A play for mo­men­tum

Stamford Advocate (Sunday) - - Nfl -

EAST RUTHER­FORD, N.J. — The NFL rush­ing ti­tle will be on the line with Ezekiel El­liott and Saquon Barkley on the field. There is a chance this could be Eli Man­ning’s fi­nal start for the team he led to two Su­per Bowl ti­tles in the last 15 years.

Not bad for a some­what mean­ing­less reg­u­lar-sea­son fi­nale be­tween the NFC East cham­pion Dal­las Cow­boys (9-6) and the strug­gling New York Giants (5-10) at MetLife Sta­dium on Sun­day.

The big-name in­ter­est points don’t ap­peal to Cow­boys coach Ja­son Gar­rett and Giants coach Pat Shur­mur. Both want wins and mo­men­tum.

Gar­rett wants the mo­men­tum for the Cow­boys’ wild-card play­off home game against ei­ther Seat­tle, Min­nesota or the Ea­gles next week­end. He plans on play­ing just about ev­ery­one who is healthy this week­end.

Fin­ish­ing his first sea­son as the coach of a team that has missed the play­offs the past two years and six of seven, Shur­mur wants to build for next year. The Giants have al­ready won two more games than in 2017, and they are 4-3 since their bye week.

“We think it’s im­por­tant to prac­tice well and go play well in a game like this,” said Gar­rett, whose team has gone 6-1 down the stretch to win the divi­sion for the sec­ond time in three years. “We’ve been in the sit­u­a­tion a cou­ple times in re­cent years and you have to han­dle them a lit­tle dif­fer­ently based on the avail­abil­ity that you have of your play­ers, but typ­i­cally if a player’s not healthy enough to play he’s not go­ing to play. But the other guys are go­ing to play.”

Gar­rett said his coach­ing staff will be fin­ished break­ing down the three po­ten­tial play­off op­po­nents this week.

Shur­mur isn’t tak­ing any so­lace that the Giants have lost some close games.

“The fact that we fight un­til the end is what I think is im­por­tant,” he said. “Now, when there’s a vic­tory to be had, we’ve got to go take it, and I think that’s part of learn­ing and part of what we need to do bet­ter.”

Here are some things to watch:

ELI’S SWAN SONG?

Man­ning has been the Giants’ start­ing quar­ter­back since the mid­dle of his rookie sea­son in 2004. The soon-to-be 38-year-old led New York to Su­per Bowl ti­tles in the 2007 and ’11 sea­sons. He has one more year on a con­tract that will pay him more than $22 mil­lion next sea­son. There is no heir ap­par­ent on the ros­ter, but Man­ning’s draw­back is his lack of mo­bil­ity. It will be a fo­cal point to see what the Giants do af­ter the sea­son and also how the crowd re­acts to Man­ning on Sun­day.

AWARDS, RECORDS

El­liott en­ters the fi­nal week with a 183-yard lead over Todd Gur­ley and a 236-yard ad­van­tage over Barkley for the rush­ing ti­tle. Barkley needs 114 yards from scrim­mage to join Eric Dick­er­son (2,212 yards in 1983) and Edger­rin James (2,139 in 1999) as the only rook­ies with at least 2,000 scrim­mage yards in NFL his­tory. He also needs two catches to sur­pass Reg­gie Bush (88 re­cep­tions in 2006) for the most by a rookie run­ning back in the league an­nals.

Dar­ron Cum­mings / As­so­ci­ated Press

Giants run­ning back Saquon Barkley eludes Colts corner­back Kenny Moore in a Dec. 23 game.

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