A look at three of the week's best match-ups
Written by: MJK
Both of these teams have been a bit of a façade this season. The Cowboys come in with an 8-3 record and sit atop the NFC East standings. They have looked strong in spurts but what once was a high-octane offense has seemed to slow to a crawl for the past month or so. Running back Marion Barber has not been the dominant physical presence that he has been in years past, and while Felix Jones and Tashard Choice bring a little electricity to the air nothing has really panned out on the ground as the team I am sure had hoped. Wide Receiver miles Austin has shown flashes of the type of talent he can be, but both he and Roy Williams are far from consistent on a game to game basis as neither of them have yet to produce against some of the leagues top secondary’s. Even last week when Austin went off against the Oakland Raiders, he was covered by the smaller Chris Johnson rather than all pro Nnamdi Asomugha more times than not.
The Giants on the other hand started off the season very strong and but now have lost 5 of 6 and are now reeling to hang onto any glimpse of hope for a playoff push. This is a huge game for them. Their secondary has been depleted all season long and more recently they have lost linebacker Antonio Pierce for an extended amount of time. Still, good teams find ways to win and the defensive replacements have not done a good job of holding the opposition in check. Eli Manning continues to be bothered by a sore heel but has played relatively well considering.
If the Giants expect to win this game they will need to find ways to neutralize Dallas’ elite pass rush and pound the rock with Brandon Jacobs and company, something that has not been done with any effectiveness for a number of weeks. For the Cowboys it is simple. Play to their abilities. They are the better team in this game and if all else holds true than they should have no problem sending the Giants further into a tailspin.
Ray Rice, RB, Bal. versus Green Bay Packers run defense
The Packers have been a top 5 defense against the run all season long and will look to slow down one of this seasons breakout players in Ray Rice. Rice is an all purpose yard machine, much like in the mold of a Maurice Jones-Drew. He has totaled over a 100 yards from scrimmage in all but two games this season and has compiled an astounding 61 receptions. The complete package. The Packers have played much better of late, riding on the coattails of an impressive shutout of the Cowboys a few weeks back. Still, they will be without Aaron Kampman and Al Harris in this game and will set back a defense known for its run support fixtures. The rest of the defense has stepped what relatively well, but if any back can gash a defense it is Rice and his versatility.
The Colts have staged impressive late game victory after impressive late game victory and one has to think it will catch up with them at some point. The team has needed to come back from fourth quarter deficits in their last five games. Either way they have gotten the job done until this point and will look to continue their win streak in whatever way possible. The Titans on the other hand have won five straight on the back of quarterback Vince Young. Along with Young, head coach Jeff Fisher has rallied the defensive troops as the unit has played much more inspired ball the past few weeks. They have still been giving up points, which is worrisome against this Indy team, but they have been playing with much more intensity and that can go a very long way. I would still look for Peyton Manning to shred this secondary but if Vince Young can keep the game close as the Colts have been known to let teams do, the end result could be a very humbling one for Manning and the Colts.