Originally posted on Fox Sports Southwest  |  Last updated 11/15/11
DALLAS As of this moment, the Dallas Cowboys have the upper hand in the NFC East. And yes, I realize the New York Giants technically hold a one-game lead based on their 6-3 record. At worst, the Cowboys (5-4) should be in a tie for first in the division when they host the Giants on Dec. 11. The schedule makers were incredibly kind to the Cowboys during the holiday season. They'll be heavily favored to win the next three games against the Redskins, Dolphins and Cardinals. Even though the Dolphins are coming to Cowboys Stadium for Thanksgiving, that still seems like the biggest test during this important stretch. The Dolphins have won two straight games after an 0-7 start, and their embattled head coach Tony Sparano knows the Cowboys personnel as well as anyone considering he spent five years on the coaching staff. Still, the Cowboys have a great opportunity to be 8-4 heading into that showdown with the Giants. New York will host the hapless Eagles on Sunday before back-to-back games with the Saints and the undefeated Packers. They would be ecstatic to go 2-1 during that stretch, which would likely leave them in a tie for first place in the NFC East. The Giants' seven remaining opponents have a combined record of 36-27 (.571), with the Eagles and Redskins accounting for 12 of those losses. The Cowboys' remaining opponents are 27-36 (.428), and that finishing stretch that includes Tampa Bay and Philadelphia no longer looks so daunting. This is of course great news for fans, but don't expect head coach Jason Garrett to scoreboard watch. Unlike Bill Parcells, who obsessed with certain stretches of the season, Garrett is truly a one-game-at-a-time man. "That's put in front of us all the time," said Garrett of the standings. "Every week someone says, 'Hey, did you see what the teams in the NFC East did?' "I live in the real world. I'm certainly aware of what the records are of the teams in our division. But if you get so focused on how this team did against them, early on in the season in particular, you're not focused on the right things." It turns out that Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was probably right two weeks ago when he suggested the lopsided loss to the Eagles was an aberration. The best that team can do now is play the role of spoiler, which won't do much for coach Andy Reid's job security. As crazy as it sounds, that loss to the Eagles may have galvanized the Cowboys. It was the first time Rob Ryan's defense had failed and it snapped the Cowboys out of thinking they were better than their record suggested. Even with the emergence of running back DeMarco Murray, it's not like this is suddenly an elite team. But to make the playoffs, you simply need to be better than the Giants. The wildcard is a possibility, but it's not something that should be on the Cowboys' minds right now. This is about two teams in a division fighting for supremacy. Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo has bounced back nicely from his failures against the Jets and Lions. Whether or not you respect the Bills' defense, Romo was brilliant in that game. And his counterpart with the Giants, Eli Manning, is also having a nice season after some early stumbles. The Giants have similar issues to the Cowboys on special teams. They rarely get anything out of the return game. The biggest advantage for the Cowboys is in the running game. They've moved up to ninth in the league with an average of 125.4 yards per game. The Giants are ranked 29th at 89.2 yards per game. Starting running back Ahmad Bradshaw has missed two games with a cracked bone in his foot and backup Brandon Jacobs has picked up the bulk of the carries (36) during his absence. If Manning doesn't have a big day in the passing game, the Giants have little chance of winning. With Murray, the Cowboys have a true feature back. Felix Jones will likely return from an ankle injury this Sunday, but Jones confirmed Tuesday that Murray will get the bulk of the carries. Jones has two 100-yard rushing days in his career. Murray has had three in the past four games. "One thing that comes to my mind is that Murray looks like the more he carries, the more effective he gets," Jones said on the club's flagship station, 105.3. "You think of that theoretically about a workhorse running back, that they get better as the game goes along. "On the other hand, Felix - and this is not negative in any way - but Felix has always been a guy that looks like the best way for him to be his best is to inject him in spots. So we may have a guy here in Murray and we may have a guy here in Felix who can step in there 12, 13 times a ballgame and really have a chance to break it." The Cowboys also have the luxury of taking a conservative approach with wide receiver Miles Austin's hamstring injury since the offense performed so well Sunday without him. Austin should be as close to full strength as he's going to be this season heading into the Giants game. Right now, the Cowboys are a more complete team than New York. That may not be evident in the standings right now, but just give it a couple weeks.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Mike Trout progressing towards return before All-Star break

There's nowhere for Chris Paul to go

Mother Nature stops Tim Tebow's St. Lucie debut

Carson Palmer not sure if 2017 will be his last NFL season

Report: Spurs, Clippers among teams interested in Andre Iguodala

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Vanderbilt players shot while trying to get teammate’s phone back from thief

Would adding George, Hayward make Celtics a super-team?

Kevin Durant congratulates Russell Westbrook for earning MVP honors

Colts QB coach: Andrew Luck should not be double-digit INT guy

Jim Kelly praises Sean McDermott, throws shade at Rex Ryan

Did John Paxson just admit the Bulls are tanking?

Although you have seen this start before, this season is no sequel for the Dodgers

The 'Power hitters are coming for that number one spot' quiz

BIG3 Referee Hotline Bling: Ricky Davis takes unnecessary shots at Al Harrington

Who won Wimbledon the year you were born?

Box Score 6/27: Monday is for all sorts of ballers

Big3 brings summer festival feel to basketball with barnstorming tour

The 10 best sports docs available for streaming

Feeding your roundball addiction through the summer months

The 'Tonight, we settle the Beard vs. Brodie debate' quiz

2016-17 NBA Awards: The 8th Man Award for most overlooked player this year

2016-17 NBA Awards: The Disappearing Act Award for player who came up small

Getaway Day: Welcome back to the world, AL Central

NFL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

2017 is not another disappointing sequel for the Dodgers

BIG3 Referee Hotline Bling: Ricky Davis takes unnecessary shots at Al Harrington

The 'Power hitters are coming for that number one spot' quiz

Big3 brings summer festival feel to basketball with barnstorming tour

The 10 best sports docs available for streaming

Feeding your roundball addiction through the summer months

The 'Tonight, we settle the Beard vs. Brodie debate' quiz

2016-17 NBA Awards: The 8th Man Award for most overlooked player this year

2016-17 NBA Awards: The Disappearing Act Award for player who came up small

Getaway Day: Welcome back to the world, AL Central

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker