Big Blue Morning: Dreaming big dreams

Your daily morning check-in on news and notes about and of interest to the New York Giants:

The news of the day: It's Cowboys week, which means everybody's amped up, especially Jason Pierre-Paul, who is expecting... bloodshed? I mean, I'm sure there'll be cuts and bruises as there are in any NFL game, but sheesh. Still almost a whole week to go. Let's pace ourselves, shall we? A more level-headed Jon Beason spoke on a conference call Monday of the Giants' belief that they can keep winning and remain relevant in a weak NFC East race, saying "If you're a confident player or a confident team, then the sky is really the limit." And if you'll permit a shameless plug, I wrote this column Monday saying that, if this Giants team really can cash in this resurgence and reach this year's playoffs, there should be no more doubt that Tom Coughlin is the best coach in the league. The point isn't that they're all that great all of a sudden; it's that they kept their focus and didn't fall apart under circumstances that would have caused other teams to do so. Coughlin knows how to manage and solve problems as well as any coach in the league, and that's the soul of coaching, I think.

Behind enemy lines: A Cowboys defense that gave up 40 first downs and 625 yards (neither is a misprint) in its most recent game Nov. 10 in New Orleans could be getting some key pieces back this week. Defensive end DeMarcus Ware and cornerback Morris Claiborne look set to return to practice. Defensive tackle Jason Hatcher and safety J.J. Wilcox were back at practice Monday. Still a lot of missing pieces, most significantly linebacker Sean Lee, who'll miss the game with a hamstring injury. But the bye week may have done the Cowboys some health-related good.

Around the division: Things are not going well in Washington, where there will be no seven-game win streak to rescue this Redskins season and coach Mike Shanahan has come under fire again. I have believed since it happened that last year's division title would buy Shanahan time, and that he's in no danger of being fired after this season. But if things were to really bottom out, and if that bottoming-out were perceived to be impacting the management of franchise quarterback Robert Griffin III, surely owner Dan Snyder could act unpredictably and make a change. I still think it's unlikely, but you never do know.

Around the league: Shanahan shows up on Bill Barnwell's list of coaches on the hot seat, though Bill doesn't list his seat in the same heat-level category as those of Houston's Gary Kubiak, Miami's Joe Philbin or of course Tampa Bay's Greg Schiano. Coughlin's in Bill's rundown too, though the speculation on him is the usual stuff about whether Coughlin will want to come back. As I've written many times, there is not one single, actual, legitimate reason for anyone to think Coughlin is considering or ever has considered retirement. But his age keeps the speculation coming, and that's not likely to change. He could coach into his 80s and people will still say he stopped because he got too old.