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Cowboys-Giants will decide division in 2011 grand finale

Parting is such sweet sorrow. Alas, I can't believe it will be nine months before we get our next full slate of 16 games. Time flies when you're having fun and all of that good stuff.

But at least we go out with a huge divisional week. Nothing but games between division rivals, and many of them with significant playoff ramifications. The Sunday night game, the final game of this regular season, is the perfect way to cap off what has been a memorable campaign -- Cowboys-Giants with everything at stake. The AFC North and AFC West will also come down to the final day of the year (playoff picture | clinching scenarios).

We have a few quarterbacks taking aim at Dan Marino's single-season yardage record. We have Cam Newton completing a rookie season for the ages (with Andy Dalton and A.J. Green making history as well, and playing in the biggest game of their young careers). San Francisco has had its best season in a decade.

After all of the uncertainty of last winter, spring and summer with the lockout, this has been a memorable year on so many levels, and the best is still yet to come in the postseason.

Remember, games here are rated as either a footlong, a six-inch, a pita or a finger sandwich.

    • Dallas at New York

      Sun 8:20 p.m. ET, NBC Get Tickets
    • Why to watch:

      Winner takes the division; loser will have a coach asked questions about job security. It's as simple as that. A one-game season for the most part for superiority in what has been an inferior division.
    • Inside slant:

      If either team can run the ball, and it's been hit-or-miss for both, that could be the difference. Expect the Giants to hunt Tony Romo's swollen hand whenever possible. Miles Austin has had a quiet, injury-filled season but could salvage a lot in this homecoming. Could Dez Bryant pull a DeSean Jackson on Tom Coughlin on a return in this regular-season, prime-time finale? Hakeem Nicks must shake his case of the drops. New York has been at home pretty much all of December, which should help its cause.
    • Rating:

      Footlong
    • Watch: Game Preview
    • Baltimore at Cincinnati

      Sun 4:15 p.m. ET, CBS Get Tickets
    • Why to watch:

      If the Ravens lose and Pittsburgh wins, then Baltimore -- despite having swept the Steelers -- would lose the division and open the playoffs on the road. The Bengals win and they clinch a playoff spot, which would mean three AFC North teams are in the dance.
    • Inside slant:

      A.J. Green missed the first meeting, which the Bengals narrowly lost. Baltimore's once-stout run defense has been sagging the last two weeks, but Cedric Benson is struggling. Baltimore's tight ends must overcome the loss of Anquan Boldin. Joe Flacco hit several explosive plays downfield in the first meeting, but in three career games at Paul Brown Stadium he has just a 58 passer rating, with three touchdowns and six interceptions, completing just 54 percent of his passes. All four of Baltimore's losses have come on the road.
    • Rating:

      Footlong
    • Watch: Game Preview
    • Kansas City at Denver

      Sun 4:15 p.m. ET, CBS Get Tickets
    • Why to watch:

      Broncos waive Kyle Orton; rival Chiefs claim him. If Orton beats the Broncos, he could keep Denver and Tebow Time out of the playoffs after a miracle surge for eight weeks.
    • Inside slant:

      Tim Tebow has been a turnover machine during a two-game losing streak after protecting the ball incredibly well, and Denver's defense is slipping as well (Von Miller hasn't been right since his hand injury). The Chiefs are likely to attack in the run game. Tamba Hali is rushing the passer as well as anyone in the NFL in the second half of the season. We all know what Matt Prater can do kicking field goals in the altitude at Mile High. Both of these teams have seen their share of late-game field goal blocks and heroics.
    • Rating:

      Footlong
    • Watch: Game Preview
    • New York at Miami

      Sun 1:00 p.m. ET, CBS Get Tickets
    • Why to watch:

      Rex Ryan is a polarizing figure, and a loss here ends the Jets' playoff hopes (they're going to need plenty of help, regardless). The Dolphins have been the better team down the stretch and are playing hard for interim coach Todd Bowles.
    • Inside slant:

      Mark Sanchez has been a nightmare the past two weeks, and questions about his future will ring more loudly with another stinker here. Miami is the more dominant power-running team; who would have thought that at the start? Reggie Bush is capping a career year. Matt Moore needs to shake off a few costly turnovers that helped erase a big lead at New England and led to defeat. The Jets' point differential is plus-16; Miami's is plus-14, which is shocking after their seven straight losses to open the season.
    • Rating:

      Footlong
    • Watch: Game Preview
    • Tennessee at Houston

      Sun 1:00 p.m. ET, CBS Get Tickets
    • Why to watch:

      Houston needs to show something heading into the postseason; Tennessee needs to beat a division foe to keep wild-card hopes alive.
    • Inside slant:

      Which T.J. Yates will show up? The Titans can play press-man coverage and make plays on the ball, which could be problematic for the rookie QB. Chris Johnson has been much better in November and December. Arian Foster has been putting the ball on the ground all of a sudden the past few weeks.
    • Rating:

      Six-inch
    • Watch: Game Preview
    • Detroit at Green Bay

      Sun 1:00 p.m. ET, FOX Get Tickets
    • Why to watch:

      Detroit comes in off its best game of the season, and will be eager for a win after blowing the first matchup here (Ndamukong Suh's suspension, remember that?). Green Bay, with nothing to play for, is expected to rest a bunch of starters.
    • Inside slant:

      Matthew Stafford is having an All-Pro type season, and when his hand has been 100 percent he's been a top-five QB. Brandon Pettigrew will get a ton of targets. Could be a nice free-agent showcase for Packers backup QB Matt Flynn, but with Green Bay's offensive line issues against this defensive line, it could be problematic as well.
    • Rating:

      Six-inch
    • Watch: Game Preview
    • Tampa Bay at Atlanta

      Sun 4:15 p.m. ET, FOX Get Tickets
    • Why to watch:

      Could the Buccaneers end the season with 10 straight defeats, many of them blowouts? The Falcons are looking to solidify their wild-card seeding, after getting drubbed in New Orleans.
    • Inside slant:

      Who can forget the first meeting, when the Falcons jumped offside on defense, costing them a chance to get the ball late and make a comeback. These teams have gone in opposite directions since then. Tampa's defense has been brutal, but Matt Ryan has been preyed on by the Bucs' secondary in the past -- he has nine picks against them, nearly twice as many as against any other foe.
    • Rating:

      Six-inch
    • Watch: Game Preview
    • Pittsburgh at Cleveland

      Sun 4:15 p.m. ET, CBS Get Tickets
    • Why to watch:

      Pittsburgh needs a win to keep division title hopes alive; Cleveland would love to derail its hated rival.
    • Inside slant:

      Ben Roethlisberger injured his ankle against the Browns a few weeks back, and he could be on the sideline for this one, needed only in case of emergency. Expect heavy doses of the run game by the Steelers, especially if Charlie Batch is under center. Seneca Wallace is making some plays on the run for the Browns. Greg Little, when he holds onto the ball, can be a handful. Peyton Hillis is having a very strong December and trying to take some momentum into free agency. The Browns have given the Steelers and Ravens tough games this month, though they lost both.
    • Rating:

      Six-inch
    • Watch: Game Preview
    • Seattle at Arizona

      Sun 4:15 p.m. ET, FOX Get Tickets
    • Why to watch:

      Two teams that have salvaged something from what looked like lost seasons. The winner can finish .500 despite a horrible start.
    • Inside slant:

      You can fully expect Kevin Kolb to start this game barring a setback in his concussion recovery. It would be big for him to make a nice statement at the end with a $7 million bonus upcoming in March. Marshawn Lynch continues to find the end zone every week for Seattle in a contract year. A Seahawks win and they surpass last year's division-winning victory total.
    • Rating:

      Pita
    • Watch: Game Preview
    • Carolina at New Orleans

      Sun 1:00 p.m. ET, FOX Get Tickets
    • Why to watch:

      New Orleans is so good at home and holding out hope for a first-round playoff bye; the Panthers made some strides this season. They have six wins, but really deserve to be .500. Oh, and if you miss your final chance to watch Cam Newton in 2011, shame on you.
    • Inside slant:

      The Saints are keeping hope alive for the first-round bye, and don't expect Drew Brees to stop his assault on the record books. Newton's impact: The Panthers have 64 completions of 20 yards or more, fourth in the NFL (more than the Saints); last year they were dead last with 30. After a horrible start, DeAngelo Williams is averaging 7.4 yards per carry with four TDs in his past three games.
    • Rating:

      Pita
    • Watch: Game Preview
    • Washington at Philadelphia

      Sun 1:00 p.m. ET, FOX Get Tickets
    • Why to watch:

      The "Dream Team" can cull something from this season and at least finish 8-8, while the Redskins head into another offseason with probing questions about scheme and quarterback.
    • Inside slant:

      Brent Celek is becoming one of Michael Vick's favorite targets after not getting as many looks in 2010. LeSean McCoy is licking his chops after the Vikings pummeled the Redskins on the ground last week. A win and the Eagles go 5-1 in the division, while the NFC East winner, whether it's Dallas or New York, would be in at 3-3.
    • Rating:

      Pita
    • Watch: Game Preview
    • Buffalo at New England

      Sun 1:00 p.m. ET, CBS Get Tickets
    • Why to watch:

      Buffalo pulled off the upset early in the season, leading to heady times and lighting a fire under contract talks with QB Ryan Fitzpatrick. Then came a deep losing funk. If the Patriots win, they lock up the first overall playoff seed in the AFC.
    • Inside slant:

      Bill Belichick isn't one to pull his starters, is he? Even if this gets out of hand you wonder if/when Tom Brady and Co. depart. C.J. Spiller finally is showing the speed and elusiveness that led Buffalo to draft him so high in the first round a few years back. The Bills picked off Brady four times in September and got Tim Tebow four times last week. Brady also threw four TDs in that game, however.
    • Rating:

      Finger sandwich
    • Watch: Game Preview

Follow Jason La Canfora on Twitter @jasonlacanfora.

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