Injuries on both sides of the ball make the Dallas Cowboys matchup against New York Giants Sunday much more pivotal in the race for the NFC East title.
Dallas defeated New York in Week 1, and another win would give the Cowboys the inside track on the division should the two teams tie at the end of the year.
Dallas learned linebacker and team-tackle leader Sean Lee will miss the rest of the season due to a toe injury that will require surgery, and starting running back DeMarco Murray is still sidelined with a sprained foot sustained in their Week 6 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
Before Lee’s injury, the Cowboys instead could have built off the momentum of their 19-14 win over the Carolina Panthers last week.
Receiver Miles Austin scored his fourth touchdown of the season and the Cowboys only one on the day against Carolina, and finished with five catches for 97 yards. Tony Romo finished 24-for-34 for 227 yards and a touchdown, with running back Felix Jones continuing to fill in for Murray, gaining 44 yards.
Lee went down and tried to play through the pain, but took himself out the game, giving reserve linebacker Dan Connor the chance to step up. Connor, a teammate of Lee’s at Penn State, will continue to start, while Bruce Carter will be the new defensive signal caller.
The Cowboys greatly improved last season’s pass defense and rank third in the NFL this year, but have only recorded 12 sacks. That will be a continuing problem against New York, who has given up the least sacks in the NFL.
Giants quarterback Eli Manning and New York rolled to a last minute 27-23 victory over the Washington Redskins last week, their first in the division.
Washington’s Robert Griffin III put his team up 23-20 with a 30-yard touchdown pass to Santana Moss with 1:32 left in the fourth, but Manning responded with a pin-point strike to receiver Victor Cruz for 77 yards and the go-ahead touchdown.
Manning went 26-for-40 for 337 yards, but threw two picks against the NFL’s worst pass defense. Tailbacks Ahmad Bradshaw and Andre Brown each rushed for a touchdown, and Cruz had seven catches for 131 yards.
It was the second time this season New York won despite multiple picks from Manning. Against the Tampa Buccaneers in Week 2, Manning tossed three interceptions, but the Giants prevailed 41-34.
Safety Kenny Phillips and defensive tackle Rocky Bernard will miss their fourth straight game due to injury. Both went down in the Giants Week 4 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
The game begins at 4:25 p.m. EDT and will be shown by FOX, or watch a live stream online by purchasing NFL Sunday Ticket Max.
Betting Odds: New York is favored by 2 points
Over/Under: 47.5 points
Prediction: The Giants are eighth best in points allowed, but still surrender a ton of yards. Dallas understands how important it is to put New York in a 1-3 division hole. Look for Romo to have another big day and the Cowboys win in a wire-to-wire game.
Predicted Score: Dallas 30, New York 24