Breakfast links: Cowboys back in control

December, 19, 2011
12/19/11
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Another week, another egg laid by an NFC East team with a chance to make something happen. This week, it was the Giants who stumbled, letting the Eagles stay in the race another week and falling a full game behind the Cowboys by losing a second game to the Redskins. It's a weekly jumble here in the East, where any one of the top three teams could still be a champion. I'll do a full playoff-scenario post a little bit later this morning, but you know I'm going to start you off with your links, in standings order.

Dallas Cowboys (8-6)

The Cowboys kept defensive stars DeMarcus Ware and Jay Ratliff on the bench for the second half of Saturday's victory over the Bucs so they could rest their nagging injuries. Todd Archer says not to be surprised if the Cowboys decide to do the same thing this week and sit those two out of practice a little bit to allow them to heal in advance of Saturday's big game against the Eagles.

And Tim MacMahon writes that the Cowboys are attempting to draw inspiration from another team that barely made the playoffs with a late push and then rolled to a Super Bowl title -- last year's Green Bay Packers. It's not a bad example to follow, and I'm not saying they're not capable if they get hot. But I will offer that last year's Packers were making plays in the secondary by this point.

New York Giants (7-7)

Man, Ian O'Connor kind of lays into Eli Manning, saying he let the Giants down Sunday. Sure, Manning played a lousy game. But Hakeem Nicks dropped a perfect touchdown pass early on that could have change the whole course of the game. And regardless of that, isn't a quarterback entitled to play a bad game every now and again and maybe expect his defense to make a third-down stop? I continue to contend that, if Manning weren't playing for this year's Giants, Andrew Luck would be playing for next year's Giants. That's how bad the team is around Manning, and it really shows when he has a stinker of his own.

I was at Antrel Rolle's locker, listening to his weird diatribe about guys who don't practice and then play on Sundays, and I didn't understand it at all. It sounded like he was getting on Justin Tuck, but then he specifically named Tuck as a guy who was not an example of whatever he was talking about. Mike Garafolo tries to make some sense of it, but the upshot is there appear to be some players in the Giants' locker room who aren't happy with some other players in the Giants' locker room.

Philadelphia Eagles (6-8)

Like everyone else, John Smallwood gave up on the Eagles weeks ago. But he's looking at the playoff possibilities now, and the Eagles still have a legitimate chance if they beat the Cowboys on Saturday. John wants to know if the Eagles are just teasing their fans one last time. I wish I knew what to tell him. I can't believe they're still kicking either.

If they do get in, Phil Sheridan writes, the Eagles would be the NFC East team with the best chance to actually make some noise in the playoffs. I think that's a fair assessment, because they would go in hot -- having won four in a row -- and playing defense the way they always believed they could and should have been playing it. The Cowboys could go in hot, too, and have the talent to make some noise. But I can understand the argument that the Eagles would be a scary team to play if they got in. None of it matters, though, if they don't win the next two and get some help.

Washington Redskins (5-9)

Dan Daly writes that it was never about contending in 2011 for the Redskins but rather about building toward a brighter future, and that winning their final two games and ending the season hot would have value that they could carry forward into this offseason and into 2012. It's nice that everyone else has finally come around on this, is all I'm going to say.

Jason Reid writes that it was an "up" day in the up-and-down season of Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall, who had an acrobatic interception of Eli Manning and helped set the tone for a game in which the Washington defense seemed to be playing at a higher speed than the New York offense. Hey, it seems like everybody's got one of these all-or-nothing corners who frustrate fans by giving up big plays in addition to making them. Hall is what he is, and sometimes he's great. Nature of the position, and all.

Dan Graziano

ESPN New York Giants reporter

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