QB edge should boost Giants


It will be a high-stakes game tonight as the Dallas Cowboys invade New York to decide the NFC East title, and Giants coach Tom Coughlin's job also could be at stake.

The showdown between quarterbacks Eli Manning and Tony Romo is thick with drama, even if both teams bring 8-7 records to the NFL's regular-season finale in prime time.

Manning has had the better season, passing for 4,587 yards and 26 touchdowns. He rescued the Giants' postseason hopes in the teams' first meeting on Dec. 11, passing for 400 yards and two touchdowns to upset Dallas, 37-34.

New York has won six of the past eight in the series, and Las Vegas handicapper Mike Scalleat is siding with Manning and the Giants as 3-point favorites.

"This is Eli's game to show he is elite, and I think he will get it done," Scalleat said. "Coughlin's job could be on the line. This is like a playoff game, and I can't play the Cowboys in this situation.

"The Giants' defensive line will put pressure on Romo, and when he's pressured, he makes mistakes. I don't think Romo can carry the Cowboys in this critical game."

Dallas owner Jerry Jones said coach Jason Garrett's job is safe, win or lose. Despite a bruised right hand, Romo will start for the Cowboys, who have lost three of their past four games.

Scalleat, who finished fourth in the Las Vegas Hilton SuperContest in 2007, scouts the rest of today's Week 17 schedule:

■ Washington at Philadelphia (-8): I look for the Eagles to close the season at 8-8 by winning their last four games. They can go out on a high note and build momentum for next season for coach Andy Reid. Philadelphia's defense allowed only 36 points in wins over the Dolphins, Jets and Cowboys the past three weeks. What do the Redskins have to play for in this one? The Eagles have too many weapons. LeSean McCoy has rushed for 1,309 yards and 17 touchdowns, and I expect him to have a big game in a blowout. I like teams that are 7-8 and playing at home in the last week.

■ Tampa Bay at Atlanta (-10½): The Buccaneers have lost nine in a row, and their offense is stagnant. It's possible quarterback Matt Ryan won't play the whole game for the Falcons, so I'm not sure they will cover. I recommend under the total (46).

■ San Francisco (-10½) at St. Louis: Lay the points with the 49ers, who have incentive to win because they want the NFC's No. 2 seed and the bye. I don't like the Rams. Their offense is terrible except for running back Steven Jackson, who's a heck of a runner stuck on a bad team going nowhere.

■ Chicago at Minnesota (-1½): I bet seven games this week, but this isn't one. The Bears don't have much offense without running back Matt Forte and with Josh McCown at quarterback. If anything, maybe look under the total (41).

■ Detroit (-4) at Green Bay: Aaron Rodgers might not be the quarterback for the Packers, but they can't sit everyone. Green Bay still will put good players on the field, and it's a home game, so I would take the points. The Lions celebrated last week like they won the Super Bowl, so I'll go against them this week.

■ Carolina at New Orleans (-8): If the Saints see the 49ers are pulling away from the Rams, coach Sean Payton might call off the dogs. I'm shocked because I didn't think Cam Newton would be this good as a rookie quarterback for the Panthers. I know the sharp guys are on Carolina, and I'll take the points with the Panthers.

■ Tennessee (-2½) at Houston: This game doesn't mean a lot to the Texans, who could rely a lot on running back Arian Foster. Wide receiver Andre Johnson is expected to start for Houston. But both teams will run the ball, so I'll look under the total (39).

■ Baltimore (-2½) at Cincinnati: The Ravens are 3-4 on the road, and I'm not confident in quarterback Joe Flacco in these situations. I'm going to go with the Bengals because they need the game, and rookie quarterback Andy Dalton is not making mistakes.

■ Pittsburgh (-6½) at Cleveland: Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is probable with a sprained ankle. Pittsburgh can win the AFC North and get a first-round bye with a win and a Baltimore loss, so expect a strong effort. The number is high, so it's not a bet for me, but I could not take the Browns.

■ Indianapolis at Jacksonville (-3½): Of all the rookie quarterbacks, Blaine Gabbert has been a bust for the Jaguars. I can't lay the points. The Colts will come to play, and they will not quit to try to get the No. 1 draft pick. I'll take the underdog.

■ New York Jets at Miami (-3): The Dolphins are 8-1 against the spread in the past nine weeks. They have been playing hard, and they will again in linebacker Jason Taylor's last game. Miami's defense will be all over Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez. I don't like the way the Jets are playing. Running back Reggie Bush is out, but I'm going with the Dolphins as one of my best plays.

■ Buffalo at New England (-10½): There were doubts during the week, but Tom Brady will be the quarterback for the Patriots, who need the win to earn the AFC's top seed. The Bills won the first meeting 34-31 as 7½-point underdogs on Sept. 25, so this is a revenge game. I'm surprised the number is so high. I think they're trying to talk you into betting Buffalo, but I can't do it. I'll side with New England to win big.

■ San Diego at Oakland (-3): The Chargers needed last week's game, but they had a terrible effort at Detroit. The Raiders are one of my plays. They still have a shot at the playoffs. They make a lot of mistakes, but they play hard. Carson Palmer is getting a little better as the veteran quarterback gets used to the system. It's probably the last game for coach Norv Turner, but there's not much motivation for San Diego.

■ Kansas City at Denver (-3): Kyle Orton is coming back to Denver, and that's incentive for the Chiefs. But the Broncos want to beat Orton, their former quarterback, and I think you'll see the best effort from Denver's defense. Romeo Crennel showed last week he's not that good of a coach with poor decisions in Kansas City's loss to the Raiders. I'll back Tim Tebow and the Broncos to run the ball and get the cover.

■ Seattle at Arizona (-3): Both teams are 7-8, and normally I would side with the home team, but I like how the Seahawks are playing. They have covered seven of their past eight games for coach Pete Carroll. Marshawn Lynch has been a tough runner and has 1,118 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground. There might be a quarterback controversy in Arizona. Kevin Kolb got all the money, but John Skelton is getting the wins. I'll take the 'dog.

COMPILED BY MATT YOUMANS/REVIEW-JOURNAL

 

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