Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys have one last shot at making the playoffs as they face the New York Giants on Sunday in the final regular-season game. Romo is looking to bounce back after missing most of the game against the Philadelphia Eagles after bruising the back of his hand by hitting it on Jason Babin's helmet.
The Cowboys are reeling from their 20-7 loss to the Eagles, their third loss in the last four games. While DeMarcus Ware picked up two sacks, the Cowboys' pass rush was often absent. The Cowboys struggled to put together yards on the ground, and Stephen McGee just couldn't hold over at quarterback.
Meanwhile, the Giants are flying high after their 29-14 victory on Sunday against the New York Jets. Ahmad Bradshaw ran for two scores and Victor Cruz had 164 yards receiving.
Cruz will be tough for the Cowboys to stop.
The Cowboys will hope to make things go differently from the last meeting with the Giants a few weeks ago. Romo overthrew Miles Austin on the next-to-last drive and had a snap miscue on the last drive. Dan Bailey missed what would have been a game-tying field goal as the Giants escaped with the win.
Rob Ryan sent the blitz early and often, but to no avail as the Cowboys' rushers whiffed every time.
Will the Cowboys' rush hit this time against the Giants?
Other questions loom as the Cowboys look to win the division.
Will Romo be on target after missing most of the last game? Will Felix Jones be fresh and undeterred by his hamstring injury? Who will get the catches? Will Dez Bryant be tightly covered like last time? Can the Cowboys' corners handle Cruz?
25-of-33, 280 yards, 4 TD, 1 rush, 4 yards
Romo looks like he'll be able to do a decent job on Sunday. He's taking the easy road back. Romo saw limited participation in practice on Wednesday. Concerning the condition of Romo's hand, Jason Garrett told the Star-Telegram, "It seemed like he was able to throw the ball OK, but he still needs to make progress with that thing," Garrett said. "The hand is still swollen."
Romo will likely be more conservative on Sunday if his hand is still a bit swollen. He'll go for more short passes. Look for numerous bubble screens and check downs. Garrett may clear him to make a few long throws. He'll connect on a couple of those throws.
21 rushes, 110 yards, 1 TD, 8 receptions, 51 yards
Jones will be fresh and rolling on Sunday. He saw limited action on Saturday due to a hamstring injury. Jones only took four carries. As he saw limited action on Wednesday in practice, Garrett seems to be taking it easy with him. Still, Garrett believed Jones looks good.
Jones will perform well having rested as much as he has in the last week. He'll get a good amount of carries. On a few occasions, Jones will break runs of at least 10 yards. Also, the Cowboys will utilize Jones a great deal in the passing game. Jones will take several passes out of the backfield and get a good number of yards.
2 receptions, 45 yards
How interesting it is the season Dez Bryant has had. He is stepping up from his rookie season. Bryant is at 57 catches for 858 yards (297 yards more than last year) with nine touchdown catches. However, Bryant has had a see-saw year. Bryant has only caught four or more passes eight times and has 70 yards in six games. He has yet to break 100 yards in a game.
Bryant will be relatively quiet against the Giants, as he was in the first Cowboys-Giants game this season. Last time, he had the one 50-yard touchdown catch. This time, he'll manage two catches. One will be on a short hook and the other will be on a deep post.
5 receptions, 76 yards, 1 TD, 1 rush, 9 yards
Austin is coming off a decent game. He had four catches for 40 yards against the Eagles.
Against the Giants, he'll gain a good amount of attention from Romo. They'll hook up on a long ball. On a couple of occasions, Austin will take screen passes. Also, look for Austin to get a little action in the ground game. He'll take a rush for a first down.
5 receptions, 80 yards, 1 TD
Laurent Robinson was quiet on Saturday against the Eagles. The Cowboys' breakout receiver only reined in one five-yard pass. It was a far cry from his big 137-yard game against the Giants in Week 14.
Look for him to do something closer to what he did in Week 14. Robinson will take his fair share of passes. One will be a long ball for a touchdown.
4 receptions, 53 yards, 2 TD
Jason Witten has seen a fair amount of attention from Romo in almost every game this season. Only twice has Witten not caught four or more passes.
This will be another solid day on the field for Witten. He'll catch a few passes and get nice gains. Witten will get short and intermediate passes from Romo. On a night when Romo especially needs it, Witten will help open things up in the middle of the field.
2 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 2 sacks
It's odd how both of the affairs with the Eagles went. Ware went on a tear for multiple sacks in both games, and in those games the Cowboys were largely without a significant pass rush.
It'll be the same in this game. The Cowboys will be largely unsuccessful stopping Eli Manning, but Ware will break through the injury-plagued Giants offensive line and grab a couple of sacks. Ware will get a couple of pressures, too.
2/2 FG, 5/5 XP
Dan Bailey was an undeserving goat in the last game against the Giants due to his blocked field goal attempt in the waning seconds.
This won't be as dreadful a game as that one. Bailey will connect on a couple of field goals and notch the requisite extra-point attempts against the Giants.
Prediction: Giants 45, Cowboys 41
This one will go down a bit different from other close Cowboys losses. Often, when the Cowboys have lost close this season, viewers have seen the Cowboys try to scrape together a desperate comeback drive in the final minute. Here, the Giants will take the game on a final-minute drive.
After a Romo touchdown pass, Eli Manning will hurry the Giants down the field. He'll make quick intermediate passes. The Cowboys' pass rush will swing and miss as Rob Ryan sends the blitz every play. Soon enough, Eli Manning will hit Victor Cruz over the top to put the Cowboys and their fans out of their misery with zeroes on the clock.
The Cowboys have struggled to beat decent teams. The Giants aren't that great, but they're not that bad. Eli Manning overcomes an injury-plagued offensive line to have his best season, throwing for more than 4,500 yards. The Giants have a nice pass rush, starring Justin Tuck. Bradshaw and the other rushers leave something to be desired.
It's remarkable how Eli Manning has carried this team. Don't be surprised to see Manning air it out and break 5,000 yards passing. As strange as it is to think that Manning would be one of those to break 5,000, the Cowboys could allow him the 413 yards needed to reach the plateau.
If he reaches that number, it will be more due to the lack of an effective pass rush than lackluster coverage.
Tony Romo and Jason Garrett will likely be hit hard if the Cowboys fall short. People will talk about how poor a game manager Garrett is and how Romo can't win in December. However, it won't be Romo's fault. He's done his job. One would only hope the defense would help him out in this game.