If not for a mental mistake by one of their players in the season opener, the Dallas Cowboys could be chasing the second 16-0 regular season in NFL history down the stretch. Instead, the Cowboys bring “only” a franchise-record 11-game winning streak into Sunday night’s game at the New York Giants, the only team to beat Dallas this season. There are important playoff ramifications for both the NFC East rivals, with the Cowboys as road favourites on Sports Interaction NFL odds.
Dallas Cowboys vs. New York Giants
Point spread: Cowboys -3.5
Date: Sunday, Dec. 11, 8:30 p.m. ET
Location: MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.
The Cowboys (11-1) have the NFL’s best record and can clinch the NFC East title with a victory Sunday. They clinch at worst the No. 2 overall seed in the NFC with a win and either a Detroit home loss to Chicago (very unlikely) or Seattle loss in Green Bay. Should the Cowboys win and Lions and Seahawks both lose, Dallas essentially has nothing to play for the rest of the regular season as it would have home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.
But even if it doesn’t happen this week, it would take a minor miracle for Dallas not to be the top seed. Owner/GM Jerry Jones says the team doesn’t plan to rest any starters even after clinching the No. 1 seed. That could be important not just for you Cowboys backers out there the final three weeks of the regular season but also the fantasy football players who count on Ezekiel Elliott, Dak Prescott and Dez Bryant, etc.
Last Thursday, I previewed the Cowboys’ game in Minnesota and recommended taking the Vikings and the 3.5 points. I believed Dallas had a good chance of losing against that very good Vikings defense and indeed the Cowboys had their worst offensive game of the year (fewest points, yards and first downs) but escaped 17-15 when a Vikings 2-point try at the end of regulation failed.
Prescott threw for just 139 yards but did become the first rookie in league history to throw at least one TD pass without an interception in five straight game. Elliott rushed 20 times for 86 yards and a touchdown. Barring injury or the Cowboys changing their mind and resting him, Elliott is going to win the rushing title as he’s ahead of No. 2 DeMarco Murray, the former Cowboy, by 242 yards. Elliott has 12 rushing TDs and needs just one more to break Hall of Famer Tony Dorsett’s Cowboys rookie record for most in a season.
Dallas is 9-3 against the spread this season and 5-1 ATS on the road.
New York Giants
The Giants (8-4) would be the NFC’s top wild-card team if the playoffs started today. But they have a tough closing schedule, hosting NFC North leader Detroit next week and then visiting Philadelphia on a Thursday in Week 16 and closing at fellow wild-card hopeful Washington. A loss here could be very costly.
New York’s six-game winning streak ended in last Sunday’s 24-14 loss in Pittsburgh. There’s no shame in losing in the Steel City, one of the toughest places in the NFL to play. But the Giants’ offense was terrible with just 234 yards and really only 7 points — the last touchdown was in the final seconds of garbage time. Eli Manning threw for 195 yards and two scores but also two picks. It was his fifth game this year with multiple interceptions. By comparison, Prescott has only two picks all year.
The Giants are 23rd in points scored at 20.4, down nearly a full touchdown from last year. There’s too much talent for that unit to be so low. Manning’s offense could get a boost Sunday with the return of running back Shane Vereen, who is an excellent receiver out of the backfield. Vereen has been on injured reserve since Week 3 with a torn triceps. If he feels good at practice the rest of this week, Vereen should be activated. He has rushed for 147 yards and a TD this season and caught eight passes for 75 yards. The New York defense likely will be without end Jason Pierre-Paul due to a groin injury suffered last week. Pierre-Paul is second on the Giants with seven sacks and leads the team with eight batted passes.
New York is 6-5-1 ATS this season and 3-3 ATS at home.
Cowboys vs. Giants Predictions
I somewhat feel the same way about this game as I did for Dallas last week: it can be a “throwaway” game. It almost wouldn’t matter if the Cowboys lost. Although I’m sure they would like to avoid a season sweep after losing 20-19 at home to the Giants in Week 1. If Dallas receiver Terrance Williams doesn’t stupidly stay inbounds on a reception with the clock running in the final seconds, the Cowboys should have been able to attempt a potential winning 57-yard field-goal attempt, and they have one of the NFL’s best kickers in Dan Bailey. I think New York can win this game and at worse only lose by 3. Thus take the points. Go under the total.