THE COWBOYS WILL WIN THE EASTBy Calvin Watkins
The Dallas Cowboys are poised to win the NFC East. The schedule is designed for them to have one of their better Decembers in recent memory. A road game versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a rematch at home versus the Philadelphia Eagles and a regular-season finale at the New York Giants, where the Cowboys have won before, set them up for something good.
Yes, the Giants have beaten the Cowboys in their first two trips to Cowboys Stadium, but this Cowboys team is playing with more confidence coming into Sunday night's game than ever before.
The return of Miles Austin to the lineup for the final month adds a different dimension to the Cowboys' offense. He takes pressure off Dez Bryant, who continues to improve his game, especially in the fourth quarter, and tight end Jason Witten.
Austin has the ability to get yards after the catch when he breaks tackles. When Austin runs routes out of the slot, he's hard to defend because he's physical enough to get away from press coverage and get to open spaces on the field. He will be a major factor down the stretch. His command of the offense gives Tony Romo more confidence to find a reliable receiver on the field.
What's going to hurt the Giants in the final month is the game versus the New York Jets. That game alone has so many playoff possibilities a loss could knock the Giants out of the playoff hunt.
Winning four of the last five games has also helped the Cowboys with their confidence. They don't feel like previous teams that struggled in December and January. Jason Garrett has the team believing it can win any game it plays and if the Cowboys lose a contest, they move on rather quickly.
Following the loss to the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, numerous players said it's time to move on and not dwell on the hows and whys of what happened in that game.
This is a confident Cowboys team and it will show in the final month of the season, leading to the division title.
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THE GIANTS WILL WIN THE EASTBy Ohm Youngmisuk
If the Giants can beat the Cowboys twice in a month and go 3-1 in the final four games, they'll end a two-year playoff drought, silence all the questions about another second-half collapse and quiet all the noise about Tom Coughlin's job status.
And this can and should happen, because the Giants have one major advantage over the Cowboys -- the No. 1 quarterback in the division. Eli Manning is playing the best football of his career and he needs only a bit more of an assist from either his defense or the running game to lift the Giants to the playoffs.
Last Sunday the Giants showed what they are capable of doing when Manning gets a little help from his teammates. They can play with any team in the league, taking the Green Bay Packers down to the final seconds. At the same time, the Cowboys lost a gut-wrenching game at Arizona.
The Cowboys (7-5) hold a one-game lead on the Giants (6-6), but it will be up to Tony Romo to hang on to that edge. Can Romo lead the Cowboys to at least one win over the Giants while winning at Tampa Bay and beating the Eagles at home? Knowing how the Cowboys and Romo can slip from time to time, the Giants might be able to split with Dallas and still get in by beating Washington and the Jets.
The Giants have defeated Dallas in five of their past seven meetings, and Manning has had some of his best games versus the Cowboys. He has 26 career TDs against them, and three 300-yard passing games at Dallas, where the Giants play this Sunday night. The Cowboys' secondary has had trouble covering Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham and now Dallas will get its first taste of the red-hot Victor Cruz.
And now, thanks to their feisty performance against the Packers, the Giants have regained some of their swagger. Sure, they've had their share of late-season collapses and they let the division crown slip out of their fingers last season to Philadelphia. But this season, Manning won't allow that to happen. All he needs is a little help from his friends.