Playing with a backup quarterback and a defense that finally found itself, the Dallas Cowboys are the hottest team in the NFC East entering the final weekend of the regular season.
It might not be good enough for them to make the playoffs again.
The Cowboys (6-9) will attempt to extend their winning streak to four games when they travel to the Meadowlands to face the New York Giants (5-10) on Sunday. The winner could make the postseason. Or not.
Washington (6-9) has the inside track for the division title. They beat Dallas twice, so they have the head-to-head tiebreaker if the teams finish tied. A win in Philadelphia on Sunday leads Washington to the playoffs.
A loss in Washington opens the door for Dallas and New York, who are on a three-game hitting streak. A Dallas win and a Washington loss give the Cowboys and new coach Mike McCarthy the division. A giant win and Washington loss give New York the division crown based on head-to-head play between the three teams. The Giants would be 3-1, Washington 2-2 and Dallas 1-3.
Dallas, which lost quarterback Dak Prescott to a serious ankle injury in Game 1 against New York on October 11, is the surprise. Andy Dalton and the offense are coming off a 500-yard performance in a win over Philadelphia, while the defense has 10 points on the winning streak after 11 in the first 12 games.
” If you can play your best soccer in December, you obviously have the best chance if you have a chance to be in the tournament,” said McCarthy, who saw his team start 2-7. ” The last three weeks we have succeeded. Our goal is clearly to go to New York and win this game, but hopefully we can play our best football this week. ”
The Giants, who started the season 1-7, were in first place in early December with a 5-7 record. However, they lost to Arizona (8-7), Cleveland (10-5) and Baltimore (10-5).
” I know the character of our locker room and how we have stuck together,” said Giants defensive back Logan Ryan. “We definitely earned the right, the ability to play in this game and make it mean something, and I think that’s coming back with everything we’ve endured this year.”
POCKET P ASS
Giants quarterback Daniel Jones has not been himself since he injured his right hamstring against Cincinnati on Nov. 29 and sprained his left ankle against the Cardinals on Dec. 13. He missed the games against Seattle (December 6) and Cleveland (December 20).
Jones, New York’s second leading running back, has rushed once for 3 yards in his last two starts and has been sacked 12 times. He says injuries have limited him to running. He was averaging 7.3 yards.
ELL IOTT PURSU ING 1000
Dallas running back Ezekiel Elliott needs 63 yards rushing to avoid falling short of 1,000 in what equaled a full season for the first time in his five-year career. The two-time rushing champion never had less than 1,357 yards in any of the four seasons in which he played at least 15 games.
The only time Elliott came up short was when he was suspended six games in 2017 on allegations of domestic violence. He had 983 yards in 10 games and led the league with an average of 98.3 yards per game.
Twice before, Elliott was left out of the regular season finale because the Cowboys had nearly secured their seed in the playoffs. This year he missed a game due to injury for the first time, sitting in Week 15 with a calf problem. Elliott returned last week with his second 100-yard game of the season (105) against Philadelphia.
G ARRETT AG A IN
Former Dallas coach Jason Garrett has seen the Giants’ offensive struggle in his first year as coordinator. New York is ranked 31st overall and its 257 points are the second-fewest in the NFL. The Jets, his co-tenant at MetLife Stadium, have a league low of 229.
“We’ve done some good things that really helped our team win, and at other times, it hasn’t been good enough. But you keep learning from your experiences, ” Garrett said.
Garrett wouldn’t say if he’s had any doubts about being head coach again.
BO ISE FL AG
Dallas offensive coordinator Kellen Moore will call another game amid talks about his strong candidate to become a coach at his alma mater, Boise State. Although Moore declines to discuss the details of the opening created by BryaHardinin’s move to Auburn, he does not hide his interest. Moore left Boise in 2011 as the winningest quarterback in college football history at 50-3, is loved there and says he “loves that place.”
” ” We have this incredible opportunity to win the NFC East, as crazy as this season has been, so let’s go for this and see what happens, ” said Moore, in his second year as a contact person for Dallas.
GRE AT T IME B ACKUPS
Two of the most dynamic players in football have missed most of the season.
The Giants have been without running bacSaxonon Barkley ( ACL) since the second game of the season. WaynGall manan has stepped in and leads the team with 617 rushing yards. He has also raced for six TDs.
Dalton, who was hired in May after being released by the Bengals, has posted a 4-4 record since Prescott was injured. He has thrown for 1,926 yards, 14 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
AP sports writer Schuyler Dixon contributed to this report.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.