Giants' wideouts a key versus Cowboys

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Hakeem Nicks is technically listed as questionable for Monday night's game in Dallas, but the Giants' second-year wide receiver said Friday that there is no way he will miss this game because of an injured hamstring.

"I'm definitely playing," Nicks said. "It's 'Monday Night Football.'"

If the Giants' win last season at Dallas is any indication, the team's wide receivers could be pivotal in this game, and offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride is betting that they will be ready to go, including Nicks.

"I'm assuming that he's going to be able to go full-speed, and what he does is he gives you a big strong receiver that is able to physically battle those guys," Gilbride said. "So even if they are with him stride for stride, he's got great hands, he does a great job of adjusting to the ball, so he's able to make plays even when he's covered -- which not everybody in the league can do -- so hopefully that won't affect him."

A quick look at the stat sheet from last season's win at Dallas showed that New York's wide receivers had a huge influence on the game. Mario Manningham (150 receiving yards) and Steve Smith (134) had 10 catches each, as Eli Manning threw for 330 yards, completing 25 of 38 attempts.

"We threw the ball very well last time," Gilbride said. "There's no question that we did, but as much as it was the wide receivers, we protected very well, and it's hard to do that down there. Two years ago, we got embarrassed down there with that, and then last year we didn't give up a sack -- our line did a terrific job and, as I said, you can't just block those guys with your line. It's a collective thing -- the [running] backs, the tight ends, whoever, whatever. But we did a great job of giving Eli a chance, and the receivers responded very well, so I think that if we can do that again, certainly we'll have an opportunity to move the ball through the air."

The stats back Gilbride up. Manning has a 97.1 passer rating inside the pocket, but it drops to 37.1 outside the pocket. The fact that center Shaun O'Hara is expected to play this week, for the second week in a row after struggling since training camp with tendinitis in his ankle, is important if the Giants hope to replicate the 2009 win.

"I think if you ask any wide receiver, [they'd say] they're open every play," O'Hara said. "They're gonna want the ball. A lot of times, you might go into a game and say, 'We're going to throw the ball a lot,' and they give you coverages, defenses and you have to run the ball. A lot of that is dictated by what they are trying to do to us. I know they're going to try to stop the run, and if they do, our wide receivers are going to have to step up, and I know they will."

It's something the wide receivers are prepared to do: "Keep playing like we've been playing," Manningham said.

Jane McManus is a columnist for ESPNNewYork.com. Follow her on Twitter.

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