1. Rob Ryan. The Dallas Cowboys' defensive coordinator was a hot name on the head-coaching rumor mill a couple of weeks ago. But lately, Ryan's defense hasn't been able to stop anyone. He seems to blitz when he shouldn't blitz, to not blitz when he should ... the kinds of things that happen when your coverage in the secondary is failing you. And it's failing Ryan big-time right now. Terence Newman has regressed throughout the season. Mike Jenkins looks like an injury waiting to happen. And the guys behind the starting corners aren't playing well at all. Of all the Cowboys' collapses this year, the one that might haunt them the most if they don't end up in the playoffs is blowing a 12-point lead in the final six minutes against the Giants on Sunday night.
2. New York Giants secondary: The Giants as a whole are rising, as they're back on top of the division by virtue of a tiebreaker and in spite of the four-game losing streak they just ended. But if you watched Sunday's game, you noticed the Cowboys weren't the only team in it that couldn't get a stop on the back end. Giants coach Tom Coughlin called his team's coverage issues a "grave concern," and the Giants need to get some things fixed in the secondary these next two weeks against Rex Grossman and Mark Sanchez before they see Tony Romo & Co. again in what could be a critical Week 17 rematch.
3. Santana Moss, Redskins receiver. Normally one of the Washington Redskins' most solid and reliable offensive performers, Moss cost his team a chance to send Sunday's game against the Patriots into overtime. An offensive pass interference penalty moved the Redskins back as they were driving for the tying touchdown, and Grossman's final throw of the game went off Moss' hands and into the arms of Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo for an interception that ended all hope. It hasn't been the greatest year for Moss, who missed games earlier in the season with a broken hand, but Sunday was a low point.
Giants QB Eli Manning is having a stellar second half of the season, passing for over 4,000 yards.
1. Eli Manning, Giants quarterback. He's been here before, but Manning just keeps on rising and rising and rising. His 400 passing yards in his latest comeback victory established a new single-season career high. He's over 4,000 yards for the third year in a row and one of four quarterbacks who are threatening to surpass Dan Marino's single-season NFL record of 5,084 yards. If Aaron Rodgers hadn't already locked up the award, Manning would be in the MVP race. He's led five game-winning touchdown drives this year for a team that has only seven wins. If the Giants' run game can look as good as it looked Sunday behind a resurgent Brandon Jacobs, the way Manning's playing could make them one of the best offenses in the league in the final month.
2. Felix Jones, Cowboys running back. Sadly for Cowboys rookie running back DeMarco Murray, his season is over because of a severe ankle injury he suffered in the first quarter of Sunday's loss. That means a lot more carries for Jones, who was the starter earlier this season before he got hurt and Murray took over. Jones looked fresh and spry and more than capable Sunday. The problem now is that they have practically nothing behind him, so the priority has to be keeping Jones from getting hurt. I imagine the Cowboys will throw the ball more over their final three games, but when they run, they'll ask Jones to do the running.
3. Philadelphia Eagles defense. They totally cooled off a red-hot Miami team Sunday, knocking quarterback Matt Moore out of the game and shutting down the Dolphins after an early Brandon Marshall touchdown. First-year defensive coordinator Juan Castillo is working new guys into new roles and expanding what the defense is capable of doing. It was the best the defense has looked all year and the way the Eagles had hoped they'd be able to play consistently this year. The talent is there, and if the scheme and focus issues are settled, it may be enough to carry the Eagles to a strong finish, even if it is too little too late.