Here is my key matchup for Sunday's divisional playoff matchup between the N.Y. Giants and Dallas ...
These two teams met twice in the regular season with Dallas winning both high-scoring games -- by 10 points in the season opener and by 11 points later in the season. Amazingly, these NFC East rivals have met 91 times in the regular season but never before in the playoffs. The Cowboys have played three games in one season five times and have never swept all three.
|Here's how these teams stacked up this season in some critical statisitcal categories:|
|Third-down conversion pct.||41.6||42.2|
The strength of the Giants is their front four, which helped them to be the seventh-ranked defense in the NFL. One of the Cowboys' strengths is their offensive line, which has helped the team to be the third-ranked offense. While the focus for the Giants is usually on ends Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora, Tuck is the "x" factor. He's quietly had 10 sacks (not so quietly if you're an opposing quarterback), and is a very active player. Tuck needs to rush quarterback Tony Romo and force him to make throws quicker than he would like. That would help the Giants' secondary, which has allowed 592 yards and 8 TD passes in two games against Romo this season.
Davis joined Dallas this year as an unrestricted free agent and has played very well. He's been a force on the line, voted in as a Pro Bowl starter and named to various all-pro teams. He is very strong, and an excellent run blocker. Davis needs to have his best game here to help the run game and protect on inside blitzes that the Giants most likely will throw at the Cowboys in an effort to prevent Romo from stepping up in the pocket to throw the football. Of course, another key for the Dallas passing game is the status of receiver Terrell Owens and his injured ankle. Owen did practice early in the week.
How big a difference does Owens make? The Cowboys averaged 32.5 points per game in their first 13 games; they have scored a total of 32 in the last three.