Every game has seemingly taken on a significant meaning for the Cowboys this season, but Sunday's division match-up with the New York Giants at Giants Stadium undeniably tops them all, as the winner will take sole possession of first place in the NFC East. The Cowboys and Giants each enter the contest coming off demoralizing overtime losses to two of the league's premier teams, the Cowboys losing to Denver, 24-21, and the Giants losing to Seattle by the same score.
The Giants (7-4) have gone 4-2 since falling to the Cowboys, 16-13, in overtime last month at Texas Stadium. But New York has lost two of its last three, including the 24-21 overtime loss to Seattle on Sunday. New York's last three losses have all been by three points, two of them in overtime. The Cowboys' last two games in the Meadowlands were nail biters. The Cowboys won in overtime, 35-32, in 2003, and lost, 28-24, last season.
New York has been mediocre on the road this season, with its two road victories coming against San Francisco and New Orleans, though the "road" victory over the Saints occurred at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. But at home, the Giants have been nearly flawless, flying through the season with a 5-1 mark. The Giants have yet to lose consecutive games this season.
- Running back Tiki Barber is second in the NFC with 1,118 rushing yards. Barber is on pace to break his single-season high of 1,518 yards, which he set last season.
- After beginning the season with a 9-to-2 touchdown/interception ratio, Giants quarterback Eli Manning has 11 touchdowns and eight interceptions in the last seven games. Manning, who has completed 52.5 percent of his passes, currently has an 81.1 passer rating.
- The Giants' offense has received a season-long boost from their special teams units. New York is one of only two teams ranked in the top six in average yards per punt return (9.2 yards) and kick return (25.4 yards) with much thanks to Chad Morton and Willie Ponder.
- Kicker Jay Feely entered last weekend with a 21-of-23 kicking mark, but left the weekend 23-of-28 after going 2-for-5 against Seattle. Feely missed three consecutive game-winning kicks from the final 30 seconds on, with two coming in overtime.
Free-agent Plaxico Burress' presence has not only paid dividends for Manning but also for his fellow offensive threats. Burress, who is on pace to record only the third 1,000-yard season in his six-year career, has helped open up passing lanes for tight end Jeremy Shockey and receiver Amani Toomer. Shockey is on pace to have the best season of his professional career, having already recorded a career-high seven touchdowns. Toomer also has been effective in a possession role, averaging 11.1 yards per reception but scoring five touchdowns after going scoreless last season.
The Giants have been held below the 20-point mark only once this season, that compliments of the Cowboys (13 points) in their meeting earlier this season. New York has the NFC's highest-scoring offense at 27.5 points per game, which also ranks third in the entire league, trailing only Indianapolis and San Diego. The Giants have twice surpassed the 40-point mark this season and also scored 36 points on another occasion.
- Cowboys head coach Bill Parcells - Won two Super Bowls in his eight seasons as Giants head coach (1983-1990). During Parcells' reign, the Giants enjoyed a remarkable run with seasons of nine, 10, 14, 10, 12 and 13 wins. Parcells also spent three seasons as an assistant in New York (1979, 1981-82).
- Cowboys assistant head coach/quarterbacks Sean Payton - Spent four seasons with the New York Giants, including the last three as offensive coordinator. Then-Giants quarterback Kerry Collins broke several franchise passing records under Payton's guidance, but Payton was stripped of play-calling duties seven games into the 2002 season. Payton joined New York as quarterbacks coach in 1999.
- Cowboys tight end Dan Campbell - Spent the first four years of his career with New York after the Giants used a third-round pick on the former Texas A&M tight end in 1999. Campbell, used primarily as a blocker in New York, recorded career highs of 22 receptions and 175 receiving yards in 2002. The Giants ultimately deemed Campbell expendable following the emergence of Shockey at tight end. Campbell signed with the Cowboys in 2003.
- Cowboys linebacker Michael Barrow - Signed by the Cowboys this week, Barrow played for the New York Giants from 2000-03, surpassing the 100-tackle mark three times and compiling 14 sacks in his four seasons with the team.
Giants punter Jeff Feagles, who has played for five teams, broke the all-time NFL mark of consecutive games played in Sunday's Seattle game, his 283rd straight game. The former mark of 282 consecutive games played was held by former Minnesota defensive end Jim Marshall . . . The NFL on Monday said that receptions made by Giants receiver Amani Toomer and tight end Jeremy Shockey against Seattle were incorrectly called touchdowns.