Cowboys return to work, know where stand

IRVING, Texas – Jason Garrett isn't one for "global views," in the middle of the season, but with the Dallas Cowboys returning to work today after their bye week it's quite clear where they stand with six games to play.

For the first time this season the Cowboys are not in first place in the NFC East.

The Philadelphia Eagles (6-5) have a half-game lead on the Cowboys with their win against the Washington Redskins on Sunday. If there is a bright spot in falling out of the top spot it is that the Redskins are that much closer to elimination in the division at 3-7.

The Cowboys will face a rejuvenated New York Giants next week after their fourth straight win, a 27-13 decision over the Green Bay Packers. Luck does not appear to be on the Cowboys' side with the Packers having to play third-string quarterback Scott Tolzien against the Eagles and Giants because of an injury to Aaron Rodgers. The Cowboys play Green Bay on Dec. 15 and Rodgers is expected to be back.

By the time the Cowboys walk out of MetLife Stadium, they could be tied with the Giants with five games to play should they lose and in free-fall mode. But for all of the talk about the Giants' dominance at AT&T Stadium before the Cowboys' season-opening win this year, the Cowboys have won two of their three games at MetLife Stadium.

If not for a 90-yard drive in the final minute against the Minnesota Vikings on Nov. 3, the Cowboys would be on a three-game losing streak.

The losses to the Detroit Lions and Denver Broncos eliminated the Cowboys' margin for error. They face a must-win situation on Sunday and possibly must-wins for the rest of the season.

But let's be honest, doesn't it seem like the Cowboys will be playing for the NFC East title in Week 17 for the third straight year when the Eagles visit AT&T Stadium on Dec. 29?

They lost at New York in 2011, and at Washington in 2012. At least this game would be at home.