Here is what to look for heading into the Week 17 game between the Giants and Cowboys:
1. Season finale. The first year of the Pat Shurmur-Dave Gettleman era comes to a close this Sunday when their New York Giants (5-10) host the NFC East champion Dallas Cowboys (9-6) at MetLife Stadium (1 p.m. ET, FOX). After a 1-7 start, Big Blue has a chance to finish with a winning record in the second half of the season, a small consolation for missing the playoffs. The Giants have four wins since the bye week, one more than they had all of last season.
2. Dallas to play healthy starters. No matter what happens Sunday, the Cowboys are locked into the No. 4 seed in the NFC playoffs after clinching their third division title in five years. With seemingly nothing to lose or gain, coach Jason Garrett, a former backup quarterback for the Giants, still has reiterated his intentions to play everyone as long as they are healthy. “I don’t think it affects anything that we’ll do,” Shurmur said. “That’s certainly a better question for them and he may hold his cards all the way until the end. I expect them to come in and try to win a football game, that’s what I expect. And we’re going to try to do the same, try to beat them at their best and finish the year on a good note.”
3. Beckham out; injury report. The Giants have ruled out five players heading into Sunday’s game, including wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who will miss his fourth consecutive game with a lingering quad injury. He finishes the season with 77 catches for 1,052 yards and six touchdowns in 12 games after playing in just four in 2017. Tight end Rhett Ellison (concussion), linebacker Alec Ogletree (concussion), wide receiver Russell Shepard (ankle) and defensive lineman Mario Edwards (calf) are also out. Linebacker B.J. Goodson (foot), center Spencer Pulley (calf), wide receiver Sterling Shepard (hip) and defensive lineman Kerry Wynn (thumb) are full-go.
4. Saquon for Offensive Rookie of the Year? What was considered a slam dunk just a few weeks ago for Saquon Barkley has become contested by Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield, the first overall pick in this year’s draft. Barkley needs 114 yards in the Giants’ final game to become the third rookie in NFL history with 2,000 yards from scrimmage (Eric Dickerson and Edgerrin James are the others). Mayfield, who has 24 touchdown passes, surpassed Andrew Luck (23 touchdown passes in 2012) for the second-most touchdown passes by a rookie quarterback selected No. 1 overall in the common draft era. Only Peyton Manning had more with 26 in 1998. Cleveland finishes the season at Baltimore, the No. 1 defense in yards and scoring.
5. Eli has a score to settle. Giants quarterback Eli Manning has more completions (601), passing yards (6,953) and touchdown passes (50) against the Cowboys than any other player in NFL history. While on track to finish with a franchise-record 66.5 completion percentage for the year and needing 32 completions to break his own single-season franchise record of 287, Manning could also even his record against the Cowboys. He is 14-15 against them as a starter, including a postseason victory en route to his first Super Bowl title. “Nothing would be better than for him to assume the victory formation and take a knee, and beating the Cowboys,” Shurmur said. “That’s what we’re looking to do.”
6. Cowboys on a hot streak. After a sluggish 3-5 start to the season, the Cowboys have won six of their last seven games. They are allowing just 19.7 yards per game in that stretch and boast the No. 4 scoring defense on the year (Giants faced five of the top six this season). The Cowboys’ offense, meanwhile, is led by running back Ezekiel Elliott, who has a 183-yard lead on Todd Gurley and 236 on Barkley for his second career rushing title. “You never know (laughter),” Barkley said this week of the rushing title. “I’m just kidding, but honestly, you never know.”
Keep an eye on these five players in the Giants' 2018 season finale
7. Solder, Hernandez a perfect fit. The Giants have started seven different offensive linemen this season – at three positions. The other two are veteran left tackle Nate Solder and rookie left guard Will Hernandez, who have played 100 percent of the Giants’ 957 offensive snaps. That is quite an accomplishment in the trenches, where a helmet or shoe coming off could take a player out of the game for a play. “Very rare,” said Shurmur, a former center at Michigan State. “Extremely rare, because equipment, that does happen at times. They do a good job of tying their shoes, I guess.”
8. Hill topper. Sunday will be the last chance for rookies to gain valuable reps before taking off for the winter. Players don’t report back until the offseason workout program begins in mid-April. Barkley and Hernandez typically steal the headlines as the top two picks in the class, but defensive lineman B.J. Hill, the third-round choice, needs a half-sack to break the Giants’ rookie record (5.0), held by Andy Headen in 1983 and Cornelius Griffin in 2000. Note: Lawrence Taylor had 9.5 his rookie season in 1981, one year before sacks became an official statistic.
9. Rosas vs. Gould. There’s nothing like a good old-fashioned kicker competition at the end of the season. Aldrick Rosas, who was recently named to his first Pro Bowl, has a chance to end the season as the most accurate kicker in the NFL. He has missed just one of 31 attempts (96.8 percent), while San Francisco’s Robbie Gould, who played 10 games for the Giants in 2016, also has just one miss but two more attempts (97.0 percent).
10. Draft order, future opponents to be determined. The Giants are currently tied with the Bills in record and strength of schedule, putting them in line for the seventh pick in the upcoming 2019 NFL Draft. Depending on the outcome of Sunday’s games, both teams can range as high as the fourth overall pick to as low as 12th. Meanwhile, all but two of the Giants’ 2019 opponents are set. They are awaiting the same-place finisher in the NFC West, whom they will host, and the same-place finisher in the NFC South, whom they will face on the road.
In addition to those two teams and the usual NFC East suspects, the Giants will host the Packers, Vikings, Bills and Dolphins next season. They will visit the Bears, Lions, Patriots and Jets. The NFL's scheduling formula implemented in 2002 with realignment guarantees that all teams play each other on a regular, rotating basis. Under the NFL’s scheduling formula, every team plays 16 games as follows: home and away against its three division opponents (six games); four teams from another division within its conference on a rotating three-year cycle (four games); four teams from a division in the other conference on a rotating four-year cycle (four games); and two intraconference games based on the prior year’s standings (two games).