For the 5-5 Dallas Cowboys, it was not a pleasant bye week. Coming off a bad loss last Sunday to the New Orleans Saints, the Cowboys watched the Philadelphia Eagles overtake them for first place in the division with their win over the Washington Redskins. The Cowboys are now a half game behind Philadelphia and only one ahead of the Giants (Dallas beat New York when the two teams met in Week 1), who won their fourth in a row and improved to 4-6 with their win over the Green Bay Packers on Sunday.
So while this game may not be a clear-cut battle for first place, here's what we know: Most likely, only one team from the NFC East will make the playoffs. That will be the winner of the division. If the Giants win Sunday, they're alive. If they lose, it's over.
This is familiar territory for the Giants and Cowboys. They've had a long tradition of memorable matchups. Here are five memorable games between the Giants and Cowboys over the last two decades:
January 2, 1994: It was the regular season finale with first place in the division and a No. 1 seed in the NFC on the line. The difference was Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith, who turned in one of the greatest performances ever by a running back. He separated his shoulder in the first half but went on to rush for 168 yards on 32 carries as Dallas beat New York 16-13 in overtime. The Giants finished 11-5 that year, but with the loss they fell to the fourth seed and were crushed 44-3 in the second round of the playoffs playing at the San Francisco 49ers. The Cowboys won both their home playoff games and were crowned Super Bowl champions for the second year in a row. To this day, the game is still talked about, with many insisting that had the Giants won, the Super Bowl was theirs.
September 4, 1995: This was the beginning of the Giants' mid-90s downfall. On Monday Night Football, the Cowboys ran them out of their own building, pummeling New York 35-0 in the season opener. The highlight of the night came at halftime when the Giants retired Phil Simms' No. 11. On Emmitt Smith's first carry of the season, he ran 60 yards for a touchdown, waving to the Giants on his way to the end zone. Good bye season.
January 13, 2008: This was the Giants' second-stop on their improbable run to the Super Bowl. After finishing the regular season 10-6, New York beat Tampa Bay in the first round of the playoffs. The next week, in Dallas, the Giants trailed by three heading into the fourth quarter. Brandon Jacobs scored on a one-yard run early in the fourth quarter and the Giants held on for a 21-17 win. They would beat Green Bay the following week, then two weeks later the Giants upset the undefeated Patriots to win the Super Bowl.
September 20, 2009: George W. Bush was there. LeBron James was there. And NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was there. The Giants opened Jerry Jones' $1.15 billion palace by beating the Cowboys 33-31 in an up-and-down battle that saw Eli Manning throw for 330 yards and Mario Manningham and Steve Smith catch 10 passes apiece with each scoring a touchdown. As the largest regular-season crowd in NFL history watched, Lawrence Tynes kicked the game winning field goal as time expired. The Giants won their first five games that year, lost their next four, and collapsed late to finish 8-8. Dallas finished 11-5, won the NFC East, and made it to the second round of the playoffs.
January 1, 2012: Another regular season finale with a trip to the playoffs on the line. When New York hosted Dallas at MetLife Stadium in Week 17, the division title was on the line. The Giants led 21-0 at halftime and cruised to a 31-14 win as Eli Manning threw for 346 yards and three touchdowns and the Giants' defense sacked Tony Romo six times. New York finished 9-7 after winning three of its last four games. (Two of those wins came against Dallas.) The Giants would go on to beat the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl for their second title in five years.
Charles Costello has followed the Giants for 30 years. He was a beat reporter assigned to cover the team during the 1997 season. He writes about the Giants and New York Yankees for the Yahoo Contributor Network.
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