There is only one game on the Week 17 NFL schedule that features a win-and-you-are-in or lose-and-you-stay-home playoff scenario for both teams, and that’s the Dallas Cowboys (8-7) at the New York Giants (8-7). The game has been flexed to the prime time Sunday night game (all games are on Sunday this week; Fox was decidedly displeased to lose this game, which should be a ratings bonanza).
The winner here gets the NFC East and the No. 4 seed in the playoffs and would host either Detroit or Atlanta the following week. The loser gets an entire offseason to answer questions, and if it’s the Giants who lose, it could well be the end for Coach Tom Coughlin (Jason Garrett should be safe.) By the way, in the unlikely event of a tie, the Giants take the division.
Cowboys at Giants Betting Storylines
The Cowboys enter having lost three of four, and that lone win was at a Tampa Bay club that is playing worse than anyone in the NFL right now.
Last week in a 20-7 home loss to the Eagles, Cowboys QB Tony Romo injured his hand on the first series. Considering the Giants had already won, effectively rendering that Philly game meaningless for Dallas, Romo didn’t return to the game.
In addition, running back Felix Jones also left early with an injury and didn’t return. So don’t read too much into the fact Dallas had only 238 yards and was shut out until seven seconds remained.
Both Romo and Jones will play this week as X-rays on Romo’s bruised throwing hand were negative. Jones, who has replaced an out-for-the-season DeMarco Murray as the featured back, has a minor hamstring issue. Jones had back-to-back 100-yard games before lasting just four carries against the Eagles.
There was one big loss last week for Dallas. Starting left guard Montrae Holland injured a biceps and was put on season-ending injured reserve. Derrick Dockery will get the start now.
New York, meanwhile, has won two of three since a four-game skid.
The Giants claimed city bragging rights last week with a dominant 29-14 victory over the Jets. The Giants won despite Eli Manning going just 9-for-27, albeit for 225 yards, with a TD and a pick. Breakout star WR Victor Cruz had three catches for 164 yards, broke Amani Toomer’s single-season mark for yards receiving (Cruz has 1,358) and the team's record for longest touchdown reception, a 99-yarder in the second quarter.
It was only the 13th 99-yard TD pass in NFL history but second this year.
The Giants have three big injury concerns for this one: DE Osi Umenyiora, WR Mario Manningham and TE Jake Ballard. Manningham seems the most likely to play of the trio. None of them played a week ago.
Dallas and New York met in Week 14 in Big D, which ended in a 37-34 Giants win. That was the game in which Dallas led 34-22 late in the fourth quarter before Manning led the Giants to two touchdowns in the final 3:41, and Jason Pierre-Paul blocked a 47-yard field goal with a few seconds remaining. In fact, Pierre-Paul became the first player this season to block a kick, record a sack and force a fumble in the same game.
The Cowboys’ Murray suffered his season-ending injury in that game. Manning was 27-of-47 for 400 yards and two touchdowns. Romo was 21-of-31 for 321 yards with four touchdowns, two in the fourth quarter.
The Cowboys have lost six straight Sunday night games. This season, the Cowboys have lost five games in the final two minutes or overtime.
The Giants actually have a better record in games this season as underdogs (4-3) than when they’re favored (4-4). They’ve lost their last two games as favorites and haven’t won in that role since beating the Dolphins on Oct. 30.
Cowboys at Giants Betting Odds and Trends
New York opened as a three-point favorite with the total at 46.5 on NFL odds. The early lean is nearly 75 percent on the Giants.
Dallas is 5-9-1 ATS overall and 3-3-1 on the road. The Giants are 7-7-1 ATS overall and 3-3-1 at home. Their over/under records are both 8-7.
The Cowboys are 7-1 ATS in past eight as a dog. They are 1-6 ATS in their past seven against the NFC. The Giants haven’t covered in their past seven as a home favorite of three points or less.
The under is 4-1 in the Cowboys’ past five road games. The over is 4-0 in NYG’s past four as a favorite of three points or fewer. The over is 5-0 in the past five meetings. The underdog is 5-0 ATS in the past five.
NFL Picks: Cowboys at Giants Betting Preview
Coughlin, who himself was injured in last week’s game against the Jets, has made his team very aware that Dallas beat the Giants in the Meadowlands last season after losing in Texas. And New York is just 3-4 at home this season (last week was a Jets home game).
Interestingly, since the NFC East was formed in 1970, no team has won it with fewer than 10 victories in a non-strike year. That is guaranteed to happen Sunday night.
Needless to say, I would hold off here on a few of these injuries before putting your money down.
I don’t much trust the Giants at home as they lost three straight there. But that Cowboys offensive line was dominated last week by the Eagles and now doesn’t have Holland, who has been one of the best at his position in the NFL this year. Plus Manningham was a factor in that first Dallas meeting with a 47-yard TD catch, and I think he plays.
So I’m going New York (get ready for a media barbecue of Romo if he has another bad late-season game). The weather shouldn’t be a factor, so take the over. Giants win, 31-27.
Doc Moseman is the owner of Doc's Sports football picks Web site.