The NFL Live crew make their picks for Dallas at the New York Giants.

Dez Bryant will have full attire ready Sunday

November, 20, 2014
Nov 20
IRVING, Texas -- When Dez Bryant plays against the New York Giants on Sunday, the Dallas Cowboys wide receiver will make sure he looks the part.

“I have to make sure I have my right attire on and my mind is right,” Bryant said.

By attire Bryant means a shield on his facemask and the proper cleats. He did not have either in the first half of the first meeting against the Giants and struggled. He changed at halftime and exploded with seven catches for 136 yards in the third and fourth quarters.

That came after Bryant caught just two passes for 15 yards in the first half. He also stumbled on a route that led to a Tony Romo interception, failed to come down with a deep ball and had another miscommunication.

In the second half, five of Bryant's seven catches went for first downs.

The Giants won't have the cornerback who shadowed Bryant most of the night in Prince Amukamara, who is on injured reserve with a torn triceps. Zack Bowman has replaced Amukamara in the starting lineup.

Despite their five-game losing streak, Bryant expects nothing but the best from the Giants.

“We have to bring the fight because most likely they're going to bring it,” Bryant said.

Bryant also has to bring his visor and cleats.

Dez Bryant on 8-8 seasons: 'I don't think we worked hard enough'

November, 20, 2014
Nov 20
IRVING, Texas -- For three consecutive seasons, the Dallas Cowboys finished 8-8 with a chance to reach the postseason in a win-or-go home game in the regular season finale.

The Cowboys lost those games.

Dez Bryant, a member on all three of those teams feels the team just didn't do enough.

"I'm going to give you my honest opinion. The years that we did go 8-8, I think – me, because this is just how I am -- I don't think we worked hard enough," Bryant said after Cowboys' practice on Thursday. "I'm not saying we didn't work, like, I mean the offseason, during the OTAs -- not the coaches. That's on us. The first thing that I did right after the game, we lost to Philadelphia (2013), my brother will tell you -- I was working out the next day. Just because I felt like 'Damn, we didn't do enough.' Obviously we didn't do enough, they was the better team. It feels different, it's a lot different -- it's a lot different from last year. We're more together, we want it more, we've got the same vision, and that's kind of hard when you've got a team like that."

The 7-3 Cowboys are tied for first place with the Eagles in the NFC East. The teams meet next Thursday on Thanksgiving Day at AT&T Stadium. But first, the Cowboys visit NFC East rival the New York Giants on Sunday night at MetLife Stadium.

The Cowboys have won the last three meetings between the teams and enter East Rutherford, New Jersey with a 4-0 record on the road this season.

"It's a big game they are better than what they're record shows and we can't go in under estimating our opponent," Bryant said of the 3-7 Giants. They are a great football team and we got to come out and stick to our plan and execute these plays the best way we possibly can to get that victory."

Bryant credits coach Jason Garrett with the turnaround this season. While it's not guaranteed the Cowboys will make the postseason, Bryant said the team is more focused than ever before.

"It is him, because he let us know how things should be, and we see that and we understand that," Bryant said. "The older guys in this locker room should be accountable, making sure that the younger guys are doing right -- not trying to haze them, but making sure that they're on top of their game and trying to bring out the best in them."

Injury report shows signs of Cowboys' health

November, 20, 2014
Nov 20
IRVING, Texas -- Proof that the Dallas Cowboys are healthy as they get ready for Sunday’s game against the New York Giants: six of the seven players listed on the injury report were full participants in Thursday’s practice.

That list included quarterback Tony Romo, who returned to practice Thursday after sitting out Wednesday.

The only player who did not practice is cornerback Tyler Patmon, who has a knee injury.

Defensive tackle Josh Brent (groin), defensive tackle Tyrone Crawford (knee), right tackle Doug Free (foot), defensive tackle Nick Hayden (shoulder) and linebacker Rolando McClain (knee) went through full practices.

Things are a little different for the Giants.

Four starters did not practice on Thursday: defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins (calf), defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka (knee), right tackle Justin Pugh (quadriceps) and linebacker Jacquian Williams (concussion).

Tony Romo playing at high level, must continue

November, 20, 2014
Nov 20
IRVING, Texas -- With the focus each week on the status of Tony Romo's back, just how well the Dallas Cowboys quarterback has played in nine games has been somewhat lost in translation.

Romo's 107.2 passer rating is second in the league. He is second in completion percentage (68.8 percent). He is tied for ninth in touchdowns. His 8.34 yards per gain is third best. After throwing three interceptions in his first 14 passes of the season, he has thrown three in his last 255 attempts.

"He's responded well with the adversity with his back," coach Jason Garrett said. "We talk about being your best regardless of circumstances, whatever circumstance he's been in, somehow he's found a way to fight through it. He's led our team well. I think he functions really well in this scheme. Any of the evolutional part in our offense, has been positive. He's embraced that. Obviously, we're better offensive unit around him. We're better on the offensive line. We're running the ball better. All of those things are good. But he's had a huge part in orchestrating all of that."

Romo was not into making a state of the union address Wednesday when asked for his thoughts on how he has played this season.

"I don't think the year's over so to get into an analysis of what you're doing right now is just premature and too early," Romo said. "As far as me, I'm just trying to continue to get better and play at a high level week in and week out, give our football team chances to continue to win these games. I said in training camp what I thought I was going to be able to do over the course of my career. You've just got to go out and do it."

The Cowboys will need Romo to continue to play as well in the final six games if they want to make the playoffs for the first time since 2009. Despite the 8-8 finishes the last three years, Romo's late-season numbers have been impressive.

In the final six games he has played since 2011, Romo has 38 touchdown passes and 14 interceptions.
IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys have committed turnovers in each of the last six games and have committed at least two turnovers in five of the last six games.

That’s a trend that needs to stop if the Cowboys are going to achieve their goals this season.

The Cowboys are tied for 10th in the NFL with 18 turnovers.

Head coach Jason Garrett talks about protecting the ball every day with his team, and the Cowboys go through drills each practice designed to promote ball security. That’s because Garrett says turnover differential is the single-most important stat in football -- and he’s right.

Teams that win the turnover battle are 101-30-1 this season. The Cowboys are 2-3 when they don’t win the turnover battle, which is actually pretty good.

But the reality is that the turnovers must cease. It’s too hard to win with them. The Cowboys have fumbled 10 times -- DeMarco Murray has five -- this season. Only Philadelphia with 11 has more.

Tony Romo has done a good job protecting the ball since the opener against San Francisco. Romo threw three interceptions in his first 14 passes of the season; he has thrown just three in his last 255 passes.

“The games later in the year -- and if you’re lucky enough to be playing in January -- the turnovers are going to be what ultimately decides your season,” Romo said. “You can play a great football game and be a better team, but if you give up the ball, you’re not going to be able to accomplish your goals. I think that’s a very big key for us.”

NFL: Fans still watching in droves

November, 20, 2014
Nov 20

Despite all the off-the-field issues, including its handling of the Ray Rice assault case, the NFL says viewership numbers show that the masses are still very interested in watching games on television.

NFL games make up 28 of the top 30 TV shows since the season started Sept. 4, the league announced Thursday. The only shows in the top 30 that weren't NFL games were Game 7 of the World Series on Fox (12th-most watched) and an "NCIS" episode on CBS (27th).

The most-watched NFL game was the matchup between the Dallas Cowboys and the Seattle Seahawks on Oct. 12, viewed by 30 million people.

Among the top 15 most-watched NFL games this season, the team that has been featured the most is the Denver Broncos, who have been on one-third of those broadcasts. The Cowboys, Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers have appeared four times each.

An NFL game has topped the weekly viewership charts for all 11 regular-season weeks this year, the NFL said.

The only recent competition for the NFL is AMC's "The Walking Dead," which has beaten NBC's "Sunday Night Football" in the ratings in the 18-to-49-year-old demographic for three straight weeks.

(Read full post)

Inside Edge: Cowboys-Giants

November, 20, 2014
Nov 20


ESPN NFL Insider Mike Sando delivers stats to help you make a pick for Dallas at the New York Giants.

Tony Romo back to practice

November, 20, 2014
Nov 20
IRVING, Texas -- Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo returned to practice on Thursday, leaving cornerback Tyler Patmon as the only player not practicing.

 Patmon has a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee and is expected to miss 2-3 weeks.

Romo, who is playing through two transverse process fractures in his back, did not practice on Wednesday, following the same script he has had since the second game of the season.

Linebacker Rolando McClain and defensive tackle Tyrone Crawford, who are coming back from knee injuries, are on the practice field for the second straight day.

“Seemed like he did a good job,” coach Jason Garrett said of McClain’s work on Wednesday. “He really practiced fully and did everything that we asked him to do.”

Cowboys remain focused, not thinking ahead

November, 20, 2014
Nov 20
IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys are so close right now.

This team is 7-3 heading into an NFC East showdown against the New York Giants on Sunday night and while a loss wouldn't be the end of the world, the Cowboys understand their place within the division.

A first-place tie with Philadelphia will end in less than a full week. Should Dallas and Philadelphia win on Sunday, they meet five days later on Thanksgiving Day.

They’re not the first teams to perform this in the NFL this season, but a split of the two games means somebody is not only out of first place, but maybe missing one of two wild-card berths.

The Cowboys are not focusing on the postseason, just picking on Jason Garrett mantra of one game at a time.

“Man, we got two games in November left,” cornerback Orlando Scandrick said. “December is an afterthought. We’re not even at the finish line. We’re just a little bit past the halfway point and we got a big opportunity on Sunday night to beat a division opponent.”

The Cowboys are the only team in the league that’s undefeated on the road (4-0) and this club finishes with four out of the next six games on the road.

Scandrick said winning on the road is just like winning at home. You must minimize mistakes, take advantage of the opponents' mistakes and do your job.

The Cowboys are not focusing on the difficulty of the next week and half of their schedule, because in reality there’s nothing they can do to change it. All they can do is play it out.

“As you guys know, we live in a focus-on-this-day mentality around here, 365 days out of the year,” Garrett said. “These are not new concepts for them. That’s just really how we operate.”

This team is close. It hasn’t reached the postseason since 2009 and Garrett has never won more than eight games in a single season. A victory Sunday gives this squad eight and moves them closer to football in January.

“We’re not close to the light,” defensive end Jeremy Mincey said. “We have to take this one game at a time and not get too emotional about the process. The light is the Super Bowl; that’s the light of every team in the tunnel, that’s what we play this game for. Going to the Super Bowl is one step at a time and we have to take care of things on Sunday.”

Only six halfbacks have at least three 100-yard games this season. Cowboys RB DeMarco Murray has nine 100-yard games.

Stats-eye view of Cowboys-Giants

November, 20, 2014
Nov 20
 IRVING, Texas -- A stats-eye view of Sunday’s game between the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants, thanks to the fine folks at ESPN Stats & Information:

Road warriors: The Cowboys are the only unbeaten team on the road this season (4-0), and Dallas has won its past two games at MetLife Stadium against the Giants. They haven’t won three straight road games against their rival since they took nine in a row from 1971 to 1979. The last time the Cowboys won their first five road games in a season was 2007 when they started 7-0 and win the division.

The Cowboys are outscoring their opponents by 10.0 points per game away from home, the best differential in the NFL.

Better on the road, Part 2: One reason for the Cowboys 4-0 record on the road has been the play of Tony Romo. He has a Total QBR of 87.1 in road games is by far the highest in the NFL.

In the first meeting against the Giants, Romo posted a Total QBR of 98, his second-highest QBR of the season and the highest he has ever posted against the Giants.

Stay with the formula: DeMarco Murray has rushed for 100 yards in all but one game this season, becoming the first player in NFL history with 100 rush yards in nine of his team’s first 10 games.

He needs 115 rush yards to pass Emmitt Smith for the most through 11 games in Cowboys history. Smith had 1,347 yards in the first 11 games of the 1995 season. Tony Dorsett posted 1,144 yards in the first 11 games of the 1981 season.

Murray leads the NFL with 1,233 yards in 10 games.

In sync: Romo is completing 71.4 percent of his throws to Dez Bryant after halftime, with four touchdown passes and just one interception.

In the Week 7 meeting against the Giants, Bryant had 151 receiving yards on nine catches, which is the fourth most in his career. He’s one of six players this season with 150 receiving yards in multiple games.

DeMarcus Lawrence antsy for that first sack

November, 20, 2014
Nov 20
IRVING, Texas -- DeMarcus Lawrence is two games into his NFL career, and the Dallas Cowboys rookie defensive end is getting a little antsy for his first sack.

"It feels like it's right there," Lawrence said. "It's just that tenth of a second, just making your move a little quicker, getting to the level of the quarterback fast. It's just working on those little small details and getting off the ball."

The Cowboys coaches have credited Lawrence with four tackles and two quarterback hurries, but defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli is a notoriously tough grader.

"It's only been a couple of games, but I'm just trying to work, develop my character and get my instincts back to normal," Lawrence said.

While Lawrence waits for that first sack, his work against the rush has been impressive. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Cowboys have allowed 44 yards on 22 carries with Lawrence on the field. With Lawrence off the field, opponents have averaged 4.7 yards per rush.

While most of the Cowboys enjoyed having the last week, Lawrence might have been better served to keep playing since he missed the first eight games of the season recovering from foot surgery. But he was glad to have the two days of practice

"Just go get my mindset back focused on the next goal, just moving on," Lawrence said.

Lawrence has been leaning on fellow defensive end Jeremy Mincey for advice since they play the same position.

"I want to see him get that first sack, man, so he can get that confidence and start rushing off the edge like we know he's capable of," Mincey said. "He's been doing a really good job. He's getting back there. It's just time to get home."

Mincey remembers his first sack. It came against the Tennessee Titans, dropping Vince Young for a 7-yard loss with Reggie Hayward in 2007.

"It felt great, especially the situation the sack came in," Mincey said. "I've always had a knack for making that play. I might not make all the plays in the world, but I tell you what, I got the heart and hustle and the effort to make that one play that can help us win."

He's hoping Lawrence starts making them too.

Cowboys prepare for Eli Manning

November, 20, 2014
Nov 20
IRVING, Texas -- Anthony Spencer had to make sure he was hearing it correctly: Eli Manning threw five interceptions last week in a loss to the San Francisco 49ers.

It was the second time Manning had thrown five interceptions, yet Spencer and several other Dallas Cowboys said the New York Giants quarterback remains a dangerous man.

“He had five interceptions?” said Spencer. “We’re not worried about what they do, we’re just worried about what we do and we have to affect him any way we can.”

In his career, Manning is 10-10 against his NFC East rival and has thrown more touchdowns (41) and interceptions (22) against the Cowboys than any other team.

Manning threw three touchdowns in the first meeting between the teams this season, a 31-21 Cowboys victory at AT&T Stadium.

He didn’t have receiver Victor Cruz in that game because he was nursing an injury and he won’t have him again this week since Cruz is out for the season after undergoing knee surgery.

He does have rookie receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who cornerback Orlando Scandrick said is getting better each week.

With the Giants' season withering away less than two months from the close of the season, the Cowboys expect a proud Manning to rebound from his difficult game the previous week.

“Eli, he won two Super Bowls, the guy can play,” Scandrick said. “Last week was unfortunate, he had a tipped ball, missed a couple of throws, but Eli can play.”

Added Jason Garrett: "Well, he’s just a really good player and has been for a long time. When you play that position in this league, you’re going to have some games where it doesn’t go your way and he’s proven throughout his career that he always comes back.”

Josh Brent making strides, might not play

November, 20, 2014
Nov 20
IRVING, Texas -- Defensive tackle Josh Brent is eligible to play in his first game since Dec. 2, 2012, when the Dallas Cowboys take on the New York Giants on Sunday, but that doesn’t mean he will play.

"He's certainly part of the defensive line rotation that we are evaluating and we will just see how he practices," coach Jason Garrett said. "He has made a lot of strides each day that he has practiced. You can really see it as a coach, tangibly. Hopefully that will continue."

Brent showed up on the injury report Wednesday with a sore groin but took part in a full practice.

Garrett said Brent, who is listed at 320 pounds, has done a good job losing weight since returning to the practice field. But has he practiced enough? Thursday’s session will be Brent’s seventh since the car accident that cost the life of teammate and best friend Jerry Brown.

In order for Brent to play Sunday, the Cowboys will have to alter their defensive line rotation and possibly sit a player that has played fairly well.

"He has made a lot of great strides," Garrett said. "I think he is really changing his body and working hard at that. He understands the importance of doing that and how much it impacts on him on the field in terms of stamina and his ability to move throughout a play and from play to play. He has been a good player for us in the past. He is working hard to get back to that stage."

The last time Brent played, he was a 3-4 nose tackle. The Cowboys now employ a 4-3 scheme that calls for different techniques among their defensive tackles. Brent brings size to a defensive line that has just one player listed at more than 300 pounds (Nick Hayden).

"One thing about Josh is that he is very athletic," Garrett said. "He is athletic with his feet. He is athletic with his hands. He can get off of blocks. Those are the traits you are looking for. He is a competitive guy. He is a tough guy. He is in the stage of trying to get his body right and his feet underneath him."