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Giants and Cowboys have it all on the line

Cowboys running back Murray eyes Dolphins linebacker Wake in Arlington, Texas
Cowboys running back Murray eyes Dolphins linebacker Wake in Arlington, Texas

By Simon Evans

MIAMI (Reuters) - The Dallas Cowboys and the New York Giants clash on Sunday as the battle for playoff spots in the National Football League heats up.

With four games remaining, 28 teams remain in contention for a playoff spot with only the San Francisco 49ers and the Green Bay Packers having booked their slots.

It is a tight battle at the top of the NFC East where the Cowboys (7-5) lead the Giants (6-6) by a game. The two teams meet twice in the last four weeks of the season and so everything is up for grabs.

The Giants head to Dallas on a four-game losing streak but the manner of their narrow defeat to the unbeaten Green Bay Packers last week should give them heart.

"It's a playoff atmosphere the rest of the way and you want to play in must-win games," said Giants quarterback Eli Manning.

"We know if we win out (the four games) then we are in the playoffs. That's exciting and something to look forward to. It starts this week with Dallas," he added.

The Cowboys slipped up last week against the Arizona Cardinals, letting go a chance to put distance between themselves and New York.

New York has had some fun at Dallas's expense over recent seasons, beating them in the 2007 playoffs and winning the opening game at the new Cowboys stadium in 2009.

"Since we lost to them in the playoffs, it's been a battle to the end. So the implications don't really matter ... we like to get after each other. So there'll be some out of character plays sometimes when you see our defense going against their offense," said linebacker Bradie James.

In the AFC, the New England Patriots can book their post-season berth if they can win at the Washington Redskins and if the New York Jets fail at home to Kansas City.

The Patriots have a great record at this stage of the season. Since 2006 they are 18-2 in the final four games of the season and only the San Diego Chargers (19-1) have a more impressive record.

The Houston Texans grab the ASC South if they win at the Cincinnati Bengals and Tennessee loses at home to the New Orleans Saints.

Victory for the Saints, combined with a loss for Atlanta, who are at Carolina, would give New Orleans the NFC South and other scenarios can secure Sean Payton's team a playoff position.

"We've been locked in and focused especially since we know the fourth quarter of the season is coming up, the last four games of the regular season, so we feel like there's a lot of football to be played, a lot of progress to be made," said quarterback Drew Brees.

"The opportunity to win the division, that's one of the first steps in achieving our goals,"

(Editing by Ian Ransom)