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NY Sports Update January 3rd, 2012: Giants advance to playoffs, Jets are out of the race, Islanders and Rangers win while the Knicks struggle

LongIsland.com

Giants Advance; Jets Finished; Islanders Strong at Home, Rangers Win on the Road; Knicks Struggle Out of the Gate

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Giants Advance; Jets Finished

With a 31-14 victory over the Dallas Cowboys, the New York Giants are heading to the playoffs as NFC East division champions.

The Giants (9-7) dominated the first half, taking a 21-0 lead on the strength of three touchdowns. The Cowboys made things interesting in the second half, narrowing the deficit to 21-14, but New York responded with 10 points in the final quarter to secure the win.

Giants quarterback Eli Manning completed his 15th fourth-quarter touchdown pass of the season, breaking an NFL record previously shared by his older brother Peyton and Colts legend Johnny Unitas. Manning had one of his best games of the season, completing 24 of his 33 passes for 346 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.

Wide receiver Victor Cruz had another excellent game, catching six passes for 178 yards including a 74-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter. Cruz finished the regular season with 82 receptions and 1,536 yards, both team records.

The Jets, meanwhile, saw their season come to a close with a 19-17 loss to the Miami Dolphins. Quarterback Mark Sanchez threw three interceptions, each of which resulted in a Dolphins field goal, while the Jets defense gave up six third-down conversions during Miami's 94-yard touchdown drive.

The Jets (8-8) end the season in second place in the AFC East. It was a heartbreaking finish for a team that contended for most of the year but lost all of its last three games.

While the Jets go home, the Giants will host the Atlanta Falcons (10-6) this Sunday at 1:00 PM in round one of the NFC playoffs.

Islanders Strong at Home; Rangers Win on the Road

2011 ended well for both New York hockey teams. The Islanders closed out December with back-to-back wins at home, defeating the Calgary Flames 3-1 on the 29th and the Edmonton Oilers 4-1 on the 31st.

In a pregame ceremony on the 31st, the Islanders honored former defenseman and current director of pro scouting Ken Morrow with an induction to the team's Hall of Fame.

Islanders power forward Matt Martin scored his fourth goal of the season and drew two critical power plays. Matt Moulson, playing in his 200th consecutive game as an Islander, contributed three points.

After a tough 4-1 road loss to the Washington Capitals, the Rangers finished December with a 4-1 win over the Florida Panthers and started the New Year with a 3-2 victory over the Flyers in the 2012 Winter Classic.

Playing at Citizens Bank Park, the Flyers took a 2-0 lead midway through the second period on consecutive goals from Brayden Schenn and Claude Giroux. It was all Rangers for the rest of the game, though, as center Mike Rupp contributed his second and third goals of the season to tie it at two. Brad Richards scored the winning goal.

The Islanders (13-17-6) hope to continue their winning ways on the road in Carolina on Tuesday. The Rangers (24-9-4) will host the Panthers Thursday night.

Knicks Struggle Out of the Gate

After defeating the Celtics on Christmas Day, the Knicks have dropped three of their last four games, including a tough loss Monday night against Toronto.

The Raptors started the game strong, taking a 51-34 lead into the second half thanks in part to 16 points from DeMar DeRozan. New York narrowed the gap in the final quarter but couldn't quite complete the comeback, losing 90-85.

Carmelo Anthony came up with another excellent performance for New York, leading all scorers with 35 points, but it wasn't quite enough as the Knicks fell to 2-3 on the season.

The Knicks will try to get back to .500 as they host Charlotte on Wednesday.