Friday, September 18, 2009
NFC East: Final Word Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
Five nuggets of knowledge about this weekend's games:
The Cowboys better not peak too early in Sunday night's game: With the grand opening of Cowboys Stadium, owner Jerry Jones thinks his players will be more motivated than ever. And I actually think you'll see a lot of emotion from the Cowboys in the game. If the Giants can match that intensity and sort of hang around for three quarters, I like their chances late.
Mark J. Rebilas/US Presswire
The Giants will try to force DeMarcus Ware into pass coverage.
The thing to remember is that Tony Romo has all but owned the Giants during the regular season. He replaced Drew Bledsoe at halftime of the Cowboys-Giants game at Texas Stadium in '06. The Cowboys lost that game, but Romo's lit them up since then. Obviously, the huge exception is the divisional playoff game at the end of the '07 season. But still, I think that past success should give Romo a lot of confidence heading into Sunday's game. I talked to Justin Tuck via phone Thursday and he promised we'd see one of the most physical games of the year. The Giants want to keep Romo in the pocket and make sure he's not always side-stepping Tuck and Osi Umenyiora.
Why am I the only guy in the country who thinks Kevin Kolb will play well against the Saints? It's not like the Saints have a juggernaut defense. Starting linebackers Scott Fujita and Scott Shanle still read this blog on a daily basis, but that doesn't mean they'll be able to account for Brian Westbrook coming out of the backfield and tight end Brent Celek running down the seam. I think the Eagles' defense will force at least two turnovers and second-year wide receiver DeSean Jackson will have a big game. I don't trust the Saints' corners against Jackson -- especially Jabari Greer.
Santana Moss is about to go off on the Rams: There, I said it. I think Jim Zorn will take more shots downfield, in part, because Jason Campbell should have more time against the Rams' front four. Leonard Little and Chris Long aren't slackers, but they aren't Umenyiora and Tuck. Can we agree on that? The only thing that gives me pause is the memory of Steve Spagnuolo's defenses dominating the Redskins last season. But the Redskins will roll in this game. Clinton Portis goes for 115 yards and a touchdown and Moss goes for six catches for 127 yards. Trust me on this stuff.
I'm worried about the Giants' lack of depth in the secondary: The Redskins didn't put much pressure on the Giants' injury-depleted secondary last week -- yet Antwaan Randle El still managed 98 yards receiving. Starting safety Michael Johnson (burner) returned to practice Friday, but Kenny Phillips (knee) wasn't able to go. The Phillips injury is the bigger concern. He has the athleticism to cover Jason Witten and Martellus Bennett. And he's also capable of doing a good job on the Cowboys' receivers. If one of those players is out, C.C. Brown would have to start. That would be a dicey situation for the Giants. And nickel corner Kevin Dockery missed practice Friday. That means the Giants could go into the game with undrafted rookie corner Bruce Johnson "starting" at the nickel. He did fine against the Skins, but the Cowboys have more offensive firepower. Tough situation for the Giants.
The Giants' offensive game plan will account for DeMarcus Ware at all times: Ware's emerged as the best defensive player in the game. He got dinged up early against the Bucs last week and wasn't himself. On Sunday night, he'll be relentless. He'll move to both sides of the line and I think his athleticism is too much for Giants left tackle David Diehl. The Giants will have to max protect at times -- and they'll also chip on Ware with Kevin Boss. Offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride will do everything in his power to force Ware into coverage. It's not like that's a huge weakness for Ware or anything, but it takes him out of the pass rush. Of course, every team tries that. Eli Manning needs to anticipate where the rush is coming from. Wade Phillips does a nice job of changing those calls up, but Manning has the ability to make him pay.