The Dallas Cowboys and the N.Y. Giants will square off in the final game of the NFL regular season. The winner will claim the division title, while the loser will watch the playoffs from the sidelines. Joe LaTengo gets his popcorn ready.
All is quiet on New Year’s Day, according to U2, but on the first day of 2012 it’s going to be very loud at MetLife Stadium. In fact, it doesn’t get much better than this in the National Football League. The Cowboys playing the Giants on a Sunday night would normally draw plenty of interest. This season it’s a huge tilt as the NFC East crown is on the line, along with a playoff spot. The victors hang a banner and keep playing; the vanquished go home.
Every question is compelling. Will Tony Romo be effective despite a bruised throwing hand? Will the Dallas offensive line be able to protect Romo? Can Felix Jones and the receiving corps compete at a championship level? On the other side of the ball, can Eli Manning get past one of the worst games of his career? Will Manning’s selection to the Pro Bowl this week magnify any flubs? Can the Giants’ defense, led by first-time Pro Bowler Jason Pierre-Paul, match last week’s stellar showing against the Jets?
Initially the game was scheduled for the afternoon, but the league decided to move it to prime time after Week 16; NBC-TV stands to benefit big time, and so do the fans.
These two teams last met three weeks ago, and it was quite the airshow as Manning and Romo had a combined 721 passing yards and six TDs. The Giants got two of their touchdowns with less than four minutes to go and mounted a stunning comeback to slip by their hosts 37-34 in, coincidentally, another Sunday night clash in Arlington, Texas. The inspired rally snapped the Giants’ four-game losing skid, took the visitors to an improbable 3-0 record in the Cowboys’ new home dome, and has set the stage for this breathtaking rematch.
It comes down to this: whichever team can control the ground game will most likely control the game. Jones has been nursing a sore hamstring, while Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs won’t remind anyone of Tiki Barber. The Giants’ defensive line will key on Romo’s sore hand, so he’ll face plenty of pressure to find Miles Austin and Dez Bryant downfield.
The NFL betting on this game had the Giants winning by a field goal, while the over/under was at 46.5 at the time this was written. This has every chance of ending up as one of the classic matchups in NFL history.