Cowboys' East must: Beat Giants

IRVING, Texas -- New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin will probably get fired or be allowed to resign gracefully at season's end.

The Giants' offensive line is aging, which coincides with an average running game. The defense is suspect, and rookie receiver Odell Beckham Jr. is the only young player on the roster who seemingly has star potential.

The Giants might have won two of the past seven Super Bowls, but they've lost five consecutive games and are clearly a team in transition these days.

And they're a team the Cowboys must beat Sunday for Dallas to have any realistic chance of winning the NFC East.

The Cowboys have positioned themselves to make the playoffs with a 7-3 record, but we know this team has a long history of fading in December. That said, the Cowboys use a style -- a rugged running game and dominant offensive line -- that shouldn't be affected by climate or locale.

Still, to avoid yet another December swoon -- one which could prevent them from even making the playoffs -- the Cowboys must take care of bad teams such as the Giants.

The Cowboys need a victory Sunday at the Meadowlands just as they need to beat underachieving teams such as Washington and Chicago later this season. Doing so would give Dallas a minimum of 10 wins.

Few teams miss the playoffs with 10 wins, but that could be the case this season with so many quality outfits competing for two wild-card spots.

Besides, it probably will take 11 victories -- maybe 12 -- to win the NFC East the way Philadelphia has played, despite the Eagles' blowout loss to Green Bay on Sunday.

For the Cowboys, coming off an extra week of rest and preparation, it's all about taking care of business and completing the season sweep against a bad team.

Not bad for a Dallas club that has finished each of the past three seasons 8-8. Particularly when you consider all the negative prognostications -- deserved at that -- during training camp.

Few figured the Dallas defense, worst in the NFL last season, would perform adequately this season. Even fewer thought DeMarco Murray would challenge Eric Dickerson's single-season rushing record of 2,105 yards.

Let's not act as if coach Jason Garrett and owner/general manager Jerry Jones knew the Cowboys would be in this position after 10 weeks. If either did, Garrett already would have a new contract.

At the club's kickoff luncheon before the season, Garrett promised only that the Cowboys would fight every play of every game. Jones, meanwhile, said he expected an uphill battle.

As you would expect, Jerry has changed his story.

"I'm not surprised," he said recently. "I'm happy. I'm elated. I can say since we got there we had a chance to make this 8-2.

"[Quarterback Tony] Romo is healthy and playing at a high level, and we're running the ball. It doesn't surprise me at all."


It's understandable why Jerry would have been apprehensive about the Cowboys during the summer, considering he didn't know the offensive line would jell so quickly, and he had no idea defensive players such as linebackers Rolando McClain and Justin Durant would contribute as much as they have. The same goes for defensive tackle Tyrone Crawford.

And the Cowboys didn't know how long it would take defensive linemen Anthony Spencer and Henry Melton to play well as they recovered from injuries in 2013.

"It's hard to turn down 7-3," team executive Stephen Jones said. "Even though we're not in first place, we still control our destiny. We've got the Eagles twice. We just have to continue to get better as a football team and not take anything for granted -- and I don't think we do.

"We have a lot of work ahead of us. To even get in the playoffs is going to take a lot of work. Our goal is to win the East, get in the playoffs and have success."

All of that begins with beating the Giants on Sunday.