The Dallas Cowboys (6-6) at the Giants (2-10) at the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, N.J. on Sunday, Dec. 10 at 1 p.m. ET.
Ah, the winds of change. Again. They will be brisk, with temperatures in the upper 30s, partly cloudy skies and winds of 15-20 miles per hour.
WHAT IT MEANS
Nothing. And everything. In the standings, of course, the Giants' season is lost. But this will feel like a rebirth now that Jerry Reese and Ben McAdoo have been fired, Steve Spagnuolo has been installed as the interim head coach, and Eli Manning has been re-installed as the starting quarterback.
I know, the Giants' best play would be to lose to solidify their position at the top of the draft. But from the top of the organization on down, they really just want something to feel good about again. I suspect most fans feel the same way, especially with the Cowboys coming to town. A win may hurt their draft status, but it sure would change the mood. And it could even be a boost to the futures of both Spagnuolo and Manning, too.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Giants QB Eli Manning
Well, the 36-year-old quarterback got what he wanted (and what many of the fans wanted, and what almost all of his former teammates wanted) - his old job back. So now his consecutive games started streak begins anew at one as the Giants put their plans to evaluate their younger quarterbacks on the back burner.
But how long will the happy feelings last? Not long if Manning doesn't respond and prove he deserves his second shot as a starter. Right now, everyone's on his side. But with his undermanned offense, he threw for 113 yards in his last start at Washington on Thanksgiving night. He's topped 250 passing yards just once in his last seven starts. He hasn't thrown a touchdown pass since Nov. 12.
Granted, he's not overloaded with weapons. Everyone understands that. But if he's not going to succeed, it's possible that the public tide will turn and everyone will start thinking again that it's in the Giants' best interest to - at least at some point - take a look at rookie Davis Webb.
MATCHUP TO WATCH: Cowboys DE Demarcus Lawrence vs. Giants RT Bobby Hart
The Giants' mess of an offensive line gets another shakeup this week - at least probably - with Hart returning to his old starting job because Justin Pugh (back) is out and Chad Wheeler (concussion) is probably out.
Hart, of course, struggled mightily early in the season, which is why he hasn't started since Oct. 8. Now, he gets thrown back in against Lawrence, who leads the NFL with 13 ½ sacks. Not exactly an easy assignment. And with Jon Halapio playing next to him at right guard, he's not likely to get much help.
Barring a surprise, Manning will find out that the line that made his job impossibly difficult two weeks ago probably is even worse now.
The "gut" feeling here - to borrow from Spagnuolo - is to pick the Giants because this game has the feeling of a bit of a celebration. Reese and McAdoo are gone. Manning is back in the saddle. The expected protests have been quelled and fan anger has at least somewhat been diminished.
So the players will respond, right? … Right? … Well, sure.
McAdoo wasn't exactly Mr. Popularity in the locker room, so some of them are surely relieved he's gone. The return of Manning adds some stability for a team very much in flux. And the jolt of GM/coaching changes surely sent ripples around the locker room to players who know, in the midst of a 2-10 season, that absolutely no one is safe.
The problem, though, is this is the same crummy team with the same overwhelming injury list. Their offensive line is likely to get Manning pounded (if not hurt). The running game is still week. The receivers, with the notable exception of Sterling Shepard if he plays through his hamstring injury, are sketchy. The defense has been crumbling all season, especially against the run. And though the Giants are motivated, to be sure, so are the Cowboys who are clinging to their playoff hopes.
So, expect the Giants to give a terrific effort, to fight until the end, to stay in the game longer than expected. But in the end, talent is usually what matters in the NFL. And the Giants just don't have enough, no matter who their head coach is. … Cowboys 24, Giants 20.
MY RECORD: 6-6
MY RECORD WHEN PICKING THE GIANTS TO WIN: 0-4
MY RECORD WHEN PICKING THE GIANTS TO LOSE: 6-2