NFC East belongs to Giants if they want it


The way things have gone for the New York Giants since the last time they took a snap, it's almost a shame they have to play a game Sunday.

The bye week and Thanksgiving could not have gone better for the Giants. Not only do they sit in first place in the division in spite of a 5-5 record, but since the last time the Giants played a game, the rest of the NFC East has gone 1-4 and been outscored by a combined total of 181-85. And while no one would have rooted for this, the Cowboys appear to have lost quarterback Tony Romo to a season-ending injury just two weeks after he got back on the field.

Moving forward, the Giants' opportunity could not be more clear, nor their goals more attainable. As flawed as the team may be, its surrounding circumstances have it set up for success. The Giants currently have the best record and the best quarterback in the division. Their defense is getting healthier with Jason Pierre-Paul back and the expected return this week of cornerback Prince Amukamara. If they want to win the NFC East, it's entirely up to them.

When they walked off the MetLife Stadium field two Sundays ago, disappointed by an oh-so-close loss to the unbeaten Patriots, the Giants held a half-game lead over both Washington and Philadelphia and a 2½-game lead over Dallas. In Week 11, with the Giants idle, Washington lost 44-16 to Carolina and the Eagles lost 45-17 to the Buccaneers. The Cowboys beat the Dolphins that week, moving within two games of the division lead, which was the only thing that kept the Giants' bye week from being perfect.

Then on Thursday, the Eagles laid another egg, dropping a lifeless 45-14 game in Detroit. And the Cowboys followed that up with a 33-14 home loss to Carolina. Romo went down late in that game, apparently reinjuring the collarbone that cost him seven games -- all of which the Cowboys lost -- earlier this season. So Dallas now sits 2½ games out of first and doesn't have its quarterback. The Cowboys (3-8) are not likely to be a factor.

The Eagles (4-7) are 1½ games behind and haven't been competitive in either of the past two weeks. They're in for a second straight week of turmoil and Philadelphia-style radio talk show vitriol.

The Giants hold a one-game lead on Washington (4-6) and travel to play a 1 p.m. ET game there Sunday. Should they win -- and they are 5-0 against Washington since the start of 2013, including a 32-21 victory in Week 3 of this season -- the Giants will be two games ahead and hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over their closest competition. Not home free by any stretch, but given the way the rest of these teams are going, they'd be the clear and deserving favorites with five games to go.

The remaining schedule is no carnival. They have road games in Miami and Minnesota and home games against the Jets, Panthers and Eagles (who beat them by 20 in Week 6). And of course, all of this optimism could unravel if they slip up Sunday in Washington. But there's no way the past 11 days could have gone any better for the Giants, who have a clear path to a division championship if they want it.