How do you figure a game when one team has nothing to play for and the other has everything, like the Dallas Cowboys at the New York Giants?

The Giants, 3-7 five weeks ago, are now 8-7 and host the Cowboys with a chance to make the playoffs if they win and Green Bay loses. Dallas has already clinched the NFC East and is set as the NFC's second-seeded playoff team.So how do you figure the game?

The Cowboys, favored early by 61/2 points but now only a 3-point pick, are clearly the better team - they won 38-10 at Texas Stadium on Nov. 7. And they've won 14 straight against NFC East opponents, the closest a 16-13 overtime win over the Giants in last year's final game - one that gave Dallas the division title.

But Emmitt Smith, who carried the Cowboys last year with a sore shoulder, may make only a token appearance to preserve his streak of consecutive games played. And Michael Irvin could rest, too.

So figure it this way.

Blair Thomas runs for 20 yards in 19 carries, is replaced by Lincoln Coleman, who fumbles twice, and ...

GIANTS, 16-13

New England (pick 'em) at Chicago

Remember the '85 Super Bowl? Bears 46, Patriots 10.

PATS, 46-10.

Detroit (plus 31/2) at Miami

(Sunday night)

Another tough game to figure. Both teams should know by gametime what they need to do. Or don't need to do.


San Francisco (no line)

at Minnesota (Monday night)

The Vikings also will know their situation at gametime. The 49ers almost always tank meaningless games.

VIKINGS, 38-16

Green Bay (minus 6) at Tampa Bay

Easy. The Packers win and makes the playoffs. They can even win the division - with help.

The Bucs? They can avoid 10 losses for the first time in a dozen years.


PACKERS, 20-10

Kansas City (plus 4) at Raiders

Two teams that are better than their records.

Or are they?

RAIDERS, 27-22

Pittsburgh (plus 31/2) at San Diego

The Chargers probably want it more. And a lot of bruised Steelers may rest.


Arizona (minus 3) at Atlanta

The Cardinals are on a roll. But Buddy Ryan's team just needs too much help to make the playoffs.

CARDS, 17-10

Seattle (plus 101/2) at Cleveland

The Browns know where they stand.

BROWNS, 10-9

Philadelphia (pick 'em) at Cincinnati

Rich Kotite's farewell.


Buffalo (plus 3) at Indianapolis

Will the Bills' pride crave .500?

It doesn't matter.

COLTS, 20-14

Washington (plus 31/2) at Rams

Anaheim Farewell?

RAMS, 20-19

New Orleans (no line) at Denver

Elway or no Elway?

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SAINTS, 20-16

Jets (minus 1) at Houston

Jeff Fisher runs the table.

JETS, 8-6

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