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Giants' season on the line vs. Cowboys

When the New York Giants' schedule first came out, Justin Tuck figured the two games against the Dallas Cowboys in the final month of the season were going to be huge.

He just didn't think they would matter like this. The Giants (6-6) can win the NFC East and end a two-year playoff drought with two wins over the Cowboys (7-5) and either a win over the Washington Redskins or the New York Jets in the final four games.

Tuck has to love that the NFC East crown will come down to beating Dallas. The defensive end despises the Cowboys, the star on their helmets and just about everything else that goes with the franchise.

"That will never change," Tuck said after signing autographs at a charity toy drive with teammates at Garden State Plaza on Monday. "I just don't like the fact that everybody calls them 'America's team.'"

Tuck hopes that his teammates feel the same way about Dallas. In some ways, the Giants-Cowboys rivalry will be recharged after taking a bit of a backseat to the Giants' border war with Philadelphia in recent years.

Now Giants-Cowboys is back on the prime-time stage with everything at stake. And the Giants say they must bring that same kind of hate, passion and energy they carried into Eagles games in recent years into these final two meetings with Dallas.

"It better be [the same]," safety Antrel Rolle said. "They are in our division, they stand in the way of what are trying to get to. We are trying to bring more to them than we brought to Philly."

The Giants have had the upper hand against Dallas recently, winning five of the past seven meetings, including their playoff game during the 2007 season. They have taken three of the last four in Dallas and have not lost in the new Cowboys Stadium since it opened in 2009.

The Giants may even have a mental hold over the Cowboys, judging by some of the comments emerging from Dallas. Cornerback Mike Jenkins called Brandon Jacobs "a bully," and linebacker DeMarcus Ware talked about the Cowboys having to regain their manhood against New York.

"I hate anytime that we play them," Ware told Dallas reporters on Wednesday. "It's just not the Giants, because guess what, the team is trying to come in here and take your manhood. So it don't matter who you're playing. It's sort of like a battle, gladiator against gladiator, who wants it the most."

When asked whether the Cowboys can get their manhood back against the Giants, Ware said, "We've got to figure out how to get that back."

Jacobs almost sounded astounded when told of the manhood comment.

"They need to get their manhood back?" Jacobs asked. "[If they] felt like they lost it, I don't know what to say about that. I never felt like I lost my manhood. I don't care if we lose 16 straight, I am going to have my manhood. [Ware] is a great player that we really have to play extra attention to. If he felt like he don't have it, I hope he ain't got it this week."

Despite carrying a four-game losing streak into Dallas, the Giants feel as if they regained a good portion of their mojo back after playing undefeated Green Bay down to the final seconds of a 38-35 loss this past Sunday.

It remains to be seen whether that confidence will betray them as it did when they lost to the Eagles at home or dropped a head-scratching loss to the Seahawks at home.

The Giants, though, seem to understand that their season is on the line in Dallas. A split with the Cowboys could mean another postseason-less year, which could certainly have consequences.

"We got to find a way to win," Rolle said. "How [Tim] Tebow goes out there and finds a way to win, we got to find a way to win. We have Eli Manning, baby. That is all we need."

Manning may not talk trash, but he definitely enjoys the Cowboys rivalry. Entering this season, Manning had thrown for more touchdowns (26) and had more 300-yard games against Dallas (four) than any other team in his career.

And he loves playing in Dallas.

"Playing Dallas is a good game," Manning said. "It is a big game, a division game, you know they are talented. [In Dallas, it] is on turf, indoors, always good weather there. All those things make it a good condition so that we can go out there and play well. Hopefully we continue to do that."

Since the Giants and Cowboys square off twice in four games, Manning will know what defensive coordinator Rob Ryan will try to do with his blitzes, and Tony Romo will probably have a good grasp of Perry Fewell's defense as well.

"We are not going to be able to fool them, and hopefully they are not going to be able to fool us," Tuck said. "So it comes down to the team which executes."

And as the Giants have shown, emotion will play a large role. When the Giants come with the right frame of mind, such as when they played New England and Green Bay, they have been at their best.

Finding motivation and energy, as difficult as it has been at times for the Giants this season, shouldn't be a problem against an old division foe.

"The Eagles are going to do a lot of talking … when you are out playing the Cowboys, they tend to try to get into a shoving match with you and do all the extra stuff," Jacobs said when asked to compare the Eagles and Cowboys rivalries. "They try to scare you off early but they are a good football team and we are taking away nothing from them and we are going down there and laying it all on the line. I don't like either one of them."

Tuck and Jacobs hope their hatred for the Cowboys will spread like a virus throughout the Giants' locker room.

Ware already did his best to get Tuck going when the Cowboys' defensive star said Tuck really wants to play for the Cowboys upon being asked about Tuck reportedly saying in 2009 that the new Cowboys Stadium was a dump.

"First of all, I don't know when I called Dallas Cowboys Stadium a dump," Tuck said. "Obviously, they have a pretty nice stadium. And me wanting to be a Cowboy … hmm. I don't wear Wranglers, Cowboy hats or boots or those buckle belts. I don't wear none of that. And I don't need a star on my helmet to tell me I'm pretty good at what I do."

Sounds like the old Giants-Cowboys rivalry is beginning to percolate again, and Tuck wouldn't have it any other way.