Do Cowboys have upper hand in NFC East?

BY foxsports • November 19, 2014

This theory that Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly can turn pretty much any quarterback into a Pro Bowler was far-fetched even before Mark Sanchez went belly-up in Green Bay on Sunday. Kelly may indeed have unique skills in working with quarterbacks, but Eagles fans were silly to believe Sanchez might be an improvement over Nick Foles. Those 2011-12 seasons with the Jets weren't a mirage.

It's now fair to say the Dallas Cowboys have the upper hand in the race for the NFC East crown. If Tony Romo can survive this stretch of three games in 12 days, the Cowboys should be in good shape for a sprint to the finish. What they desperately need Sunday night in the Meadowlands is a blowout win over the Giants. I don't see it happening, but if the Cowboys are able to get some separation in the second half, coach Jason Garrett should act a lot more responsibly than he did with Romo against the Jaguars. I would assume that Jerry Jones has driven home this point with him. Romo skipped Wedneday's practice per usual, but he's expected on the practice field Thursday.

"Once that [Giants] game is over I'll set up a different plan and talk to the trainers and coaches and go from there," Romo told reporters Wednesday. "But this week it's not about thinking about next week at all. You've got to get yourself ready to play in this one game and against the Giants. This is a very important game, a big game for us."

The Cowboys will face a Giants team (3-7) that barring a miracle will miss the playoffs for the third consecutive season. Tom Coughlin could be fired if this team continues along this path. Former Giants running back Tiki Barber was calling for Coughlin's dismissal earlier this week, although it's important to note he's held a grudge against the coach for years. Quarterback Eli Manning has thrown a league-leading 38 interceptions over the past two seasons. The only quarterback within striking distance, Geno Smith, was in striking distance before he was benched in favor of Michael Vick. This team certainly misses wide receiver Victor Cruz, but I don't think the Giants would be much better than 3-7 if he were healthy. This is a team that has massive issues along the offensive line. They haven't been as proactive as the Cowboys in rebuilding that unit.

The Cowboys must stick to the plan that has led to this 7-3 start. They need to bludgeon the Giants' front seven with the running game in order to keep the defense off the field for long periods of time. Can the Cowboys do this while making sure DeMarco Murray doesn't get close to 30 carries? I highly doubt it.

Murray is in the odd of position of leading this offense toward the playoffs while possibly losing leverage in his contract negotiations. If you haven't seen what happens to NFL running backs after 375-carry seasons, it's not pretty. Even the great Emmitt Smith saw his numbers decline precipitously after his career-best season in 1995. But that's not something Garrett's concerned with at the moment. Like Dez Bryant and Murray, he's also in a contract year.

In fact, maybe Jerry's hit on something. For years, he liked to reward productive players (and coaches) with lucrative extensions a year or two earlier than necessary. He's getting better at seeing how things play out.

And if the Cowboys somehow win a couple playoff games this season, there will be plenty of extensions to go around. The first order of business, though, is discarding a Giants team that is headed nowhere.

Hopefully the Cowboys haven't forgotten losing to a Redskins team that was on a similar path last month.

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