Unspoken Dislike

IRVING, Tex. - It's no secret that the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Giants don't exactly like each other.

Such is the nature of the relationship between division rivals.

In recent years, the Giants have been more vocal about their disdain for the Cowboys, but the teams have had some epic battles over the years, often with postseason implications hanging in the balance.

The argument could be made that no matchup in the regular season could be bigger than Sunday night's regular-season finale, when the Cowboys visit the Giants Sunday night. The winners of the game will claim the NFC East crown and go on to the postseason. The losers will start reserving tee times and make flight reservations out of town.

Considering the stakes of the game, the chatter from the participants has been relatively mild. New York defensive end Justin Tuck said this week that he still hates the Cowboys. Running back Brandon Jacobs, who traditionally is one of the most vocal members of either team when discussing opponents. This week, just for good measure, he took a few potshots at Dallas fans, too.

But the Cowboys are not being drawn into a war of words. When told about Tuck's comment, linebacker DeMarcus Ware said he didn't care. Defensive end Marcus Spears took the diplomatic act one step further.

"I love Brandon Jacobs." Spears said with a smirk. "He's my best friend — we're both from Louisiana."

Having served up the polite comment that sounded almost like something head coach Jason Garrett would say, Spears acknowledged the level of intensity that can be expected Sunday night, with or without verbal barbs from the players on either team.

"Me and Jason Hatcher are best friends," Spears said, looking at his teammate whose locker is a few feet away from his own. "But if he played for Washington or New York, of course I'm going to try to beat him. (Former Dallas defensive end) Stephen Bowen is one of my best friends, but I'm pretty sure he wasn't cheering for Dallas when we played (the Redskins) this year."

Spears said that despite the friendships that exist throughout the league, it is not hard to separate off-the-field relationships with players on other teams and the focus needed to when teams face off.

"You're trying to beat each other's heads in," he said. "We compete — we're competitors. Some things happen on the field that probably shouldn't, but that's because of the intensity. You want to do anything possible to make a play.

"It's the Giants and the Cowboys. It's age-old. You (media) guys could write this story before you even talk to us."

The thing that makes this week's game different from a regular Dallas-New York grudge match, Spears said, is the win-or-go-home stakes that will force players on both teams to keep their emotions in check — if possible — so they don't end up costing their own teams with foolish penalties. If a hit after the whistle drew a flag that cost one team a game in October, that's one thing. But what if a late hit costs a team a trip to the postseason?

"When you bring in personal fouls, and stuff like that, that can affect the game," Spears said. "You can bring disdain (for the opposing team) and things like that into the game, but getting penalties after the whistle can hurt your team. In a game like this, you just can't afford to do that.

"You know it's going to get a little chippy when (the Giants and Cowboys) get together, but at the end of the day, you can't give in to that stuff."

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