I have, unfortunately, to be honest with you guys. I'm not 100% certain that if the Cowboys and Giants had switched schedules, they wouldn't have had exactly reversed records for exactly the same reasons. Sure, you like the narrative. The Giants started out 0-6, they're putting it together. But, really?
In addition to Dallas, a game they totally could have won with even minimal ball security, they played Denver, Carolina, KC, Philly and Chicago. How many of those games are the Cowboys winning, possibly 2? At best? They then beat Minny, Philly, Oakland and Scott Tolzien's Green Bay Packers.
I think the Cowboys could do all that. I think they would do all that. The order of operations doesn't matter.
When I think about who will win this game, then, I think about two things. First, I think that it's physically impossible for a game in which the Giants had 3 INTs and 3 lost fumbles to have been a five-point game. But it was. Second, I think that the Giants excel at slowly finding their way into playoff contention even when it seems impossible, and the Cowboys excel at the opposite.
Other than that it's amazing how similar the two teams are.
Honestly, and I mean this from the bottom of my heart, if, Tony Romo had ever angered the Greek Gods, like Sisyphus did, Eli Manning would be his rock. If there was a limited supply of luck in this world, and it got apportioned to NFL QBs on one day, some years ago, Eli Manning got Tony Romo's share while Tony was using the bathroom or something.
Let me tell you something about these two QBs. Eli Manning's best QB rating, 93.1, in 2009, would be Tony Romo's 3rd worst. Since Romo started his first full season in 2006, He's completed more than 63% of his passes every year but one. Eli hasn't done it once. Even in his worst year, Romo, famous for his interceptions, still had less than Eli (19-20 in 2007), and he's had fewer INTs in 5 of 7 years they've been in the league together. And it is extraordinarily unlikely this won't be the 6th.
Romo has passed for more yards four times and is leading again this year. He's thrown for more TDs four times, and is leading considerably this year. He's averaged more YPA five times, and is leading this year. And, what's especially crazy is that the two teams win basically the same number of games every year. Between 2007 and 2012, the Cowboys have won an average of 9.1 games a season, the Giants 9.6.
So, of course, Eli and the Giants have won two Super Bowls in that span and the Cowboys have won one playoff game.
I mean, in 2011, the Giants won one more game than the Cowboys and won the Super Bowl. In 2007 they won 3 less and won the Super Bowl. That's how it goes. Every year.
So when I tell you that this year, Eli has thrown for 2, 586 yards, with 12 TDs and 17 INTs, while Romo has thrown for 2,681 with 21 TDs and 6 INTs, and that if the Giants win this game they will be tied with the Cowboys you'll know that the universe is operating in all the expected ways. Again.
Here's the straight dish: I have no idea how to handicap this game. Neither does ESPN; the 'insider line analysis' has the Cowboys as a 53% consensus winner. The Boys average 251 passing yards a game, the Giants 244. They both average 77 rushing yards a game. The Boys allow 25.8 points a game, the Giants 25.6.
After the Saints game it's worth wondering if the Cowboys defense could stop a determined tortoise, but they do sometimes get takeaways and Eli's still giving them out like Halloween candy.
I don't know who's going to win. I do know that if the Cowboys can pull this one out, it'll go a long, long way to their making the playoffs. They'll be 2 up on the Giants, with that tiebreak secured, and 5 games to go. If they lose, they'll be tied for second place, with no tiebreak, 5 games to go, and it'll be a three-way race to the finish. So, that's fun.