2008 NFC Divisional Playoffs: New York Giants vs. Dallas Cowboys Preview and Pick

New York Giants (10-6) +7.5, 47 O/U at Dallas Cowboys (13-3) -7.5,
47 O/U, Texas Stadium, 4:30 PM Eastern, Sunday

by Badger of Predictem.com

Two teams that play in the same division will surprisingly play in
their first-ever playoff game versus one another, when the New York
Giants travel on Sunday to Texas Stadium in Dallas to take on the
Dallas Cowboys in the other NFC Divisional Playoff game.

The Cowboys beat the Giants twice during the regular season, both
times by double digits (45-35 on September 9th; 31-20 on November
11th). Dallas however did limp toward the finish line at the end of
the regular season, losing two out of their final three games.

The Giants on the other hand are playing some of their best football
this season of late. After pushing the Patriots to the limit in the
regular season finale (a 38-35 loss), the G-Men responded last
weekend with an impressive 24-14 victory over Tampa Bay in the
opening round of the NFC playoffs.

Oddsmakers opened the game with the Cowboys as a 7.5-point favorite,
with a 48 over/under total.

Dallas struggled down the stretch on offense as quarterback Tony Romo
started to show his inexperience under pressure. Romo had an
outstanding season overall (4,211 yds., 36 TDs), but he threw more
interceptions (five) then touchdowns (one) during the Cowboys final
three games of the season. Terrell Owens (1,355 yds., 15 TDs)
suffered a high ankle sprain in the Carolina game in week 16 and will
be a game-time decision on whether or not the mouth will be able to
play in the Cowboys opening playoff game. Expect running back Marion
Barber (973 yds,. 10 TDs) and tight end Jason Witten (1,145 yds., 7
TDs) to carry more of the load with T.O. limited. When fully loaded,
the Cowboys offense is one of the NFLs most potent (3rd overall
365.4 ypg) and most dangerous (28.4 ppg 2nd) units on the field.

Much like San Diegos Phillip Rivers, Giants quarterback Eli Manning
answered critics last week with a strong performance in the opening
round of the playoffs. Manning controlled himself and his team in the
win over Tampa, and looked more like the No. 1 pick overall that he
was coming out of college than the choke artist he was in his
previous seasons. The Giants offense is similar to the Cowboys in
that they have a solid No. 1 receiver in Plaxico Burress (1,025 yds.,
12 TDs), and a strong 1,000-yard rusher in Brandon Jacobs. On the
season the Giants finished 16th in total yards (331.5 ypg) and 14th
in scoring (23.3 ppg).

The Cowboys defense uses a 3-4 scheme that finished the season as the
leagues 9th best unit overall (307.6 ypg). The Boys are strong
versus the run (94.6 ypg 6th) with one of the fastest corps of
linebackers and nose tackle Tank Johnson taking on double teams to
keep them free to flow to the ball. Despite having one of the best
pass rushers in Demarcus Ware coming off the edge, the Cowboys are
vulnerable against the pass as the secondary ended the season just
14th overall (213.1 ypg). They also tend to give up long scoring
plays, with a 20.3 points per game average to show for it (13th).

The Giants defense has been improving week to week all season long,
and last week played one of their best games of the season versus the
Bucs. The NFLs 8th overall unit (305.6 ypg) features a strong line
with Osi Umenyiora and Michael Strahan, a run-stuffing middle
linebacker in Antonio Pierce, and a young but talented secondary with
rookies Aaron Ross and Corey Webster playing like seasoned vets. If
the Giants can get starting cornerback Sam Madison back from his
abdominal strain (listed as questionable), the secondary that gives
up 208.4 yards per game (11th) should be able to match up with the
Cowboys, even with T.O. playing.

Not only did the Cowboys sweep the season series against the Giants,
but they covered the spread in both games too. Prior to the Cowboys
run this year, it is actually the Giants who have had better success
for bettors, going 4-0-2 ATS in the three previous years.

The Giants have also enjoyed a better run this season overall, going
11-6 ATS including three in a row and five of their last six. The G-
Men are 8-3 ATS in their last 11 games versus an NFC opponent, while
the under play is a strong 7-1 in their last eight road games.

Dallas ended the year with a 9-7 ATS record, including a 6-2 ATS
record at home. Their ATS record mirrors their stumble at the tape at
the end of the year, as they have failed to cover the number in their
last four games of the regular season. Romo and the offense did cash
in for bettors on the over, as they went over the total in 10 of the
16 games this season.

The spread hasnt moved much since it opened at Dallas -7.5. Most
places still have that as the current number, although a few online bookies have moved the number up to Dallas
-9. The total has remained at 47 since it opened. The Cowboys are
-333 on the moneyline, while the Giants are a +303.

Badgers Pick: Im going with a gut feeling on this one. First, its
very hard to beat the same team three times in a season. Second, the
Cowboys are dinged up (specifically T.O.) and are not playing well
lately, while the G-Men seem to be hitting their stride right at the
perfect time. And third, Romo has yet to win a playoff game in his
career and he appears to be more concerned with chasing skirts (i.e.
Jessica Simpson) then studying film. You could take a flyer on the
Giants with a +303 moneyline bet, but if nothing else take the Giants
plus the points here.