2011 NFL Week 17 Picks: Cowboys over Giants

Jake WestrichSenior Writer IDecember 27, 2011

ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 11:   Tony Romo #9 of the Dallas Cowboys take a snap against the New York Giants at Cowboys Stadium on December 11, 2011 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

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Game of the Week: Cowboys at Giants

The regular-season finale of the 2011 campaign promises to be must-see theater, as the winner of Sunday night’s soiree between the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants is granted admission to the postseason. Apropos, then, that this matchup doubles as the WhatIfSports.com Game of the Week.

To say the Cowboys enter Week 17’s tilt with swagger would be a misnomer, as Dallas limps in losing three of their past four contests, with one of the defeats coming in heart-breaking fashion to the G-Men in Week 14. Rookie kicker Dan Bailey, who had been automatic in the first 11 ball games of the season, has missed three of his last eight attempts. Fellow neophyte DeMarco Murray was having a standout freshman year, only to succumb to a season-ending ankle injury. Head coach Jason Garrett’s decision-making has been suspect in December, leading many pigskin pundits to question if he’s the right man for the job. Worse, field general Tony Romo injured his throwing hand against the Eagles on Christmas Eve. While Romo is expected to suit up, it’s another headache the team harbors heading into Sunday.

Not that New York is riding a big way of momentum into MetLife Stadium. Although the Giants knocked off their Gotham City rival in Week 16, as well as their aforementioned conquest of Dallas three weeks ago, Tom Coughlin’s squad has lost five of their last seven games. Thanks to injuries in the backfield, the once-proud New York ground game is last in the league, managing a paltry 88.1 yards per outing. The Giants defense has not been immune to the health bug, with their depleted defense’s performance illustrating this sentiment, as New York is surrendering 381.5 yards per outing, fifth-highest in the NFL.

Plagued by a plethora of problems, how did both franchises find themselves fighting for a playoff position? The aerial assaults for the Cowboys and Giants are two of the more paramount attacks in the NFC. Eli Manning’s 305.8 yards per game is good for third in the conference, while Romo’s 102.2 QB rating is fourth-best in the league. While the cannons of Romo and Manning have been called erratic, many rosters around the NFL would jump at the prospect of implementing either arm under center.

Of course, it helps to have a talented base of receivers at your disposal. The Cowboys brandish dexterous quartet in Jason Witten, Dez Bryant, Laurent Robinson and Miles Austin, while the Giants boast two 1,000-yard wideouts in Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks, as well as the services of tight end Jake Ballard. Along with the Packers and Saints, the two NFC East adversaries flaunt two of the more endowed arsenal of targets in football.

So who wins the right to represent the division in January? According to the award-winning WhatIfSports.com simulation engine, the Cowboys come out on top 53.5 percent of the time by an average score of 25-23. For the rest of this week’s projections, check below:

NFL Week 17
MatchupWin%Avg Score
Buffalo Bills26.521Boxscore
@ New England Patriots73.530Simulate Game
Washington Redskins30.518Boxscore
@ Philadelphia Eagles69.525Simulate Game
Tennessee Titans31.316Boxscore
@ Houston Texans68.722Simulate Game
Carolina Panthers33.125Boxscore
@ New Orleans Saints66.931Simulate Game
Tampa Bay Buccaneers34.221Boxscore
@ Atlanta Falcons65.826Simulate Game
Seattle Seahawks37.918Boxscore
@ Arizona Cardinals62.121Simulate Game
Detroit Lions39.920Boxscore
@ Green Bay Packers60.124Simulate Game
Indianapolis Colts44.415Boxscore
@ Jacksonville Jaguars55.617Simulate Game
San Diego Chargers45.923Boxscore
@ Oakland Raiders54.125Simulate Game
Dallas Cowboys53.525Boxscore
@ New York Giants46.523Simulate Game
Chicago Bears56.821Boxscore
@ Minnesota Vikings43.219Simulate Game
Kansas City Chiefs58.420Boxscore
@ Denver Broncos41.617Simulate Game
New York Jets63.823Boxscore
@ Miami Dolphins36.219Simulate Game
Baltimore Ravens63.218Boxscore
@ Cincinnati Bengals36.815Simulate Game
Pittsburgh Steelers68.923Boxscore
@ Cleveland Browns31.116Simulate Game
San Francisco 49ers85.327Boxscore
@ St. Louis Rams14.713Simulate Game