NFL Gameday Week 14

MIKE RUTSEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:20 AM ET

TORONTO - Mike Rutsey's need to know information on another NFL Sunday.

MUST WIN

NEW YORK GIANTS

At this time of the season, all teams that are hunting for a playoff spot are in a must-win situation but there are plenty of those teams that can still absorb a loss and live to fight another day.

But not the New York Giants. If they lose Sunday’s game on the road against the Dallas Cowboys it will be all but over for the boys in blue. A loss would be their fifth in a row and drop their record to 6-7 and place them two games back of Dallas (8-5) with just three games to go. A loss and the Giants would have to win out against Washington, a road game against the Jets and a home rematch against Dallas and need some help. A loss and the Giants would need the Cowboys to lose to either Tampa Bay or better yet, Philadelphia, before the season finale, a rematch against Dallas in New York.

That is a scenario that doesn’t hold out a lot of hope and places so much urgency on them to come through on Sunday. The Giants may be in a tailspin but they seem to play their best when they face Dallas. Giants quarterback Eli Manning has won three in a row against the Cowboys while New York coach Tom Coughlin is 5-2 lifetime.

Even with a battered defence, that offers some hope. So too does the up-and-down Cowboys season and the inconsistent play of QB Tony Romo.

TWO TO WATCH

TEXANS AT BENGALS

This is probably a make-or-break game for the Bengals as far as their playoff hopes go. At 7-5, Cincinnati probably needs to finish no worse than 10-6 to make it as a wild-card entry. They play the Ravens on the final weekend of the regular season, so there’s your loss. Following the Texans, the Bengals have St. Louis on the road and a home game against Arizona, two games they should win. The Texans are down to their third quarterback, T. J. Yates and he was good enough last week to beat the Falcons. The Texans, meanwhile, at 9-3 need two more wins or two Tennessee losses to win the division for the first time.

BEARS AT BRONCOS

With a victory over the Bears, Tebow-mania and the Denver Broncos will likely find themselves alone in first place in the AFC West as long as Oakland loses to the Packers in Green Bay. The 7-5 Bears, meanwhile, are fighting for their playoff lives as a wild-card entry in the NFC. So, there’s a lot on the line for both teams. The Bears come limping into Denver as they are without their starting quarterback, Jay Cutler, and top running back, Matt Forte. Caleb Hanie has tossed six interceptions in two games — both losses — as the starting QB. That puts a lot of pressure on the defence.

ENCORE, ENCORE?

— The Baltimore Ravens’ goal in the final weeks is to win out and wrap up the No. 1 seed in the AFC. Hammering the ball on the ground is one of the keys to achieve that goal and that’s where RB Ray Rice comes in. Last week against the Browns, Rice rushed for a career-best 204 rush yards, the fourth highest total for a back in franchise history and the highest total in the AFC this season. Rice now needs just 74 rush yards to reach 1,000 for the third consecutive season. He also leads NFL RBs with 547 receiving yards.

— Carolina Panthers rookie quarterback Cam Newton turned in one of his top efforts in last week’s victory over Tampa Bay. He completed 12 of 21 passes for 204 yards and one touchdown and rushed for 54 yards and three TDs. He has now rushed for a touchdown in nine of his first 12 career games.

— Tim Tebow has been THE story in the second half of the season for his ability to lead comeback win after comeback win for the Denver Broncos. Tebow has now led game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime five times in his first 10 starts. This week Tebow is at home and will work his magic against the Bears.

HEAD-TO-HEAD

Cowboys LB DeMarcus Ware vs. New York Giants offensive line

This is going to be a real tough, sluggo game between two heated rivals with so much on the line. In big games such as this one, it usually brings out the best and if the Cowboys’ DeMarcus Ware brings his A game, that could pose nothing but trouble for Giants quarterback Eli Manning and his team. On the season, Ware has 15 of the Cowboys’ 35 sacks, the 15 sacks tops in the NFL by the way. The Giants, meanwhile, have done a pretty good job at protecting Manning as he has hit the turf just 21 times. They will need to be at their best as Manning is a stay-at-home pocket passer and is not as accurate on the fly.

Broncos QB Tim Tebow vs. Chicago Bears defence

This one could be a lot of fun given the depth of experience on the Bears defensive unit. Stopping Tebow and the Broncos on paper seems to be a simple procedure as you stack the box, stop the run and force Tebow to beat you through the air. The problem is that nobody has quite figured out how to do it and Tebow has gone 6-1 since taking over the quarterback duties. The Bears defence will have to be particularly vigilant and nasty as Chicago’s offence doesn’t figure on scoring many points under the direction of backup QB Caleb Hanie. Tebow has won five in a row and is on a roll. Can’t see how it stops here.

Eagles QB Michael Vick vs. the Turf at Sun Life Stadium in Miami

Vick returns to take over his duties as the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback following a three week absence due to some broken ribs. With Vick back at the controls, the Eagles have a chance to play the playoff spoiler in future games against the New York Jets and Dallas Cowboys but, to do so, he has to stay healthy and upright and that may be a chore against the Dolphins defence. Still, Vick has a plan to remain healthy and that is to make good decisions and to hit the turf before he is drilled into it. “I’m sliding now,” he said this week of how he will conduct himself. “I’m getting down. I’ve made my mind up.”

BY THE NUMBERS

18/20, 240 The fourth-quarter passing stats and yardage of Colts QB Dan Orlovsky in last week’s loss to the Patriots.

97 Rush yards Ravens’ Ricky Williams needs to reach 10,000 in his career.

88 Consecutive games that Tampa TE Kellen Winslow has played where he has recorded at least one reception.

667 Rushing yards gained by Miami’s Reggie Bush this season, the highest total of his career.

5-1 The won-lost record of the Tennessee Titans when they have played against the New Orleans Saints in their past six meetings.

BE A SURVIVOR

I blew it last week with the Bills, so forget about them. This week, they are in San Diego and there’s no way they beat Philip Rivers there. The Carolina Panthers hammered Tampa Bay last week and they could pull an upset Sunday with an upset over the Atlanta Falcons who looked extremely shaky and vulnerable in last week’s loss to Houston. We’ll go with rookie Cam Newton over Matt Ryan and the fading Falcons. Another underdog that could find the sun shining on their faces are the Arizona Cardinals. The Cards stunned Dallas last week and this Sunday they are at home to the San Francisco 49ers, who could still be celebrating after clinching the NFC West last week. Finally, the Bucs looked like a team that has thrown in the towel and we don’t like them on the road, even against Jacksonville.

ROB LONGLEY’S YOU BET

As bad as they’ve been in crawling to a 4-8 record, the Eagles are an underdog for just the third time this season as the host Dolphins are three-point favourites. The Dolphins, meanwhile, are the turnaround team of the NFL, both straight up and against the spread as they’ve cashed six weeks in a row ... It’s been well- documented how the Saints have been so dominant at home, going 6-0 ATS. On the road, it’s a different story though, which is part of the reason they are just a modest three-point choice over Tennessee on Sunday. The Titans are on a 5-1 cover roll and have a tidy 3-0 record versus the spread when they are underdogs ... It will be interesting to see if the Tim Tebow cover train chugs along as a favourite. The Broncos are the three-point home choice over the banged-up Bears but the home team is just 1-4 ATS at Invesco Field so far this season ... The books got a nice break last week when late rallies by Indianapolis and the New York Giants respectively assured that both New England and Green Bay didn’t cover. That hasn’t stopped the flow of money on to the two hugely popular teams this season, however. Green Bay, which opened as 10-point favourites over the Raiders have been bet up to 111/2, while the Patriots started at 71/2 over the Redskins and have hit 81/2 in some places.


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