still is listed as questionable.
--RB Lamar Gordon didn't practice Thursday even though he's listed as probable for Monday's game with a concussion. Eagles coach Andy Reid said Gordon is doing well and he expects him to be able to play Monday.
--CB Lito Sheppard had surgery on his injured ankle Tuesday. Sheppard had a plate and two screws put in his foot. He is expected to make a complete recovery.
--RB Ryan Moats, who got his first four NFL carries Sunday against Green Bay, is expected to get an even heavier workload Monday night against Seattle.
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 staff.
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.
--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.