NFL Sunday Night Pick: Supreme Battle In Store For Cowboys And Giants
Sunday, December 11, 2011
by Aengus Moorehead
So much for that 6-2 start. In what can be compared to a Twilight Zone episode, the New York Giants are embroiled in another second-half swoon, and have just four games left to redeem themselves and possibly save the job of head coach Tom Coughlin. The team stormed out of the gates in winning six of its first eight games of the season but have since plummeted to a 6-6 mark, leaving the Giants on the outside looking in on a postseason spot.
It's possible the Giants can still finish with a 9-7 record and win the division, one year after posting 10 victories and missing the playoffs completely. The NFC East has been a crapshoot this season, with the fallout of both Philadelphia and Washington and both the Giants and Cowboys scraping by with admirable records. Missing out on a chance to play for another Super Bowl has been the norm the previous two years for the Giants, who will also face Dallas at home in the 2011 finale along games against the Redskins and Jets on the remaining schedule.
Those won't be easy games for a New York team that almost put a chink in Green Bay's armor in last Sunday's 38-35 loss. Eli Manning, who is having one of his finest seasons, pulled the Giants even at 35-35 with a two-yard touchdown pass to Hakeem Nicks that was followed by D.J. Ware's two-point conversion with 58 seconds remaining in the game. The defense, however, gave Aaron Rodgers too much time on the clock, and the Packers eventually moved into New York territory for the game-winning field goal with no time left.
Giants safety Antrel Rolle said he had fun playing against the NFL's best team and is looking forward to seeing them again. However, the Giants will have to take care of business first before prognosticating future matchups.
New York hasn't lost five in a row since an eight-game slide from Nov. 7-Dec. 26, 2004, when it finished with a 6-10 record. That was the last time the Giants finished with a mark below. 500.
The Cowboys are certainly no slouches and are coming off a tough 19-13 overtime loss in Arizona. It appeared they had won the game at the end of regulation on Dan Bailey's 49-yard field goal, but head coach Jason Garrett called a timeout before the ball sailed through the uprights. As fate would have it, Bailey then missed his next try and the Cardinals struck quickly in the extra period.
Garrett has a pressure-packed job working in Dallas and for hands-on owner Jerry Jones, who's been known to play ventriloquist with his coaches. The loss to the Cardinals made it tougher to seal up the NFC East for the Cowboys, who can send a thank you card to the Packers for upending this week's opponent and keeping them in the driver's seat. Dallas knows it can lose out on winning the division by dropping these two upcoming games to the Giants, and also has Tampa Bay and Philadelphia on the schedule.
Dallas' four-game winning streak was cut short with the loss to the Cardinals, but it was just the team's second setback in its past seven contests. Quarterback Tony Romo may have a few weapons back for this showdown as well, as wide receiver Miles Austin and fullback Tony Fiammetta are expected to return. Miles has missed the last four games with a hamstring issue and Fiammetta has sat out three in a row because of an illness.
Even though the Cowboys have won two of those three games, rookie running back DeMarco Murray's production has dropped off the last three weeks, having averaged just 66 rushing yards over that span. Murray was averaging 150 yards per game over the previous four weeks before his recent slump. He'll be trying to prove his struggles aren't similar to a major league baseball player who breaks out onto the scene with opponents having little video to study.
The Cowboys lead their all-time regular-season series with the Giants by a 56-39-2 count and halted a string of three straight losses to New York with a 33-20 win at MetLife Stadium during Week 10 of last season.
That result avenged a 41-35 Giants' victory at Cowboys Stadium three weeks earlier in which Romo sustained a year-ending fractured collarbone. New York swept the home-and-home set between the bitter rivals in 2009, following up a 33-31 decision in Dallas with a 31-24 home triumph later in the year, and is 3-1 in its last four outings as the visitor against the Cowboys including the playoffs.
New York was a 21-17 road winner over Dallas in a 2007 NFC Divisional Playoff at Texas Stadium, which ranks as the only postseason encounter between the franchises to date.
Coughlin has a 10-8 record against Dallas as a head coach, including a 9-6 mark since arriving in New York in 2004. Garrett, a backup quarterback for the Giants for four seasons from 2000-03, defeated Coughlin and his old club in his head coaching debut during that previously-noted Week 10 meeting in the 2010 campaign.
Time & Venue:
- 8:20 PM ET, Sunday, December 11, 2011. Cowboys Stadium, Arlington, Texas
NFL Football Odds: Cowboys -3, O/U 51
New York bounced back from an embarrassing performance at New Orleans by scoring a season-high 35 points in nearly spoiling the Packers’ perfect season. Despite the current skid, the Giants can claim the division title by running the table. They have won a pair of shootouts in their last two meetings in Dallas, scoring a combined 74 points and getting six TD passes and two 300-yard games from Manning. RB Ahmad Bradshaw ran for only 38 yards in his return to the lineup last week after missing four games. He rushed for 126 yards at Dallas last season.
Dallas made headlines for all the wrong reasons again last week, when coach Jason Garrett called a timeout to negate a game-winning field goal by Dan Bailey, who proceeded to miss his next attempt. The Cowboys had been sitting on a loss after squeezing out narrow wins over Washington and Miami.
Victor Cruz was an unknown wideout getting little time with the Giants until breaking out in midseason. He has already eclipsed the 1,000-yard receiving mark and has helped Manning forget about his statistical nightmare from a year ago with a team-best 62 catches for 1,076 yards and seven scores.
The second-year pro's production has been right up there with Calvin Johnson and Carolina's Steve Smith -- two players who have set the wheels in motion for their respective teams -- and has caught at least six passes in each of the last six games. He is on pace to break Amani Toomer's single-season record of 1,343 receiving yards established in 2002, and could get even closer if the Cowboys can't contain him.
The Cowboys are a solid 5-1 at home and can ill-afford to lose this game to the Giants, who will remain in the Empire State for their final three games of the season. In order to avoid a first-place tie atop the NFC East the Cowboys must protect Romo, who was knocked out for the season with a broken collarbone in a game against the Giants in 2010. Winning on Sunday would give Dallas a seemingly-comfortable lead in the division and possibly the tie-breaker, since New York already has six losses in the conference (3-6).
Manning has been playing rather well this season and is on pace to set career highs and Giants' single-season records in attempts, completions and passing yards, He is also aiming to become the first 5,000-yard passer in team history and will face a Dallas defense that has yielded 230.2 passing yards per game. He could also add to his team record of six 300-yard games this season.
Cowboys LB DeMarcus Ware, who is tied for the league lead in sacks (15.0), has seven sacks, four forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries in his last seven games against New York.
Giants WR Victor Cruz will be seeking his fourth straight 100-yard game. He has 41 receptions in his last six games.
Dallas is tied for the NFC lead with 35 sacks. The Giants are close behind with 33.
Dallas is 2-5 SU in their last 7 games when playing NY Giants
Dallas is 4-10-1 ATS in their last 15 games when playing NY Giants
The total has gone OVER in 11 of Dallas's last 15 games at home
The total has gone OVER in 4 of the NY Giants last 6 games on the road
The total has gone OVER in 5 of the NY Giants last 6 games when playing Dallas
NY Giants are 2-5-1 ATS in their last 8 games
The Cowboys let one slip away last week against the Cardinals and could have set themselves up for a knockout blow with Sunday's upcoming matchup with rival New York. Instead, Dallas let the Giants remain in striking distance of an NFC East title and will be searching for answers if it experiences its second two-game slide of the season.This is an ideal time for New York to have its ground attack running on all cylinders, and that will help Manning get settled comfortably for another strong week. Keeping the Cowboys guessing on defense is a complex task, but the Giants will make it look rather simple.
NFL Football Pick: Take Giants.
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