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Fact or Fiction: Best individual & team rivalries

FACT-OR-FICTION-COWBOYS

The Giants.com crew is presented with four statements and must decide whether they are Fact or Fiction.

In honor of Duke vs. UNC meeting in the Final Four, the greatest Giants rivalry is with the Cowboys.

John Schmeelk: Fiction – The two rivalries are similar in that the two teams have played so many important regular season contests but rarely face each other in the postseason. The Giants and Cowboys have only one playoff matchup, coming after the 2011 season. The Blue Devils and Tar Heels will meet for the first time in the NCAA tournament this year. There's a difference though: geography. Duke and North Carolina are virtually right next door to one another, which makes their rivalry much more similar to the Giants-Eagles rivalry with the teams only a little more than an hour away from one another on the Turnpike. I'm going Giants-Eagles since the fan bases are so close to one another and have real animus for one another.

Dan Salomone: Fact – There's a reason the Giants and Cowboys open the season against each other more times than not and often get a primetime slot when they meet. While it may not have the animosity of the Eagles rivalry, the lights are just a little brighter when the Giants and Cowboys play. But what do I know? I'm from the Midwest.

Lance Medow: Fiction – I think it's easy to go with the Cowboys, but there's actually more history between the Giants and Eagles. It's a far more balanced rivalry with Philadelphia leading the all-time series 89-87-2. The latter matchup goes all the way back to the 1930s. In comparison, Dallas has won 71 of the 120 meetings against the Giants and they've only met once in the postseason compared to four times with Philly. There are so many notable moments between New York and Philadelphia, including Cuck Bednarik's hit on Frank Gifford in November 1960, The Miracle at the Meadowlands in November 1978, Michael Strahan's game-winning 44-yard interception return for a score in overtime in October 1999, Brian Westbrook's 84-yard punt return for a game-winning score in October 2003, Giants collecting 12 sacks against Donovan McNabb in September 2007 and DeSean Jackson's game-winning 65-yard punt return for a touchdown to cap a stunning rally in December 2010. I could add plenty more to that list.

Matt Citak: Fiction – This one could go either way between the Cowboys and Eagles. But due to recent years, especially Week 17 of the 2020 season, I'm going with the Eagles. Of the 178 games in the all-time series between the division rivals, Philadelphia currently holds a very slight edge over the Giants. The Eagles have won 89 total games against the Giants, while Big Blue has emerged victorious 87 times. The two teams have also tied twice. With such a short drive separating the two, similar to Duke and UNC, the rivalry between the Giants and Eagles takes the cake as the greatest Giants rivalry.

Lawrence Taylor was the most dominant athlete in his respective sport to come out of UNC.

John Schmeelk: Fiction – Dan, really? You serve this question up to Lance Medow on a silver platter like this? I'm guessing he sent in 8,000 words on Michael Jordan as a response to this question. So, I'll just agree that it's Jordan and tell you to go read his answer.

Dan Salomone: Fact – There's an argument to be made, but I just like annoying Lance. I'll leave it there.

Lance Medow: Fiction – When Michael Jordan is a graduate of your school, I'm sorry, but everyone takes a back seat to him. Lawrence Taylor is right up there, but let's not also forget what Jordan accomplished in college in comparison to Taylor even before he entered the NBA. Jordan earned ACC Freshman of the Year in 1982 before hitting the game-winning jump shot in the national championship game against Georgetown. He was named an All-American in his sophomore and junior years and also claimed the Naismith and Wooden College Player of the Year awards in 1984. I understand Giants fans' allegiance to Taylor, but when you look at the college and then add in the pro resumes of the two, it's not even close.

Matt Citak: Fiction – I really wanted to go fact on this one, as Taylor's collegiate career at UNC consisted of an ACC Player of the Year award, Unanimous All-American selection and having his No. 98 jersey retired. But I don't see how one could not give this honor to Michael Jordan. Jordan racked up the accolades while playing for the Tar Heels. He was named ACC Rookie of the Year, twice selected as First-Team All-ACC, twice selected as Consensus First-Team All-American, ACC Player of the Year and National College Player of the Year, while also helping UNC win a NCAA championship. As great as Lawrence's collegiate resume is, Jordan's career at UNC takes the crown.

The best photos of Hall of Fame linebacker Lawrence Taylor, who was named to the NFL 100 All-Time Team

The best individual rivalry in Giants history is Osi Umenyiora vs. LeSean McCoy.

John Schmeelk: Fiction – I'm going to go back to Phil Simms and Ronnie Lott. The Giants and 49ers were constant foils for one another in the late 80s and early 90s, and the rivalry culminated with a Monday Night Football game in 1990 where Simms and Lott had a confrontation on the field. It turned out to be a bit of a Jim Burt false-flag operation that quickly fizzled, but it was a nice exclamation point on the Giants-49ers rivalry from the era.

Dan Salomone: Fiction – What's better than Eli Manning vs. Tom Brady? I don't think that Brady, even though he is the most accomplished athlete in the history of sports, will ever get over Manning spoiling his perfect season. They can joke about it all the way to Canton, but something tells me Brady wakes up at night thinking about it.

Lance Medow: Fiction – I'll stay within the Eagles-Giants matchup but go with Michael Strahan vs. Jon Runyan. Those two went at it at least twice a year for eight straight seasons in the trenches, and Strahan even acknowledged Runyan in his Hall of Fame speech in 2014: "You made me a student to study my opponent, to learn my opponent better than they knew themselves. And even though everybody thinks that I had so many battles against you and I was winning and everything - well, I was –but you, you won quite a bit of battles, man." There was a mutual respect between the two and Strahan added that Runyan was the toughest player he faced on a consistent basis. I also think it's hard to go with a defensive lineman and a running back considering Osi Umenyiora wasn't the only player responsible for slowing down LeSean McCoy in comparison to a tackle against a defensive end.

Matt Citak: Fact – Fans may not remember this one too well, as the tension between Umenyiora and McCoy reached its peak a full decade ago. But the beef between the Giants defensive end and Eagles running back was real. The two went back and forth repeatedly in the press before backing up their trash talk on the field. Umenyiora had more sacks, tackles for loss and QB hits against the Eagles than any other team, while the Giants are the only team in the league that McCoy topped 1,000 yards rushing against.

The best semifinal game in team history was the 2007 NFC Championship Game.

John Schmeelk: Fact – The 2007 NFC Championship Game is my favorite Giants game I have ever been involved in. The setting and weather in Lambeau Field is unmatched. It was an utterly unique experience against a team that was 13-3 with Brett Favre playing what ended up being his final game as a Green Bay Packer. It went into overtime and ended in dramatic fashion. What's not to love?

Dan Salomone: Fact – The one thing that the 2007 conference title game has that 2011 doesn't is it resonates outside the Giants' bubble. To this day, commentators and studio hosts can't talk about a bad-weather game without bringing up Tom Coughlin's face at Lambeau Field.

Lance Medow: Fiction – You can easily make a case for the 2007 and 2011 NFC Championship Games because they're both thrilling overtime affairs that were impacted by weather so you really can't go in the wrong direction with either. I'll give the 2011 game an edge to finish off the fiction sweep this week. Eli Manning took an absolute beating in that game and there were so many plays within all three facets of football that influenced the outcome of the contest. From plays in the trenches, to special teams to Ahmad Bradshaw's forward progress in overtime, a different call or a different bounce and we could easily have a very different outcome.

Matt Citak: Fact – I almost went fiction on this one due to the 2011 NFC Championship Game, but ended up giving the nod to the 2007 NFC title game. The Packers entered this game as the favorite by over a touchdown. Combine that with frigid conditions of a wind chill of minus-23 degrees and this game was set up to be a disaster for the Giants. However, Tom Coughlin's squad was able to prevail, as a Corey Webster interception in overtime set up Lawrence Tynes' game-winning 47-yard field goal, sending the Giants to their epic matchup against the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII.

Photos from the career of two-time Super Bowl MVP quarterback Eli Manning