Breakfast links: Crunch time for Dallas' star

December, 15, 2011
12/15/11
8:00
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It is Thursday of Week 15, and that means it won't be long now until all of our mock playoff scenarios get a little bit simpler. Heck, one of our teams is even playing a Saturday night game this week, so eager is this thing to get going. But we take it one day at a time, and each day begins with its links.

New York Giants

Without great speed or scrambling ability, how does Eli Manning escape from all the pressure he's under and still manage to make the clutch throws he's been making all year for the Giants? Let Sam Borden of the New York Times explain.

Mitch Petrus is learning on the job, pressed into duty as the starting left guard after injuries to Will Beatty and David Baas forced the Giants to shuffle their offensive line. Fortunately for Petrus, the lessons are constant and varied. He talked to Mike Garafolo about what he learned from his holding penalty against Jay Ratliff on Sunday and other things.

Dallas Cowboys

Jean-Jacques Taylor writes that these final three games, which didn't have to mean as much as they do but for the Cowboys' collapses in the fourth quarter the past two weeks, are a critical early test in the head-coaching career of Jason Garrett. And it is true. He's in no danger of losing his job, but he'd much rather have this particular line on his résumé reflect a playoff appearance than a collapse that let the Giants in.

And Tim MacMahon says one of the most important things that can happen for the Cowboys the rest of the way is that DeMarcus Ware have three great games. Ware has not been himself lately, and has been dealing with a neck stinger that may be limiting him. We're used to Ware as one of the very best players in the entire league. Some even have called him the league's best defensive player. That's the guy he needs to be the rest of the way.

Philadelphia Eagles

One of the big challenges facing the Eagles this week -- in addition to a hot Jets team with a tough defense -- is playing at home, where they're 1-5 this year and where, Phil Sheridan says, the boobirds await.

Nnamdi Asomugha says he was very close to joining the Jets in free agency, but that in spite of the Eagles' poor record, he has no regrets about his decision. A few months ago, this Eagles-Jets game would have been billed as a matchup featuring the league's top two cornerbacks. But while the Jets' Darrelle Revis remains highly regarded, this season has been a disappointing one for Asomugha, who was the league's most coveted free agent.

Washington Redskins

Thomas Boswell writes that Mike Shanahan is engineering a complete change in the Redskins' team-building philosophy -- to a draft-focused one. Building through the draft has been a very successful plan in a great number of NFL cities, but it takes time and patience. Shanahan knows this, and it's possible Redskins fans are coming around on it too.

One of the reasons Rex Grossman and the Redskins' passing game have been so much more successful lately is the work of rookie running back Roy Helu, who has opened things up for the passing attack, writes Rich Campbell. Of all the disappointing things the Redskins' offense was during its midseason doldrums, "one-dimensional" may have been the worst. When they weren't even trying to run they had to throw, and they couldn't.

Dan Graziano

ESPN New York Giants reporter

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