Beast Back In The East

14. 

Hey, Belichick, go dominate this. 

Just look at the NFC East. None of its teams would appear to be going away anytime soon. Certainly the Cowboys have been built for the long haul. Young quarterback, young running back, solid offensive line, young defense and young, Pro Bowl-type kickers. 

The Giants are not exactly fly-by-night creations. They too have a young quarterback, and now maybe far fewer will be prepared to pick on Eli Manning as they once did. Young running backs, too, and with the exception of Michael Strahan, a relatively young defense. 

Now the Giants might be absent their playoff MVP, defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, who interviewed for the Washington head coaching job on Tuesday. But that in itself might even further strengthen the East since he could be lending his expertise to the Redskins should he get the job. And the Redskins too have a young, up-and-coming NFL quarterback in Jason Campbell, who improved significantly as the season progressed. 

Then there are the Eagles, maybe with Donovan McNabb, maybe not, but if not then with a quarterback drafted in the second round this past year in their back pocket, along with a Pro Bowl running back and a defense which seemingly keeps them in every game. 

Playing all these guys becomes exhausting just thinking about it. 

Plus, let's remember, while the Cowboys did go 13-3 this past season, they went only 4-2 in the NFC East. That's right, two of their three losses - to Philadelphia and Washington - were NFC East administered. Oh even more agony, right, being reminded that the only team the Cowboys swept in 2007 was the New York Giants, your Super Bowl champs. Brother. 

Yet, do not forget those 10- and 11-point victories over the Giants were only three- and four-point fourth-quarter leads until a 51-yard touchdown reception in the first game by Sam Hurd and a 50-yard touchdown reception by Terrell Owens in the same game rendered the final margin. Not exactly blowouts, and now maybe victories more appreciated after how the Giants shut down the NFL's No. 3, No. 2 and No. 1 offenses in the playoffs, all in a row. 

Also, maybe the Cowboys finishing 1-2 in the final three games of the season, with a half-hearted effort in the finale against the Redskins, is not such a shameful thing. Hey, two of those games - both losses - were played against the best division in all of football. 

In fact, counting the playoffs, the Cowboys' final three losses of the season were to NFC East foes, only further emphasizing this point about next season's difficulty in returning to where you once were. 

So if you need any sobering up this off-season - any tangible reason not to take the 2008 regular season for granted - take heed. If the Cowboys need any off-season incentive or mental rejuvenation preparing for the upcoming season, take heed. 

Sure, winning the NFC East in 2008 would be the goal again. But surviving the division might be more like it. As Troy Aikman is known to say, and said it again this past week here during Super Bowl XLII week, it's just so hard to win games in the NFL. Do not take any of them for granted. They are precious. 

Maybe even more so in the NFC East for the coming season. 

Go ask the Patriots, the second and last of this year's No. 1 seeds to find out the hard way. 

Ah the sheer agony of finishing close without the cigar.                 

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