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Cowboys news: Injury updates, players to watch, game predictions for Cowboys vs. Giants finale

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New York Giants v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images


Cowboys-Giants Betting Odds: Line Movement Suggests Key Players Will Rest - Mark Gallant, The Action Network
It might be a little tricky to predict the favorite in this one based on so much uncertainty of who is going to actually play, but the Cowboys enter the game as underdogs.

Zeke makes it sound like the Cowboys won’t be resting, but the books are preparing as if they will. Who do we trust? The Giants, on the other hand, obviously have nothing to gain and would probably prefer losing to get a better draft pick. They’ve already announced Eli Manning will start, but not much is known other than that. He could start and hand the ball over to Kyle Lauletta or Alex Tanney at some point in the game, which would probably be a wise thing to do. The line has since fallen to NYG -6 across the market, but if the Cowboys plan on playing this one hard like Elliott believes they will, then we are in for some serious line movement toward Dallas in the near future.

Breaking down the NFC Playoff Picture - Austin Gayle, Pro Football Focus
What does the NFC playoff picture look like heading into today’s action?

Locked into the No. 4 seed after their win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Dallas doesn’t have much to play for against the New York Giants in Week 17. But, owner Jerry Jones didn’t exactly say his team would be resting their starters and taking things easy this week. “Absolutely. We’re all out,” Jones said when asked if the Cowboys were playing to win against New York, per Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News. “We’ve got work to do. We’ve got some work to do out here; I think we’ll all agree. We don’t want to, if we can, go into the playoff with dangling participles – loose ends.” Whether Zeke eats or not, Dallas’ efforts won’t count for much until the postseason, and who they’ll play in the Wild Card round is still yet to be determined.

What’s of more interest is what’s going down in the Pacific Northwest.

Seattle’s win over the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday Night Football guaranteed the team a playoff berth, but a loss in Week 17 and a Vikings’ win would drop them from the No. 5 spot to the No. 6 spot. Staying at No. 5 and playing the Cowboys in Jerry World is likely higher on coach Pete Carroll’s list than taking his team to the Chicago or Los Angeles, so expect Seattle to trot out their starters to secure a win against the visiting Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.

Being a Cowboys fan has it’s privileges. Even in a meaningless game, they still dominate the television sets on Sunday. TV coverage map courtesy of 506 Sports.

A look at possible NFC coaching changes - Ian Rapoport,
Rapoport writes that Jason Garrett is believed to be safe after getting the team to the playoffs and winning the NFC East. Scott Linehan on the other hand may need some playoff success to be back in 2019.

Safely in the playoffs after a rough start to the season, coach Jason Garrett is believed to be safe. The team has been upfront with Garrett about their positive feelings for him, but how he needed to win. The response was a division title. He is only under contract through 2019, so it is likely the two sides would get together and discuss a new contract this offseason. The status of OC Scott Linehan may not be as secure. Clearly he’s rebounded to get the unit looking more like it did in 2016. But some involved believe playoff success is needed for him to continue.


Does Cowboys coach Jason Garrett know more about what’s at stake than the rest of us? - Tim Cowlishaw, SportsDay
How much the starters play remains to be seen, but there’s a method to Garrett’s madness.

The Cowboys have clinched the NFC East and the Giants have clinched last place, but it won’t be a surprise if Garrett keeps key players on the Met Life Stadium field longer than anticipated. For sure it will be longer than necessary because Dallas already knows it’s hosting the top wild-card team next weekend.

Regardless, Garrett has a different view on these games and it may go beyond his robotic approach to practice, meetings, games and all that goes into a long football season. It may be how he’s saving his career.

In 2014, the Cowboys wrapped up the NFC East in Week 16 with a rout of Indianapolis, but Garrett kept his foot on the pedal the final week at Washington in a 44-17 rout of the Redskins. Tony Romo threw 34 passes. DeMarco Murray, already the most overworked back in the league by a large margin, had 23 more touches.

Cowboys LB Sean Lee expects to play against NY Giants: ‘I do need snaps’ - David Moore, SportsDay
There was a day when sitting Sean Lee in a “meaningless” game was a no-brainer, but things have changed now. Lee feels he needs to reps to get himself ready for the playoffs.

Sean Lee has played just seven snaps in the last seven weeks. Look for the Cowboys linebacker to nearly triple that total in Sunday’s regular-season finale.

“That’s the plan this week, to really get out there and get going,’’ said Lee, who expects to play 20 or so snaps against the New York Giants. “Hopefully, I can build off this game and move into the playoffs and feel really good about it.’’

Lee has missed nine games this season with two separate hamstring injuries and has just 35 tackles. While his knowledge of the defense isn’t an issue, he needs to play Sunday to have some sort of physical edge heading into the postseason.

“Obviously, I have not played a lot of football and I need to get in there and play and get some snaps under my belt,’’ Lee said. “I do need snaps.’’

Week 16 NFL Team of the Week - Gordon McGuinness, Pro Football Focus
One of the biggest questions is - will we see Tyron Smith? The Cowboys All-Pro left tackle is dealing with a neck issue. He made PFF’s Team of the Week for last Sunday which goes to show you - even when he doesn’t play well, he plays well. He’s that good.

LEFT TACKLE Tyron Smith, Dallas Cowboys – 79.5 overall grade

Smith produced a perfect pass-blocking efficiency rating of 100.0, with no sacks, hits or hurries allowed from 27 pass-blocking snaps in the win over the Buccaneers. He also added some impressive work as a run blocker to cap the day off.

Here is the final practice report:


5 players to watch vs. the Cowboys - Staff, New York Giants
Keep an eye on these five players in the Giants’ 2018 season finale.

RB Saquon Barkley: With 114 scrimmage yards against Dallas, Barkley would join Pro Football Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson (2,212 scrimmage yards in 1983) and Edgerrin James (2,139 in 1999) as the only rookies with at least 2,000 scrimmage yards in NFL history. Barkley also needs two receptions to break Reggie Bush’s NFL record for a rookie running back (88 in 2006).

Barkley is a special talent, but I have to question his intelligence. I mean, how many times is he going to let Eli fool him with that tap and pay trick?

Giants vs. Cowboys: Watching for the future on defense - Dan Pizzuta, Big Blue View
Remember when people applauded the Giants front office for their great work in free agency? Those were fun times.

Expensive veteran watch: On the other side, the Giants have some veterans who could become cap casualties in the offseason. The two main players will be Olivier Vernon and Janoris Jenkins. Vernon will count as $19.5 million on the cap in 2019 and the Giants could save $11.5 million by moving on. Jenkins would count as $14.75 million on the 2019 cap and the Giants could free up $7.75 million by cutting him. Both 2019 hits are currently in the top-5 for the Giants.

Neither player has lived up to expectations this season. Vernon has played better than his raw stats would indicate and his production has improved over the past few weeks, but with a growing injury history, the Giants might want to look elsewhere in the offseason. Jenkins is on his second down season after being one of the best cornerbacks in football during 2016. Among 63 cornerbacks with at least 50 targets, Jenkins is 32nd in coverage snaps per target and 47th in yards per coverage snap. Obviously, neither of those numbers are ideal.

Cowboy vs. Giants preview: Dec. 30, 2018 - Stefan Stevenson, Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Here are five things to keep an eye on today, including what everyone cares about the most - who is going to be the Cowboys next opponent?

1. The Clearing

The most important thing that will happen Sunday (barring any serious injury) will be learning who the Cowboys will host in the wild card game on Jan. 5 or 6. It’s most likely going to be the Seattle Seahawks on either Jan. 5 or 6 at AT&T Stadium. But it also could be the Minnesota Vikings. If the Vikings beat the Bears and Seahawks lose to the Cardinals (3-12), Dallas would play Minnesota. One other possibility: If the Vikings lose and the Eagles beat the Redskins, the Eagles would earn the second wild card spot and play at Chicago. Got all that?

3 things to watch for in Sunday’s Cowboys-Giants game - Marcus Mosher, The Athletic
It sure would be nice to see the Cowboys offense finish the regular season with some reasons to be hopeful.

Red-Zone offense: For the most part, the Cowboys have no problem moving the ball and getting to the red zone. Despite their ball-control offense, the Cowboys are averaging 3.1 red zone trips per game, tied for 16th in the NFL. However, they have problems converting inside opponents’ 20-yard line. The 2018 Cowboys are scoring touchdowns on just 46% of their red-zone trips, 30th in the NFL. According to 360sportradar, this year’s NFL average is 58.8 percent. The Cowboys’ red zone issues are obvious. They’ve essentially become a running-only team in the red zone. However, this year they haven’t had the success they are accustomed to. Inside of the 10-yard line, Ezekiel Elliott has 22 carries for just 34 yards. Despite being one of the best running backs in the league, Elliott has only three touchdowns inside of the 10-yard line. For whatever reason, he just hasn’t had success running the ball close to the end zone.

Fact or Fiction: Predictions for 2018 finale - Dan Salomone, New York Giants
The Giants writing staff over at their base camp plays a little fact-or-fiction game, including what they think of the Cowboys new rookie linebacker.

Cowboys linebacker Leighton Vander Esch is the best defensive rookie in the NFL.

JOHN SCHMEELK: Fact - Darius Leonard might have more tackles, and Bradley Chubb has more sacks, but neither has had the impact of Vander Esch. He has played so well that the Cowboys chose to make Sean Lee, one of the best linebackers in football, inactive to keep playing the rookie. He is fast enough to cover and run sideline to sideline, and strong enough to get downhill, take on offensive linemen, and tackle. He is a smart weakside linebacker who flows to the football and is all over the field. He has been a huge reason the Cowboys defense, which in the past has fallen apart when Sean Lee doesn’t play, is one of the best units in the league.

According to PFF, Vander Esch grades out as the top rookie linebacker and third-overall behind Bobby Wagner and Luke Keuchly. If Dallas didn’t trade up to get Morris Claiborne, Bobby Wagner would’ve been their second-round pick in 2012. That would’ve paired him with Sean Lee and they would’ve had two of the top five linebackers in the league. You know how cool it would be to have two of the top five LBs?

Of course you do.


Gut Feeling: Predictions For Cowboys-Giants - Staff, Dallas Cowboys
The staff over at the Mothership provide their game predictions for the Giants game.

David Helman:

I have no idea how to feel about this game, because I don’t know who all is going to play and how long they’ll play for. Hopefully, we’ll see some starters play long enough to establish some rhythm and some confidence heading into the playoffs. It’d be nice to see them string together some touchdown drives, but keeping everyone healthy is a much bigger priority. With all of this in mind, I’m picking the Cowboys to win. Not for any real reason, I just figure their defense will probably play well, and whoever is playing on offense will figure it out. I might be wrong, but I think the opportunity to rest some key players weighs more heavily than the final result – and I think the Cowboys agree. So, we’ll see. But I’ll say the Cowboys find a way to squeak out a 17-13 win.

New York Giants vs. Dallas Cowboys: Staff picks and predictions - Dan Benton, Giants Wire
The writing staff over at the Giants Wire offer up their game predictions.

Kevin Hickey: Giants 24, Cowboys 20

If it weren’t for being Week 17 and the Cowboys resting their starters looking to make a playoff run as the No. 4 seed in the NFC, the prediction would likely go the other way. However, with the Cowboys likely resting their starters for a majority of the game, Big Blue should be able to pull on out. The Giants will be without Odell Beckham Jr. again, which hurts the offense. That usually leads to Eli Manning spreading the ball around, though, rather than force-feeding targets, which typically leads to a better performance. With Saquon Barkley approaching the 2,000-yard mark and Manning looking to prove he still has another year left in the tank, the Giants offense might be able to find similar success against a Cowboys defense that runs very similarly to that of the Colts.

NFL Week 17 picks, predictions: Dallas Cowboys vs. New York Giants - Ryan Dunleavy, provides their staff picks for Sunday’s game.

Matthew Stypulkoski, NJ Advance Media for

The Cowboys have already clinched the NFC East, so the pressure is off this week. But the Giants could be playing for a little something extra, given the possibility this is Eli Manning’s final game for the franchise.

The pick: Giants 24, Cowboys 21

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