For 9 1/2 months the Cowboys have had to live with the question of "What if?" on their minds. Last January, people and analysts galore had been talking about the Patriots final test for 19-0; the highly favored Cowboys out of the NFC. All Dallas had to do was take down the Giants, who they easily handled twice already in the regular season, and the Packers, who just didn't seem quite up to par. But getting past their divisional foe was much harder than expected. As Romo let his last pass fly into the arms of R.W. McQuarters in the endzone, the Cowboys season ended in immediate fashion, and much more prematurely than expected. For the next three weeks, Romo and company had to sit at their homes and watch as the Giants lived their dream. I'm sure there's not a day that goes by that the Cowboys don't think about that game.
With Romo now standing at 0-2 in the playoffs as a starting quarterback, he's more motivated than ever to get over that hump. The Cowboys made it their mission to make sure an upset like that never happens again. They took a chance on Adam "no longer Pacman" Jones, drafted Felix Jones, and even recently picked up the "offensive" Roy Williams. When Tom Brady went down, it was almost as if their goal was placed on a platter for them. But who would've thought that the ever so confident and underappreciated Giants would still be winning games? The Giants stayed neck and neck with Dallas and later passed them for first place in the power rankings. Then the Cowboys hit another setback when quarterback Tony Romo broke his finger. They've also lost Adam Jones, and lost to the Redskins, Cardinals, and Rams. Now Brad Johnson is leading the helm, with an injured TE, a surprisingly shaky offensive line, and an underproducing star wide receiver with a flare for the dramatic. What's happening in Big D? This wasn't part of the plan.
Fortunately for the Cowboys, next week they have a bye, and Romo & Witten should return in Week 11. Unfortunately, on the other hand, the same guys searching for revenge on the Giants for the last 1o months will not all get their shot at redemption. Lucky for them they'll have a shot once more this year, and possibly in the playoffs, where it truly matters.
Don't count Big D out though. Just because they're absent a few players, doesn't mean they can't pull off the upset. Their defense picked it up last week behind the play-calling of Wade Phillips, and the Giants have always struggled against the likes of backup quarterbacks. Confidence is great, but overconfidence has cost the Giants many times in the past. Because it's such a big rivalry though, I expect the Giants to bring their A game. I'm taking the Giants with a 30-17 victory at home.
Here are some other predictions for Week 9:
Baltimore 16 - Cleveland 24
The Browns are a much better team than they were in Week 3 against the Ravens. Look for them to avenge their 28-10 loss with a big home win to put them back at .500.
New England 28 - Indianapolis 24
I don't know why, but I've just got a feeling about this game. It would make sense that with Brady out of the mix, Indianapolis should easily win. But Manning & the Colts are off their game as of late, and Cassel seems to be getting more comfortable with his role as the starter. I think the Patriots receivers are starting to have confidence in him as well. I see the Pats squeeking out a victory in Indy.
Pittsburgh 23 - Washington 17
As good as Washington seems to be this year, I think Pittsburgh is just better. Pittsburgh got bruised up against the Giants last week and injuries in their special teams could create some problems tomorrow, but I think Big Ben & the Steelers will show their resilience in a tough win on Monday night. The "Steel Curtain" should slow down Portis, and Pittsburgh may even see "fast" Willie Parker back in action. Regardless, it should be a great Monday night game.
Green Bay 23 - Tennessee 17
The Titans have had a quite a run thus far at 7-0, but I think Mercury Morris and the 1972 Dolphins will be popping champagne once again come Sunday night. Tennessee's defense has been it's cornerstone all year long, but I see them giving up a touchdown more than their running offense can score against the Packers. Collins hasn't made many mistakes, but having no offense through the air is going to catch up with them eventually.
Image taken from giants.com