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Week 19 Picks: Divisional Playoffs, Dallas vs. New York

Giants vs. Cowboys
All Eyes on Injuries, QBs, Coaches

The Dallas Cowboys are 2-0 against the New York Giants this season, but the last meeting was almost exactly two months ago (deja vu). There's a lot of water under the bridge since then. Dallas has coasted into the playoffs with two losses in their last three games, while New York has been playing high-level football for a few weeks.

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New York Giants (11-6) @ Dallas Cowboys (13-3)
Texas Stadium, Irving, Texas
January 13, 4:30 p.m. (on Fox)

The rest, no doubt, has been good for a Cowboys team with several significant injuries, but some have questioned the wisdom of allowing the team to get "too loose" at this juncture, whether head coach Wade Phillips allowed his players too much leeway during the extended time off.

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Meanwhile, the Giants have been putting forth maximum effort for several weeks, despite losing to Washington a month ago and not resting before a "meaningless" game against New England the last week of the season with no bye week to recover. That effort has been rewarded with confidence heading into this rematch; but it has also resulted in a couple major injuries that could have a tremendous impact on the outcome of this game.

Two of New York's cornerbacks could miss the game. Kevin Dockery is definitely out, and Sam Madison is listed as doubtful with an abdominal strain. Madison was listed as doubtful last week and sat out the Tampa Bay game. Backup Corey Webster played well against the Bucs.

That's not all. Wide Receiver Plaxico Burress is listed as questionable with a lingering ankle injury, while tight end Kevin Boss, subbing for the lost Jeremy Shockey, and center Shaun O'Hara are listed as probable.

Dallas has injury problems, too. Wide receiver Terrell Owens is recovering from a high-ankle sprain. The Cowboys say Owens is a game-time decision, but the receiver says he'll play and play at a high level. Meanwhile, Terry Glenn is poised to take the field for the first time all season, but that probably depends on Owens's status.

Quarterback Tony Romo is not listed on the team's injury report, but he is known to have bruised his thumb a few weeks ago, and he has not played particularly well for the last month.

Much of the media is focusing on Romo and his Giants' counterpart Eli Manning, especially their recent changing fortunes. Romo had the better season overall but has been sketchy recently, while Manning had a mediocre season but has been playing much better lately.

Both quarterbacks can expect to be under considerable pressure, physical and "psychological," in this game. Both teams boast excellent pass rushes, and both quarterbacks have been subject to scrutiny and have expectations to meet. Manning has his name to live up to, and New York fans have been dissatisfied so far. Dallas fans have been on Romo's case, too, and some question his mental toughness -- and there's still that botched place-kick hold in last year's playoffs.

Dallas has been relatively pass-happy this season, considering the strong running game the Cowboys possess. Julius Jones and Marion Barber may get more work depending on the status of Owens and Glenn. Tight end Jason Witten may play more of a role in the Dallas passing game, or he may be called upon more to block New York's Osi Umenyiora.

With Manning struggling during the season, the Giants focused efforts on a ground attack, but with Manning playing much better, New York has been more balanced. Manning will need to maintain his level of play for the Giants to have a good chance. Otherwise, Brandon Jacobs and Rueben Droughns have carried a majority of the offensive load, and Burress's status could impact the game plan.

This game could go either way. Key injuries for both teams and the play of two hard-to-figure quarterbacks should impact the outcome. And there will be the discussion of whether it's better to be a "players' coach" like Phillips or a disciplinarian like Tom Coughlin, whether it's better to rest players and play loose like Dallas or play normally and keep focused like New York.

Prediction: Giants, 27-24.