There was a time, not too long ago, that the NFC East was considered the best division in football. This is a grouping of four teams that have all won Super Bowls and home of the current champion Philadelphia Eagles. The Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants and Washington Redskins all have multiple Super Bowl wins.
Today, the NFC East could be in the discussion for the weakest division.
The Dallas Cowboys have already clinched their division title this season and come into the final week of the season with a 9-6 won/loss record. On Sunday, they visit the Giants, who up until a five weeks ago were in the running for the top pick in the upcoming NFL draft.
It has not been a good year for the Giants.
Under first-year head coach Pat Shurmur, the Giants made a bold move in last year’s draft by selecting multi-talented runner Saquon Barkley with their first pick and the second selection in the draft. As talented as Barkley is, the Giants had an opportunity to pick one of the prize young quarterbacks available, all of them except Baker Mayfield, who was chosen by the Cleveland Browns with the first pick in the draft.
Was this the time for New York to bring in the heir apparent to veteran Eli Manning?
Entering his 15th professional season, the 37-year-old Manning had struggled in recent years while the Giants compiled losing marks in three of the prior four seasons. How much longer Manning would play, and with blue-chip prospects on the board, the Giants had a huge decision to make.
The choice of Barkley signaled two things to New York fans. First, the Giants were not building for the future, but were looking for success now. Adding a top flight runner to Manning’s offense, which already possessed one of the best receivers in the game, Odell Beckham Jr., on paper the Giants offense appeared ready to roll. Second, Giants fans could get ready for a great season behind an explosive offense.
It didn’t work out that way.
New York had as much trouble scoring points this year as Charlie Brown has kicking a football out of Lucy’s hold.
Only twice in their first eight games did the Giants score more than 20 points, and Manning found no rhythm working with his all-pro receiver as New York struggled to a 1-7 mark heading into their mid-season bye week. There were rumors at the time that Shurmur may be a one year head coach with the Giants.
Then, after their bye, New York beat the San Francisco 49ers on the road and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at home, while scoring 65 points in those two games. In fact, the Giants have only once been held to less than 20 points over the past seven weeks and have advanced their win total from one to five.
Meanwhile, the Cowboys didn't spend this week preparing for the Giants, but rather focused on potential playoff opponents.
If this game was played a few weeks ago, the Giants would have had a good chance to beat the Cowboys on their home field. Dallas is only 2 and 5 on the road this season. But, played now, while New York is looking to have a second half of the season surge to point to good things to come, and the Cowboys have nothing to play for while looking ahead to their postseason date, makes this, should I say it?
A mortal lock.
The Giants are favored in this game by nearly a touchdown, a line the books are using to get people to bet on a sure loser. The spread worked, most wagers on this game are backing the Cowboys on the road, while I suggest you take the winner at home and end your Sunday at the payout window.
Qoxhi Picks: New York Giants (-5½) over Dallas Cowboys