- Dan Graziano, ESPN Staff Writer
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Yeah, a couple of teams gained ground on the idle first-place Giants in the NFC East race. But the way the division's teams played for most of the day Sunday, it's clearer than ever that, if the Giants don't win this division, they will have themselves to blame. With that bit of wisdom, I present your Monday morning links, in order of the up-to-the-second division standings.
New York Giants (6-4)
As the Giants return from their bye this week and prepare for Sunday night's game against the Packers, they look forward to the return of safety Kenny Phillips, who has missed the past six games due to a knee injury. I think Phillips' absence has affected the defense on a number of levels, and that if he's able to return you will see a difference in the way the rest of the defense plays around him.
Paul Schwartz predicts the rest of the season and doesn't see any way the Giants can miss the playoffs, though he expects they'll reach it with the same 9-7 record that got them there last year.
Dallas Cowboys (5-5)
There was some level of expectation among Cowboys fans before Sunday's game that they would or should have an easy time with the Cleveland Browns. This led to major disappointment as they trailed early and needed overtime to win the game. But as the very wise Jean-Jacques Taylor writes (and some of us have been trying to tell you since August), the expectations for what this Cowboys team is capable of doing need to be tempered a bit. They're an okay team, and in truth they're playing as well right now as they have since Week 1. But they're not such a great team that you should expect them to beat anyone easily.
Dwayne Harris came up with a huge punt return for the second week in a row. On this latest, he did something he was not supposed to do.
Washington Redskins (4-6)
Rich Campbell says the Redskins' decisive victory over the Eagles on Sunday was a 2012 rarity -- a win for which the Washington defense can take a big chunk of the credit.
Robert Griffin III promised before the Redskins' bye week that he would emerge from it a better quarterback. By many statistical measures, Sunday's was Griffin's best game so far as a pro.
Philadelphia Eagles (3-7)
How bad are things getting for the Eagles as this season sinks deeper and deeper into oblivion? The problems they're having right now are the kinds of problems that pose a threat to their future as well, Phil Sheridan writes.
If you'd let yourself imagine great things for rookie Nick Foles in his first NFL start against one of the league's worst pass defenses, you were disappointed. And so was Foles.