Mention the Dallas Cowboys, and Justin Tuck doesn't hide the feelings of the New York Giants. "They hate us and we hate them," the defensive end said in all seriousness.
That's just the way it is for games between America's Team and the Giants. It's the All-Pros against the All-Joes. It's glitz vs. blue collar. It's the outspoken Jerry Jones against the tradition-laden Mara and Tisch families.
Make no mistake, despite being Super Bowl champions, the Giants carry a chip about anything having to do with Dallas.
That's why this Sunday may be a get-even day for the Giants.
Picked to finish behind Dallas in the preseason polls, the Giants (6-1) head into the midpoint of the season with a chance to bury the injury-ravaged Cowboys (5-3) in the NFC East. A win over Tony Romo-less Cowboys would open a three-game lead in the division and leave Dallas with plenty to worry about heading into its bye week.
"We don't get the respect that other people get," Giants middle linebacker Antonio Pierce said. "We got names, but some people have bigger names and get more credit. For us, that doesn't matter. I want some more hardware and we're working on that this season, winning the division and getting to the playoffs."
This just has not been Dallas' year, on or off the field.
Injuries have devastated the lineup and more off-field problems led to the suspension of troubled cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones.
The biggest injury is Romo. The quarterback will miss his third game this weekend with a broken right pinkie and be replaced by Brad Johnson.
Safety Roy Williams and punter Mat McBriar are out for the season, and the Cowboys have several other starters who are question marks: tight end Jason Witten (ribs), cornerback Anthony Henry (thigh) and guard Kyle Kosier (foot).
Instead of looking to get a measure of revenge for their playoff loss to New York in January, the Cowboys are merely trying to hang on entering their break.
"We've dealt with so much already this season that we hadn't had time to think about that at all," Cowboys defensive end Marcus Spears said of the playoff loss. "It's done, they're Super Bowl champs and we have to gain our respect back from them because right now, they're the best team in football until another one is crowned."
The Giants are coming into the game off an impressive 21-14 win against the Steelers in Pittsburgh. It was a typical New York game, with no mistakes on offense, making just enough plays, and pounding quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
"It's a team that presents a lot of challenges for us," Dallas defensive end Chris Canty said. "A win would do a lot for us. I don't think anybody's going into this game thinking that it's going to be anything but a dogfight. I don't think anybody in this locker room goes into this game saying that that football team is going to roll over. They're going to fight us to the end, they've always been like that, so there's no reason to expect anything else."
Giants coach Tom Coughlin has gone out of his way this week to say how much talent Dallas has, pointing out it played an excellent game in beating Tampa Bay Buccaneers 13-9 last weekend. He noted Johnson did not turn the ball over and the Cowboys' defensive front seven is as good as any in the league.
Coughlin also shot down any talk about opening a three-game lead.
"We haven't talked about that," he said. "I don't usually talk about the standings in our division until the end of the week and we all know they are 5-3. I don't know if I will put it in those kinds of words, but they know the significance of the game."
With Romo sidelined and Witten bruised, the Giants seemingly are not focusing their attention on receivers Roy Williams, recently acquired from Detroit, and Terrell Owens. The defense wants to stop halfback Marion Barber.
If New York can shut down the running game, it feels it can put more pressure on Johnson.
"Obviously Marion Barber is an elite back in this business," Pierce said. "You watch him week in and week out and he is a tough back to bring down for everybody. He is a phenomenal back, so for us as linebackers and linemen, we have to take pride in showing that we can stop the run and then we can talk about that other quarterback."
Johnson has not put up big numbers filling in for Romo. He is 36-of-67 for 356 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions. His quarterback rating is a measly 60.3.
Cowboys coach Wade Phillips admitted the coaching staff has been conservative the past two games.
"I think that was part of it, and part of it was that Tampa is pretty good on defense," Phillips said. "I don't know if anybody knows that, but they are a pretty good defensive team. And we played fairly conservative and they played well defensively and they gave us some problems."
There were reports that Phillips was considering using Brooks Bollinger this weekend if Johnson ran into problems, but the coach said Johnson is not on thin ice.
"I have really just kind of focused in on taking care of myself and trying to help this team win," Johnson said. "Last week was that kind of a case and I'm just trying to play smart football and give our team a chance to win. So that is really the only thing I can focus on, not really what people want to get conjured up."
The Cowboys won both regular-season games with the Giants last season before losing 21-17 in the playoffs. In both wins, the Cowboys rolled on offense, scoring a combined 76 points. New York's defense found itself late in the season and shut down its opponents with a big pass rush.
The one thing both teams agree is this is going to be one of those games where you are black and blue the next day. By then, some of the hatred will probably be forgotten.
"I think Tuck would be the first to tell you if he saw Tony Romo on the golf course, they'd talk, they'd be friends," Giants defensive tackle Barry Cofield said. "What we experience is not hate in the sense of maybe wanting to kill each other. Symbolically, it's just a fierce rivalry. We play each other twice a year, every year, and there is going to be great rivalry. It's probably fun for the fans, and fun for the players, too."