You are Bill Parcells. Your Cowboys play the Giants this Sunday for the NFC East lead. Three days after your overtime loss to the Broncos you watched the Giants suffer an even more painful loss in OT, to the Seahawks, blowing three field goals--any one of which could have won the game. This is what you are thinking.
As if we don't have enough problems stopping Michael Strahan, there's another headache, bookend pass rusher Osi Umenyiora. The Seahawks doubled Strahan, leaving Umenyiora to their All-Pro left tackle, Walter Jones, whose specialty is calming down enthusiastic sack artists. The results were brutal. Two sacks by Umenyiora, many forced throws, deep penetrations that fouled things up for Shaun Alexander and the running game.
Okay, this calls for max protection. We'll load one side with blocking tight end Dan Campbell. Lousaka Polite, our 246-pound fullback, will help out on the other side. How many does that leave to run pass patterns? Two wideouts, running back Julius Jones and our pass-catching tight end, Jason Witten--we can't leave him out. Hmmm, one too many. Maybe we'll get a guard or two into the protection scheme outside. Then what happens if they blitz us up the middle? Drew Bledsoe is not the guy you want subjected to gut pressure. Well, we'll work something out.
The New York offense? Eli Manning (above, handing to Tiki Barber) is a lot better now than the guy we faced at our place in October. He'll still scatter the ball on occasion, but he's picking up that confident look you get from winning. That's another problem.
December 5, 2005
The Cowboys won the last game between the two in OT. It should have been over a lot earlier. They shoved the Giants around but also tried to hand them the game with turnovers. The Giants stumbled about and refused to take it. This is a different New York team, though, young and on the rise. The Giants are my pick.
Let's get into my upset special. The Broncos visit Kansas City, riding a four-game winning streak. They're rested, and they figure to score a bundle on the Chiefs' defense. But K.C. will put a lot on the board, too. Enough to give the Chiefs the win.
Cincinnati's hot, Pittsburgh is desperate--and at home. It should be an easy call for the home team, but I can't forget how quickly and easily the Bengals put points on the board. What the heck, I'll go with Cincy. In '93, his second year with the Packers, Brett Favre lost in Chicago. Since then Green Bay has run up 11 straight wins as the visitors. I'm trying hard, but I just can't see number 12. Bears triumph. And while we're in the NFC North, the resurgent Vikings visit Detroit and come away with a win.
The Seahawks are at Philadelphia on Monday night. I think the Ghost of Eagles Past will awaken, and that is about the only logical reason I can find for riding a strong hunch that Philly will win it. Finally, I like Atlanta to win on the road against Carolina, whose running game just doesn't scare people anymore.
Last week: 4-1
> Dr.Z writes for the Web every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at SI.com/nfl