COMMENTARY | For the New York Giants, the playoffs start on Sunday, November 24.
Realistically, if they have any hope of winning the NFC East (and reaching the postseason), they must defeat the Dallas Cowboys at MetLife Stadium this weekend. But the games between these two division rivals usually are decided in the fourth quarter. Eight of the last nine clashes between them have been decided by one possession with the G-Men coming out on top in six of those contests.
So, how can the Giants gain an edge against the Cowboys on Sunday? Here are five irrefutable keys to victory for Big Blue:
Protect the Ball -- Obviously, the Giants have to protect the football if they want to beat the Cowboys, but that didn't stop them from giving it away six times in a 36-31 loss to Dallas in the opening game of the season. The Cowboys know this is Big Blue's weakness and will be coming for the ball. New York has committed a league-high 29 turnovers, while the Cowboys have forced 22 (fourth-most in the NFL).
Red Zone Results -- The Giants should be able to move the ball up and down the field against the Cowboys, who are giving up a league-high 439.8 yards per game, but will they be able to finish drives in the red zone? The G-Men are ranked No. 28 in red zone scoring percentage and consequently have scored the 28th-most points in the league at 192. The last few games between these two teams have been shootouts, so the G-Men can't afford to leave points on the field.
Watch Out for Witten -- Wide receiver Dez Bryant is the most explosive player on the Cowboys, but Jason Witten is the one to worry about. He pulled in eight balls for 70 yards and two touchdowns in Week 1 and has 35 catches for 406 yards and two scores in his last four games against the Giants. New York's linebackers, especially Jacquian Williams, will have to be on their toes against Witten. Also, look for Antrel Rolle to slide down from his safety position to help cover the pass-catching tight end.
Special Teams Tackling -- On paper, here's where the Cowboys have a big advantage. The Giants have given up three punt returns for touchdowns and an NFL second-most 26.3 yards per kick return. Dallas boasts one of the best special teams in the league. Dwayne Harris is ranked second in the NFL in kick and punt return averages with a 32.3 and 15.1 yards, respectively. Keep an eye on him.
Running Start -- In Week 1, David Wilson fumbled away the ball twice and the Giants finished with 50 yards rushing. But the return of Andre Brown, who has 181 rushing yards in two games, has rejuvenated the team's ground game and injected some toughness into the lineup. He should be able to find holes in the Cowboys' run defense, which ranks No. 27 in the league and is giving up 126.8 yards per game.
Adam Martini is a freelance sports writer with more than 15 years of experience covering amateur and professional sports for several print and online media outlets. He tracked the New York Giants for Yahoo Contributor Network during the team's Super Bowl run in 2011-12. Adam can be found on Twitter @Pegcitysports.
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