Dallas a big test for Big Blue

Fast-rising Giants take on fellow NFC East contenders

The New York Giants stumbled into their bye week pointing fingers every which way, looking like a team about to implode.

Two games later, they’re back in the thick of things in the NFC East, which has quickly become a three-team race. The Dallas Cowboys, of course, are one of those three teams, which makes this game a huge one.

However, it’s bigger for Dallas for one simple reason: A team can’t afford to lose home games in the division and still remain in contention. It just won’t happen.

Both teams are 3-2, trailing the first-place Philadelphia Eagles and ahead of disappointing Washington Redskins. And both teams have explosive offenses; the Cowboys have the NFL’s sixth-rated defense while the Giants have a sometimes dangerous defense.

New York turned it around against Washington, daring the Redskins to run the ball successfully against its front seven. But the Redskins learned that the front seven was too quick for them to do such a thing. They learned the same lesson against Dallas’ front seven as well.

The Giants are coming off an impressive road win, a 27-14 win over the Atlanta Falcons in which they rallied with a dominating ground game. They also pressured Michael Vick often, taking away his legs and magnifying his passing deficiencies.

If New York’s defense continues to pressure the quarterback as it has the past two weeks — and like everyone expected it to do — then the Giants could become serious contenders. If they don’t pressure, a good offense should expose them. Here’s a stat to note: Dallas quarterback Drew Bledsoe has been sacked 12 times.

Meanwhile, the Cowboys are still enjoying life with Terrell Owens, who spars with his position coach one day and catches three touchdowns a few days later. That, of course, made him happy — which is what it’s all about.

But the more Owens becomes a big part of Dallas’ offense, the more dangerous it becomes. And he appears to be fully recovered from the hamstring injury that plagued him in the preseason.

The most intriguing matchup in this game will be New York’s second-ranked offense against Dallas’ sixth-ranked defense. The Cowboys were picked apart by the best offense they’ve faced in a 38-24 loss to Philadelphia.

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