DALLAS -- When the schedule-makers decided to make the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys play twice in the span of a month, no one could have imagined that Dallas' season would be on life support before Halloween.
At 1-4, the Cowboys have been an absolute mess. They can't get out of their own way with self-inflicted wounds from penalties and turnovers. And they don't have Jessica Simpson or Terrell Owens to blame anymore.
However, should the Cowboys fail to win the NFC East and miss the playoffs, they could point the finger directly at the Giants.
Starting with Monday night's clash, the Giants have a rare golden opportunity that they may never have again. By sweeping the Cowboys for the second straight year, the Giants can finish off their hated division rivals and deliver a Michael Strahan-like stomp to Jerry Jones' dream of a Cowboys Super Bowl in Dallas.
Make no mistake, the Cowboys' fate lies in the Giants' palms. By beating the Cowboys on Monday and again on Nov. 14, the Giants would practically eliminate their most talented divisional foe from NFC East contention by Week 10.
It's almost too good to be true. The Cowboys, a team many had in the Super Bowl this season, would have at least six losses by mid-November if the Giants do what they love to do most –- beat Dallas. That would force the Cowboys to have to focus on the wild card, and even that would be a long shot with Green Bay, New Orleans, Indianapolis, Philadelphia and Washington still on the schedule.
Dallas would have to go 7-2 in its other games just to finish 8-8.
Justin Tuck and Brandon Jacobs are two Giants who normally are all too happy to tell the world just how much they despise America's Team. But this Dallas Week has been awfully quiet with Tuck acting more like a diplomat. "We are not worried about anything as far as putting a nail in the coffin," he said.
The defensive end knows what the Giants have in front of them and they don't want to give Tony Romo, Miles Austin and DeMarcus Ware new life. The Cowboys have talent. All they need is belief and results.
The NFC East is already shaping up to be a dogfight with the gritty Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles both with four victories so far. Amazingly, the Giants, who were 1-2 not too long ago and seemingly in disarray, can tie the Falcons for the best record in the NFC with a win on Monday night.
A loss to Dallas wouldn't be the end of the world. But the Cowboys would be two wins behind the rest of the NFC East with Jacksonville on the schedule next week. They'd still be breathing.
If the Giants win, the NFC East pretty much becomes a three-team race.
The Eagles have beaten the Giants four straight times but Donovan McNabb now resides in Washington. Still, the Eagles will be extremely tough no matter whom Andy Reid starts between Michael Vick and Kevin Kolb.
And the Redskins, who have lost seven of their last eight meetings with the Giants, will be tougher to beat with McNabb and Mike Shanahan.
But the Giants' lives would be much easier if they didn't have worry about Romo and the Cowboys.
During a conference call last week, Romo was asked if this will be a last stand of sorts for the Cowboys against the Giants.
Romo only heard a portion of the question. Or so it seemed. "Say it again is it, 'Custer's last stand' you said?" Romo asked.
The Giants need to make sure Romo has the same results as Custer. They need to start the burial process on Monday night by shoveling some dirt on the Cowboys.
Then three weeks later, the Giants can bury them for good at the New Meadowlands Stadium.
"We control our fate," Tuck said.
And the Cowboys' as well.