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Giants-Cowboys: 5 things to watch in season finale

The curtain closes Sunday afternoon on the New York Giants’ 2018 season. Here are five things to watch as they face the NFC East champion Dallas Cowboys.

Barkley’s assault on history

So many milestones within reach for Saquon Barkley on Sunday.

  • Needs 114 scrimmage yards (1,886) to become the third rookie in NFL history to record 2,000 in a season (Eric Dickerson – 2,212, L.A. Rams, 1983 – 1,808 rushing, 404 receiving & Edgerrin James – 2,139, Indianapolis Colts, 1999 – 1,553 rushing, 586 receiving).
  • Needs one rushing touchdown (10) to surpass Bill Paschal (10 – 1943) for most rushing touchdowns by a rookie in franchise history.
  • Needs 2 rushing yards (1,198) to become the fourth Giants player in franchise history to rush for at least 1,200 yards in a season. In Week 14, Barkley became the first Giants rookie in franchise history to rush for 1,000 yards. Barkley also became the first running back since Ahmad Bradshaw (2012 – 1,015 yards) to rush for 1,000 yards.
  • Needs two catches against the Cowboys to surpass Reggie Bush (88 receptions in 2006) for the most catches by a rookie running back in league history. He also needs five catches to break Odell Beckham, Jr’s Giants rookie record of 91.

“It’s been a great year,” Barkley said. “To even put myself in the position to come into last week to get two catches to break someone who I looked up to growing up, Reggie Bush. To get 2,000 yards, to do this, to do that – like I said, you can’t do it by yourself. You definitely got to give credit to the men around me, especially the guys up front. Especially (QB) Eli (Manning) helping me out as a young guy.

“Not really worried about the records. I care less if I get to 2,000 or if I get the two receptions. I think it’ll be great, it’ll be special for not only myself, but for the team. It would be more special if we get a win.”

How much will Cowboys’ starters play?

There is a reason why the Giants are favored on Sunday. The Cowboys have already clinched the NFC East. They likely play in the wild-card round of the NFC playoffs. Some of their starters won’t play. Others will probably play a limited amount. The only thing important about this game for Dallas is getting through it without sustaining any costly injuries.

The Giants? Pat Shurmur wants to send his team into the offseason on a high note.

“We certainly didn’t succeed in reaching our goals, but this group is not – they aren’t failures. There’s a lot of growth that happened from what was a 3-13 team,” Shurmur told the team’s official website. “I feel like as we finish the season, we need to do it on a right note, so it can catapult us into the offseason where we can then continue to get better and then make the proper progress for next year.”

One last chance to state his case

Will Eli Manning be back next season or won’t he? With better pass protection (15 sacks in the last seven games, 31 sacks over the first eight) and an improved running game, Manning ‘s play has improved as the Giants have gone 4-3. Manning has said he doesn’t know if he will be back, while Shurmur has been complementary toward the 15-year veteran.

The Giants are scoring roughly 8 points per game more over the last seven games than they did the first half of the season.

Manning gets one more opportunity on Sunday to show the Giants that he deserves to be back for a 16th season in 2019, which would make him the first player in Giants’ history to play that many seasons for the franchise.

The scoreboard

Not to figure out which teams will get the final playoff berths. That doesn’t concern the Giants. The games to watch are the ones that could impact the Giants’ position in the 2019 NFL Draft. The Giants are one of four five-win teams entering Week 17. There are three teams with four victories and four with records of 6-9.

If your are laser-focused on quarterback in the draft, the Giants are currently one slot ahead of the Jacksonville Jaguars (5-10) entering the final weekend. The Giants and Jaguars are the two teams many analysts believe most likely to use an early Round 1 pick on a quarterback. The Jaguars face the 10-5 Houston Texans, who have already clinched a playoff berth.

What the stands look like

The Cowboys always travel well, meaning with a fairly large contingent of their own fans in opposing stadiums. With this being a game that has no playoff significance it will be interesting to see how much of MetLife Stadium is filled with Cowboys fans. Or, how much it is filled at all.

The Giants aren’t billing this as some sort of Eli Manning goodbye, though it could be. So, there is no obviously emotional reason for Giants’ fans to turn out.

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