The Battle for NFC East Supremacy

Michael AnelloContributor IDecember 30, 2011

Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo looks to beat the Giants on Sunday
Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo looks to beat the Giants on SundayTom Pennington/Getty Images

The botched snap against the Seattle Seahawks in the 2006 playoffs. The R.W. McQuarters interception in the 2007 NFC divisional playoffs. A fourth quarter interception by New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis, and three costly pick sixes by the Detroit Lions earlier this year.

What do all of these mishaps have in common? Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo.

Sunday's matchup between the Cowboys and the New York Giants in East Rutherford, New Jersey is for all the marbles. The victor will be the fourth seed in the NFC playoffs and the NFC East champion.

The loser will go home and lick their wounds. It is impossible to mention this rivalry without comparing the two quarterbacks. Romo is known as the choke artist, while Giants quarterback Eli Manning is celebrated for his late game heroics.

The last time the Cowboys and G-Men played for a division title in the last week of the year was in 1994. Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith separated his shoulder in the first quarter and courageously led his team to a 16-13 win.

Gone are the days of the triplets—quarterback Troy Aikman, Smith, and wide out Michael Irvin. Aikman and Irvin are on FOX and the NFL Network respectively, and Smith questioned the mental toughness of this Cowboys team leading up to this week's contest.

In recent years, the Giants have owned their southern rivals. Their record is 6-5 against the Cowboys over the past five seasons.

When the two teams faced each other in Week 14, Dallas had a 34-22 lead with 5:41 remaining in the game. The Giants scored 15 points in the final 3:14 of the game for a 37-34 triumph. Jason Pierre-Paul prevented the game-tying field goal as time expired.

Pierre-Paul's birthday is on Sunday, but the Cowboys don't intend on giving him any presents. That starts with Romo. He had a clean game for the most part—four touchdowns to no interceptions in the first meeting.

He needs to have another spectacular performance and hope that a defense, run by loudmouthed coordinator Rob Ryan, can hold a lead in the fourth quarter.

That unit has blown games against the Patriots, Arizona Cardinals, and Giants when they were ahead going into the final quarter.

While Romo has been persecuted by his critics, he has not be given enough credit for his victories. One week after giving the game away to Revis Island, it was Romo who came back onto the field in the second half with broken ribs and a punctured lung, and defeated the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park.

Down 16-12 in the fourth quarter, he orchestrated two drives totaling six points for a 18-16 win against the Washington Redskins.

On Thanksgiving day, Romo threw a fourth quarter touchdown to take the lead and set up kicker Dan Bailey for a game winning field goal against the Miami Dolphins.

Skip Bayless from ESPN says that Romo's "clutch gene cancels out Ryan's defensive collapses."

There are a few statistics to focus on in Sunday's game. In his last four home games against the Cowboys, Manning has thrown at least one interception.

Cowboys outside linebacker Demarcus Ware has sacked Manning nine times, the most vs. any quarterback in his career. In their last three games against the Giants, the Cowboys offense has averaged 35 points per game.

The Giants defense gives up 381 yards per game and almost 26 points per game in 2011. The offense should cut up the Giants defense. The only question is, can the Cowboys defense hold onto a lead?