Dallas Cowboys Clash with New York Giants for NFC East Crown

Everything is on the line for the first day of the New Year and the last day of the NFL regular season, as the Dallas Cowboys (8-7, 3-4 away) face-off with the New York Giants (8-7, 3-4 home) for a shot at the postseason and the NFC East division title. For the last game on the last day of the season, this match-up between two football powerhouses figures to be one of the best match-ups for online sports betting at one of the best online sportsbooks reviewed right here on our website.

Neither team has performed exceptionally well down the home stretch of the 2011-12 NFL season, but with the New York Giants winning their last 2 out of 3 games including one against Dallas in Week 14, one has to expect the G-men to be pretty confident about their chances of winning at home against a Cowboys squad that has dropped 3 of their last 4 games and continues to struggle with closing out contests in the second half. With the Giants handing their cross-town rival Jets a convincing loss last Saturday in a 29-14 win, head coach Tom Coughlin’s team showed their ability to hang tough in gritty games, especially with one of the most porous defenses in the league standing firm. Despite an excellent pass rushing defense ranked 5th in the league with 42 sacks, one which could get Osi Umenyiora back for tonight’s showdown, the Giants struggles against the pass have been well documented this year, ranking 27th in the league while allowing 255.4 yards/game through the air. With a banged up Tony Romo in opposition tonight, the Giants would do well to keep the pressure on Dallas’ star quarterback, starting with getting good performances from Jason Pierre-Paul (15.5 sacks) and Osi Umenyiora (7.0 sacks), as well as a good push from the New York defensive line, which has to step up in a critical game. Though Dallas lost a close game to New York in Week 14, Romo torched the Giants defense for 320 yards and 4 touchdowns, which can’t be repeated if the Giants hope to win tonight.

New York will once again look to star quarterback Eli Manning to be the glue for the Giants in tonight’s game, and get the 4th ranked passing game (293.5 yards/game) going against a susceptible Dallas secondary that is allowing 238.3 yards/game passing to opposing quarterbacks. Manning (%60.3 completion rate, 4,587 yards, 26 TDs, 16 INTs) went big against Dallas in Week 14, throwing for 400 yards and 2 touchdowns in another late-game comeback, which saw the Giants down by 12 before coming back inside 4 minutes to play to shock the Cowboys at home. Racking up 510 total yards against the proud Dallas D built by Rob Ryan bodes well for tonight’s game on the Giants home turf, especially considering the Giants struggles to run the football this year (ranking dead last in the league at just 88 yards/game on the ground). The Giants have no lack of talent in the receiving game, as Victor Cruz has lead the way for New York with 76 catches for 1,358 yards and 8 TDs, with Hakeem Nicks (71 catches, 1116 yards, 6 TDs) and Mario Manningham (39 catches, 523 yards, 4 TDs) providing plenty of looks for Eli Manning downfield. Adding in talented tight end Jake Ballard (38 catches, 604 yards, 4 TDs), Manning will look to exploit the Dallas secondary in the same fashion he did in the previous match-up between these two teams, but in a game that Dallas must win, the Giants need to factor in the running game to stay ahead in this game and avoid having to make a last-minute comeback dash. Though Dallas sports a solid defense against the run (allowing just 98.6 yards/contest), Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs both have to step up tonight, help take pressure off Manning, and help to extend drives for the Giants tonight. With Dallas’ primary focus on defense likely to be getting at Eli Manning, getting some relief via the Giants rushing game will find New York with a leg up in tonight’s contest at home.

For Dallas, Tony Romo is the big question mark in tonight’s game, with a bruised hand possibly hampering the ability of the Cowboys’ star quarterback to throw at 100 percent. While Romo hasn’t had much difficulty against the Giants’ sieve-like secondary in recent meetings, we can guess that he’ll not be able to make the same kind of plays downfield with an injured throwing hand hampering him, and as such he will need some help on offense to keep the Cowboys moving along. That starts with Felix Jones (116 carries, 547 yards, 1 TD) at running back, who has been questionable all week with a hamstring injury, and was held out for much of last week’s loss to Philadelphia in preparation for tonight’s game. If there is one thing I have learned about Jones, it’s that he has the ability to disappoint you at just about every turn where you expect him to stand out, mostly due to his uncanny ability to come up injured at any time. Keeping him healthy and moving forward against a Giants squad that is allowing 126 yards/game against the rush is essential; against a hard-hitting Giants defense that loves to try and knock key players out of football games, Jones must stay in this game for the full 4 quarters and be productive. Without a rushing attack generating offense, Tony Romo will find himself vulnerable, and as was the case in last week’s loss to the Eagles, no Romo, no offense, no win.

The Cowboys’ focus for tonight’s game also has to revolve around their pass rush on defense, which was almost non-existent, and a big reason for the huge yardage allowed to Eli Manning in their last meeting. Leading his team in sacks with 18 on the season, DeMarcus Ware needs to step up and be a leader in tonight’s contest, and improve greatly over a performance in Week 14 that saw Manning avoid the sack, and burn the Dallas secondary almost at will. While half of that performance can be credited to the solid Giants offensive line, which gave great protection late in the game, getting better play out of a Dallas D that looked gassed most of the second half in the Week 14 37-34 loss is key for Dallas tonight. If Eli Manning can throw downfield without pressure, the Giants will always have a chance to win regardless of their opponent. However, if Dallas can pressure Manning and keep him uncomfortable in the pocket, the Cowboys’ stand a much better chance at limiting the Giants’ offensive capabilities as a whole, and could take advantage of a costly mistake, which Manning is known for giving up when pressured (5th worst in the league with 16 interceptions on the season). Containing the running game is also important, as New York is starting to look comfortable again running the ball up the lanes right at opposing defenses. For whatever reason, New York hasn’t dialed up a run-first approach in many games this year even with the hard-nosed running style of Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs (perhaps due to the fact that they are both under 4 yards/carry), but with the improvement on the ground with Bradshaw running hard once again, Dallas needs to be wary of getting beat with the feet as well as the arm, as the Giants should be mixing up their game plan a bit more at home tonight.

Betting Lines for the Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants at Betonline Sportsbook

While Dallas comes into this match-up as the better team across a number of statistics, New York seems to have the upper hand heading into the last game of the season, against a rival they’ve already overcome once in the last 3 weeks, with a defense they know can be beaten. The Giants find themselves as the favorite to win at home tonight, getting -165 odds to win on the money line, while Dallas enters as a +145 underdog on concerns about Tony Romo’s hand, and Dallas’ running back situation. Nonetheless, even with question marks on Dallas’ offense, the Cowboys are a slight +3 against the spread, with -105 odds to cover. New York gives up -3 points at -115 odds, showing further how close the bookmakers are picking tonight’s game. The real test for betting lines on this game lies with the over/under, as it hedges almost entirely on the health of the Dallas offense, with Romo and Jones both susceptible to being knocked out of tonight’s game. However, with so much on the line, we have to consider a step-up in play from everyone on either side, and assume all the top players will grind this one out. That puts the 47 points on the over/under at risk, especially considering these two sides combined for over 900 yards of total offense and 71 points in the Week 14 meeting. Though Dallas fell off the scoring wagon without Romo, back again up against the Giants’ weak secondary, we’ll expect the scoring to return with relative ease for Dallas, and contribute towards a busted over total points margin tonight.

Our Pick to Win:

I like the way Giants’ head coach Tom Coughlin has his team dialed in for the final push of the regular season, and with questions about the Cowboys’ starting quarterback, running back, and defense in this match-up, New York gets our call to emerge victorious at home tonight. While Dallas shouldn’t have any problems throwing downfield against the Giant’s secondary, an injury to Romo, or simply a decrease in his ability to produce could mean the difference in the game tonight as Eli Manning shouldn’t have much trouble throwing at Dallas’ secondary all night long. I also don’t like Dallas hedging on Felix Jones to pull though with a complete game, as the injury prone back has been known to fall apart when he’s needed most. Expecting a high-scoring game tonight, I’m banking on another big day for Victor Cruz downfield, and a much bigger push by the Giants running backs to help grant New York a trip to the 2012 postseason. Giants win at home, 34-30 in a close, fantastic finish to the NFL’s 2011-12 regular season campaign.

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