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Week 7 Preview: Cowboys at Giants

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Dallas Cowboys (2-3) at New York Giants (3-3)

Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET, at MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J. – TV: FOX

*TV announcers: Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Erin Andrews

*Keys to the game: While the Cowboys prepare to start a third quarterback in six games, Giants QB Eli Manning quietly hopes for the health of his pass protection to improve. Manning’s cause for concern comes out of a dismal effort Monday night against the Eagles and the Dallas defense taking down Patriots QB Tom Brady five times in the first half of their Week 5 game before Dallas’ bye. Offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo loves the screen game and can slow the pass rush down with a heavy dose of those calls, which might get RB Shane Vereen more involved.

The Cowboys went to Matt Cassel after producing two touchdown passes in 125 pass attempts since Tony Romo put up three touchdowns against the Giants on Sept. 13. Cassel drops into a musical chairs offense, one likely without WR Dez Bryant (foot). OG La’El Collins and RB Christine Michael grabbed expanded roles during the bye week. The Giants’ injury-riddled secondary must be tested, but finding the balance between controlling the ball and rolling the dice at the right moment will be tricky for coordinator Scott Linehan. He’ll fall back on the team’s greatest strength – the offensive line – to set the tone while taking notice of the negative repercussions borne of shrinking the field for QB Brandon Weeden.

*Matchup to watch – Cowboys DEs Greg Hardy and Randy Gregory vs. Giants offensive line: For the first time this season the Cowboys’ two key offseason additions are together, and it couldn’t come at a worse time for the Giants. New York was overwhelmed on the line last week to the extent even three-step drops were a challenge.

*Player spotlight – Cowboys TE Jason Witten: He caught two touchdowns, including the game-winner, is the Cowboys’ improbable Week 1 win over the Giants. Cassel is a grizzled veteran who reads the field through an inside-out safety lens.

*Fast facts: Manning has nine touchdowns and one interception in his past four home games vs. Dallas. … Only two teams have a better record in games directly after the bye week than the Cowboys (18-8).

WHO WILL WIN AND WHY

Dallas has won the past five meetings, but these Cowboys bring a predictable plan and replacement-level skill personnel to this edition of the NFC East rivalry. Unless Dallas pitches a dominant defensive effort, this game is Eli Manning’s to win or lose.

*Our pick: Giants 24-22.


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