NFC East Showdown
East Rutherford, NJ - A pair of regular-season wins over New York turned out to mean nothing to the Dallas Cowboys in 2007 as the Giants knocked them out of the playoffs during their improbable run to the Super Bowl.
With the way New York has looked in defending its championship, a similar run this season wouldn't be a surprise to anyone.
As the Cowboys try to survive without Tony Romo, Eli Manning and the Giants are thriving, and they'll put the NFC's best record on the line Sunday at Giants Stadium in their first date with Dallas since January's playoff win.
Oddsmakers from SBG Global have made Giants –9.5 point spread favorites (View NFL Football odds) for Sunday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 62% of bets for this game have been placed on Giants –9.5 (View NFL Football bet percentages).
Dallas (5-3) had home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs last season, thanks in large part to a pair of victories over New York that propelled them to a 13-3 finish and the NFC East title. But the Cowboys' postseason run at Texas Stadium came to a quick end.
Romo put up Pro Bowl numbers in 2007, including eight touchdown passes in the wins over the Giants (6-1), while Manning labored through a season where he threw nearly as many interceptions (20) as touchdowns (23). But Manning threw for two scores and outplayed Romo in the divisional playoffs, leading New York to a 21-17 win while sending the Cowboys to their NFL record-tying sixth consecutive postseason loss.
"It hurts," Romo said at the time. "It's a tough pill to swallow."
What's hurting the Cowboys now is Romo's broken right pinkie. The quarterback will miss his third straight game Sunday because of the injury he suffered Oct. 12 at Arizona, which left 40-year-old Brad Johnson in charge of the offense.
Johnson looked his age on Oct. 19 against St. Louis, throwing three interceptions as Dallas was blown out 34-14, then struggled to move the ball downfield in last Sunday's 13-9 win over Tampa Bay.
He's also been sacked six times in two weeks, and against a New York defense that leads the league with 26 sacks, his lack of mobility will be a major concern Sunday. So much so, perhaps, that Cowboys coach Wade Phillips has given thought to playing third-stringer Brooks Bollinger, though he insists Johnson will start.
Defensive end Justin Tuck, who leads the Giants with six sacks, isn't concerned who's under center.
"Everybody wants to beat everybody at their best," Tuck said. "We don't want to have excuses like 'Romo is not playing, we didn't have this guy, we didn't have that guy.'
"We're still going to go in there and try to sack whoever is back there."
Romo is expected back after the Cowboys' Week 10 bye, but there's no quarterback controversy in the Giants' locker room. Manning, who completed only 56.1 percent of his passes last season, has upped that number to 61.4, and after throwing at least 17 interceptions in each of his last three years, has only four through seven games.
Part of Manning's success has been due to the amount of time he's had to survey the field. He's only been sacked twice in his last five games and wasn't dropped once in last Sunday's 21-14 win at Pittsburgh against the blitz-happy Steelers.
"The offensive line played great," Manning said after going 19-for-32 for 199 yards and a touchdown. "That was our goal, getting the ball out quick. We hung in there and played smart enough to win the game."
The Giants weren't at full strength on offense, as coach Tom Coughlin disciplined wide receiver Plaxico Burress for the first quarter in Pittsburgh. Burress, a lightning rod for controversy since arriving in New York in 2005, had already been suspended for a game for missing a team meeting.
This time, Coughlin said he missed a therapy treatment session for a sore neck and shoulder Saturday.
Burress is expected to be in the starting lineup on Sunday, and he'll be facing a depleted Cowboys secondary. Dallas is already missing safety Roy Williams and cornerbacks Terrence Newman and Adam Jones, and Anthony Henry is nursing a thigh bruise, leaving a wealth of inexperience in the defensive backfield.
"We haven't been able to hit any real big plays down the field over the past few weeks," Burress said. "Hopefully we can get back on track and score a lot of points."
Dallas has its own controversial wideout in Terrell Owens, who didn't have a 100-yard receiving performance before Romo's injury and has just seven catches for 64 yards in the past two weeks.
The Cowboys could use a big day from Owens on Sunday, particularly if tight end Jason Witten is unable to play. Witten, who leads Dallas with 46 receptions and 549 yards, broke a rib against Tampa Bay, though Phillips says he'll wait until closer to game time to decide if he can play against the Giants.
"He is top-notch, not just a tight end, a blocker, everything," Phillips said. "So you lose a lot when you lose him."
Dallas has won its last two games at Giants Stadium.
Top Betting Trends:
All games in this series since 1992
DALLAS is 16-15 against the spread versus NY GIANTS since 1992
DALLAS is 18-15 straight up against NY GIANTS since 1992
18 of 31 games in this series have gone UNDER THE TOTAL since 1992
Games over the last 3 seasons
NY GIANTS is 2-2 against the spread versus DALLAS over the last 3 seasons
DALLAS is 3-2 straight up against NY GIANTS over the last 3 seasons
3 of 5 games in this series have gone OVER THE TOTAL over the last 3 seasons
All games played at NY GIANTS since 1992
NY GIANTS is 9-6 against the spread versus DALLAS since 1992
NY GIANTS is 9-7 straight up against DALLAS since 1992
8 of 15 games in this series have gone UNDER THE TOTAL since 1992
Games played at NY GIANTS over the last 3 seasons.
DALLAS is 1-0 against the spread versus NY GIANTS over the last 3 seasons
DALLAS is 2-0 straight up against NY GIANTS over the last 3 seasons
1 of 2 games in this series have gone OVER THE TOTAL over the last 3 seasons
Key Player Injuries
[WR] Sam Hurd IR - Ankle - 10/16/08
(!) [QB] Tony Romo is not expected to play until November 16. - Finger - 10/22/08
[CB] Terence Newman is out indefinitely - Hernia - 10/11/08
[S] Roy L Williams IR - Forearm - 10/19/08
[S] Pat Watkins missed last game, "?" - Shoulder - 10/19/08
[G] Kyle Kosier missed last game, doubtful - Foot - 10/21/08
[LB] Anthony Spencer missed last game, "?" - Hamstring - 10/19/08
[P] Mat McBriar IR - Foot - 10/13/08
[CB] Adam Jones has been suspended indefinitely by NFL - Suspension - 10/14/08
[RB] Felix Jones expected to miss 2-4 weeks - Hamstring - 10/13/08
[DE] Osi Umenyiora IR - Knee - 08/26/08
[OT] David Diehl is upgraded to probable - Back - 10/23/08
(!) [WR] Plaxico Burress injured last game, probable - Finger - 10/20/08
[LB] Gerris Wilkinson missed last game, doubtful - Knee - 10/23/08
[LB] Antonio Pierce is upgraded to probable - Quad - 10/23/08
[G] Shane Olivea IR - Back - 08/14/08
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Posted: 10/29/08 5:56PM ET