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Fact or Fiction: Top Matchup to Watch



LT Ereck Flowers vs RDE Greg Hardy is the top matchup to watch in Giants vs. Cowboys **

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JOHN SCHMEELK: Fact -Flowers has allowed a few pressures on Eli Manning the last couple of weeks, and he will face his best opponent of the season this week in Greg Hardy, who gave Nate Solder, a seasoned left tackle, fits two weeks ago. It will be a huge challenge for the Giants' first round pick to control him. Flowers should also expect to see some of Randy Gregory, the Cowboys 2015 2nd round pick, on third downs when Hardy gets bumped inside or to LE. Gregory's speed and power combination got to Flowers on a couple of pass rushes in Week 1, but Gregory might be rusty since he hasn't played after injuring his ankle in that game. I would expect Flowers to get some help in the form of chips from tight ends and running backs if there's some early pressure from that side. If the Giants can protect Eli Manning, they have a great chance of walking away with a win this week.

DAN SALOMONE: Fact -If you need to boil it down to a one-on-one matchup, then yes. More broadly, though, it's the Giants' offensive line against the Cowboys' front. All the attention has been on what Dallas lost on offense -- rightfully so -- but people are overlooking what they've gotten back on defense. You can be sure, though, that's not the case for the Giants, who allowed three sacks last week after surrendering only four in the first five games. F

LANCE MEDOW: Fact -This was Greg Hardy's stat line in Week 5 against the Patriots (his first regular season game in more than a year): 5 tackles (one for a loss), 2 sacks, 5 quarterback hits and a forced fumble. That came against New England five-year veteran left tackle Nate Solder, who has played in 67 NFL games. In comparison, Ereck Flowers has just six games under his belt and this will be, by far, his toughest test to date. Hardy has 29 sacks in his last 33 games and is one of the best pass rushers in the league. Thanks to his return from a four-game suspension in Week 5, the Cowboys collected five sacks against the Patriots. They had only six in the first four games combined. With Dallas' pass rush clicking and the Giants offensive line coming off a rough performance against the Eagles, this matchup could very well dictate the tone of the game. The only other individual matchup worth noting is whoever has the task of defending Cowboys tight end Jason Witten, considering he has seven touchdowns in his last five games against the Giants. **

If the Giants rush for more than 100 yards, they will win on Sunday **

JOHN SCHMEELK: Fact -Given the Cowboys ability to rush the passer (aside from Gregory and Hardy, they also have 2014 2nd rounder DeMarcus Lawrence and under tackle Tyrone Crawford), staying out of third and long will be essential for the Giants this week. The going won't be easy with both Rolando McClain and Sean Lee on the field together for the first time as Cowboys. McClain is a load against the run, and Lee can run sideline to sideline. The Giants need to channel their running game from the first couple of possessions against Philly, when they created some nice creases for Rashad Jennings, who ran the ball extremely well.

DAN SALOMONE: Fact -The Giants rushed for 99 in their first meeting, and a yard proved to be the difference when the offense had a chance to punch it in at the goal line and take a 10-point lead with 90 seconds remaining. Control the pace and you'll control the game in a critical NFC East matchup.

LANCE MEDOW: Fiction -That's what each of the Cowboys' last three opponents have done and it resulted in wins for the Falcons, Saints and Patriots, respectively, but I don't think that one stat guarantees a victory. Atlanta, New Orleans and New England also played clean football as they combined for no turnovers and limited Dallas to just 16 combined points in the second half and overtime. Protecting the football and playing sound defense are just as important as rushing for over 100 yards. 101 rushing yards would meet the criteria of the above statement. Who's to say that's enough to seal a win? The closest the Giants came to 100 rushing yards was in Week 1 against the Cowboys when they had 99 and averaged over four yards per carry, yet that wasn't enough. Dallas has the best opposing front seven left on the Giants' schedule

JOHN SCHMEELK: Fiction -The Jets take that prize with Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson and Leonard Williams on the defensive line and David Harris at linebacker. The Panthers front seven might not have a lot of big names, but being anchored by Luke Kuechly certainly puts them in the conversation as well. If the Dolphins get their act together, their front can be dominant as well. The Vikings front is young and talented. Dallas has ability in their front seven for sure, but they haven't shown how well they can perform as a unit quite yet. They need to do that before you can put them in the conversation as one of the top fronts in the league. This is a team sport, and many times the total is less than the sum of its parts.

DAN SALOMONE: Fiction -There are plenty of them on the schedule, but you have to go with the No. 1 defense in both yards and scoring, and that honor belongs to the New York Jets. They allow just 3.5 yards per rushing attempt, good for second in the NFL, and 5.4 yards per pass, which is first.

LANCE MEDOW: Fiction -The Cowboys have a lot of playmakers in their front seven, especially Greg Hardy, Rolando McClain and Sean Lee, but I have to give the edge to the Jets. Entering Week 7, New York has the number one ranked defense in the NFL and is number two against the run. With Sheldon Richardson back from an early season suspension, he and Muhammad Wilkerson form one of the best pass rushing duos in the league, and the linebacker corps has a lot of experience as all four starters have at least four years in the NFL. The Jets' front seven has a better track record than the Cowboys in terms of stopping the run and getting to the quarterback. Whether it be Rex Ryan or Todd Bowles as the head coach, that group has remained consistent. You also can't overlook the Panthers' front seven. The group doesn't include a lot of household names, but middle linebacker Luke Kuechly is one of the best players in the league at that position, and the unit is fundamentally sound. One other front seven that I would watch out for is the Dolphins, given the group seems to have turned the corner with some coaching changes. The front four includes names such as Cameron Wake, Ndamukong Suh and Olivier Vernon. That trio has combined for eight Pro Bowl appearances. Turnover differential is the most important team stat

JOHN SCHMEELK: Fact -The real reason the Giants are at .500 is because of their turnover differential. If you look at their total yardage rankings, especially on defense, you don't come away impressed. On the other hand, they have not given up a lot of points. That has to do with the offense and special teams putting the defense in very good field position. Going into last week, the Giants were tops in the league in opposing starting field position. Teams had only started two drives on the Giants side of the field. The Giants are tied for the best turnover differential in the league at +6, have the 5th most takeaways with 12, and only four teams have fewer giveaways than the Giants' 6. The offense has to continue to protect the football, and the defense has to keep taking it away for the Giants to win the NFC East.

DAN SALOMONE: Fact -If you put league standings and turnover differential rankings side by side, they are nearly identical. The 6-0 Broncos? Plus-six. The 6-0 Packers? Plus-six. The 5-0 Panthers? Plus-six. The 5-0 Patriots? Plus-four. The 6-0 Bengals? Plus-three.

LANCE MEDOW: Fact -More often than not, this stat goes hand-in-hand with wins and losses. Case in point, in 2014, of the top ten teams in the NFL in turnover differential, eight finished with winning records, six with double-digits wins and six made the playoffs. Of the bottom ten teams in turnover differential, just one made the playoffs and three finished with a winning record. This season, the top ten teams in the league in turnover differential are all .500 or better, five are unbeaten and seven either lead or are tied for the division lead. Ball security is so key because if you take care of the football, that means your offense is likely staying on the field, you're winning time of possession and you're not giving gifts to the opposition.

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