The Dallas Cowboys were not supposed to be facing a “must-win” game at the mid-point of the NFL season.
But that’s how you can describe their meeting at the Meadowlands today with the New York Giants, who have a chance to bury the injury-ravaged Cowboys in the NFC East. A win over the Tony Romo-less Cowboys would open a three-game lead in a division where all four teams have winning records and none has more than three defeats.
This game couldn’t come at a worse time for Dallas.
Injuries have devastated the lineup. The biggest is Romo. The quarterback will miss his third game this weekend with a broken pinkie finger and be replaced by Brad Johnson.
Safety Roy Williams and punter Mat McBriar are out for the season, and the Cowboys have several other starters who are question marks: Tight end Jason Witten (ribs), cornerback Anthony Henry (thigh) and guard Kyle Kosier (foot).
Instead of looking to get a measure of revenge for their playoff loss to New York last January, the Cowboys are merely trying to hang on.
“We’ve dealt with so much already this season that we hadn’t had time to think about that at all,” Cowboys defensive end Marcus Spears said of the playoff loss. “It’s done, they’re Super Bowl champs and we have to gain our respect back from them because right now, they’re the best team in football until another one is crowned.”
In addition to Romo, Dallas will be without cornerback Terrence Newman and perhaps Anthony Henry. Still, a defense that started rookie Michael Jenkins and first-year player Alan Ball at cornerback held Tampa Bay without a touchdown in last week’s 13-9 win, which ended a two-game losing streak and put the Cowboys at 5-3.
The Giants are coming off an impressive 21-14 win against the Steelers in Pittsburgh. It was a typical New York game, with no mistakes on offense, making just enough plays, and pounding quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. It put them at 6-1 and put to rest suggestions their record was the result of a soft early schedule.
“We don’t get the respect that other people get,” Giants middle linebacker Antonio Pierce said. “We got names, but some people have bigger names and get more credit. For us, that doesn’t matter.”
The Tennessee Titans, the NFL’s last unbeaten team at 7-0, have a short week after beating the Indianapolis Colts on Monday, and don’t believe it could be a potential trap when the Green Bay Packers visit.
No, said quarterback Kerry Collins, who has been effective because he’s stayed upright behind an offensive line that has allowed just two sacks.
“I think that’s what allowed us to put this streak together is the fact that regardless of what happened the week before, we are able to put it behind us and move on,” Collins said.
In other games today, Detroit is at Chicago; Houston at Minnesota; the New York Jets at Buffalo; Arizona at St Louis; Baltimore at Cleveland; Tampa Bay at Kansas City; Jacksonville at Cincinnati; Miami at Denver; Atlanta at Oakland; and Philadelphia at Seattle.
Pittsburgh is at Washington tomorrow.
San Diego, Carolina, New Orleans and San Francisco are off.
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