A few weeks ago, it looked like there wouldn’t be much of a race in the NFC East. The New York Giants were winless and the Dallas Cowboys were the only team in the division with a winning record. In Week 12, however, the two clubs will face off at MetLife Stadium in a contest that could end up determining who finishes the regular season in first place.
New York began the year at 0-6, but four-straight wins have put them back in contention. They’re one game behind Dallas, and 1.5-games (one in the loss column) behind the first-place Philadelphia Eagles, who have a bye this week. The Cowboys have failed to pull away from the pack, and losing two of their last three games has put them in second place.
"We're going to put it on them, man," Giants’ defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul said after the team’s Week 11 win over the Green Bay Packers. "It's going to be a fight. It's going to be a dogfight. There's going to be a lot of blood spilled out there."
The Giants’ chances of reaching the postseason would decrease dramatically with a loss on Sunday. The team has split their two games with the Eagles and lost the season opener to the Cowboys in Dallas. New York turned the ball over six times in the contest, including three interceptions from Eli Manning. Trailing by six points in the final two minutes, the quarterback threw his third interception, which was returned for a touchdown to seal the victory for the Cowboys.
In their four-game winning streak, Manning has struggled to return to his old form. The two-time Super Bowl MVP still leads the NFL with 17 picks, and he ranks 29th with a 70.8 passer rating. He’s been aided by a defense that has played like one of the best in football.
Over the first six games, the Giants allowed an average of 35 points per game. Since then, opposing offenses have found it very difficult to find their way into the end zone. In the last four games, New York’s defense has given up two offensive touchdowns, including one off a drive that started at their own five-yard line.
On Sunday, New York will face its toughest test of their current streak. They have beaten the Minnesota Vikings and Oakland Raiders, as well as the Eagles and Packers, who were both without their starting quarterbacks. Dallas’s 27.4 points per game is fifth in the league, and their quarterback isn’t in the same category as the likes of Josh Freeman and Scott Tolzien. Nevertheless, the Giants are brimming with confidence.
“He’s going up in class as far as the defense,” safety Antrel Rolle said told WFAN on Tuesday. "So, it is what it is. We've played against Tony Romo before and we’ve beaten him before. I think Tony Romo is a great quarterback. He’s very athletic.”
Tony Romo may be in the midst of the best season of his career. His 98.3 passer rating, 21 touchdowns and 2,681 passing yards rank in the top 10 among all quarterbacks. Romo has put up big numbers without Miles Austin for much of the year, who’s expected to return on Sunday. The quarterback has also lacked assistance from the running game. They are tied with the Giants for 29th overall, averaging 77 rushing yards per game.
It took New York six weeks to finally cover a point spread, but they have turned things around enough to be favored against Dallas. The betting line has the Cowboys as 2.5-point underdogs. They are tied for having the best record against the spread.
Despite New York’s recent success in the win column, they haven’t looked like one of the better teams in the league. The Giants have taken advantage of lesser competition, while the Cowboys’ defeats have come against legitimate Super Bowl contenders. The Kansas City Chiefs, Denver Broncos and New Orleans Saints are responsible for three Dallas losses. Those teams have a combined record of 26-4.
Betting Odds: New York-2.5, 46
Prediction: Dallas 24, New York 17