The Dallas Cowboys are hoping Tony Romo(notes) can solve his late-season woes as they try to take a major step toward the NFC East title. The fading New York Giants are hopeful that Eli Manning’s(notes) right foot problem won’t hamper him in a game they desperately need.
The Cowboys make their final visit to Giants Stadium on Sunday when they try to avenge an earlier loss to New York, which needs a win to keep any realistic hopes of winning the division alive.
Dallas (8-3) leads Philadelphia by one game and New York by two in the East as it tries to erase the memories of past poor finishes. The Cowboys are 5-10 the previous three seasons after November, including two playoff losses.
Romo is a big reason for those woes with 16 touchdowns, 20 interceptions and a 58.2 completion percentage in those games. He has 17 touchdowns and seven interceptions this season.
“We don’t look at other seasons,” Romo said. “This is this season - it is brand new football team. Nothing that happened in 1999 or 2004 or 2008 has any bearing on what is going to happen this December. We feel as though we are just going to keep getting better each day we are out here.”
While the Cowboys have some breathing room, the Giants (6-5) need a strong finish to make a fifth straight playoff appearance. A spot in the postseason seemed assured when New York started 5-0 before it lost five of six.
Making matters worse was the news over the weekend that Manning has a stress reaction in his right foot. The former Super Bowl MVP developed the injury while dealing with another problem on the bottom of his foot during a win Oct. 4 at Kansas City.
“In the games it doesn’t bother me and I don’t think about it. This is not something I am overly concerned with,” Manning said. “It has been the same for probably the last three to four weeks, it’s nothing new. I can go out and practice and do all I need to do.”
The Cowboys are looking for revenge after the Giants spoiled the first game at their new stadium with a 33-31 win Sept. 20. Manning was spectacular in throwing for 330 yards, two touchdowns and leading New York on a drive for a game-winning field goal as time expired.
Romo had his worst game of the season, completing 13 of 29 passes for 127 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions.
The Cowboys believe Manning rubbed it in by scribbling his name and adding the score, the date and the words “First Win in the New Stadium” on a concrete column in the visitors’ locker room. Linebacker Bradie James(notes) hasn’t seen the column, but he’s seen a picture and is convinced it’s real.
“We won’t forget that,” James said. “It just makes for a more intense game.”
New York doesn’t resemble that team at this point, except with its struggling defense. The Giants allowed 378 yards in that contest - 251 on the ground - and have allowed an average of 362.5 yards in their last two games.
The Giants’ defense will be without middle linebacker Antonio Pierce(notes), who was placed on injured reserve with a neck injury. Second-year linebacker Jonathan Goff(notes) took snaps with the starters this week.
New York’s offense - ranked seventh in the NFL - also fared badly in last Thursday’s 26-6 loss at Denver. Manning failed to throw for a touchdown for the first time this season as the Giants had a season-low 267 yards.
Brandon Jacobs(notes) rushed for a season-low 27 yards on 11 carries and could be the only healthy running back for the Giants. Backups Ahmad Bradshaw(notes) and Danny Ware(notes) missed practice Wednesday and coach Tom Coughlin is uncertain about their status for this game.
New York also trails 7-4 Green Bay in the playoff race heading into this critical two-game stretch. The Giants host the Eagles next Sunday, and never envisioned being in this situation.
“We are trying the best we can to get the spirits back up,” Coughlin said. “What happened yesterday is over, and the only thing that you can take care of is in the moment.”
Romo has won both career starts at Giants Stadium as Dallas heads into a difficult closing stretch in which four of its last five opponents have winning records. The Cowboys won 24-7 over Oakland last Thursday after scoring a total of 14 points in their previous two games.
“This team needs to win,” James said. “We’re in a good position. We’re No. 1 in our division and the only way we can stay No. 1 is we have to beat the teams in our division. … That’s it. No excuses.”