The Cowboys have enough work moving forward into 2012 just trying to catch up to the Giants and Eagles, both of whom beat Dallas twice, New York going on a run at the end of the year culminating in a Super Bowl win earlier this month.
It will be hard enough for the Cowboys to fix their shortcomings against those teams from 2011. The real challenge is in the fact that both New York and Philadelphia are moving targets. Those teams will be trying to improve, too.
While the Giants were clearly the best team at the end of the year, the NFC East race was very tight down the stretch, the Cowboys leading at different times until New York finally wrestled away the title in Week 17. With the Eagles hitting their stride at the end of the year and Washington expected to fill a number of key holes, including quarterback, Giants coach Tom Coughlin knows the road to the playoffs won't be easy.
"Same as it always is," Coughlin said. "We lost twice to Washington. We split with Philadelphia. Our division is a very, very tough division, and you're certainly tested when you play within the division. It's always been that way. Nothing's going to change. Very formidable."
When New York won Super Bowl XLII over New England after the 2007 season, they carried over the outstanding play into 2008, starting out at 11-1 and essentially coasting to the division title.
Can Coughlin keep the good vibes going once again, avoiding the Super Bowl hangover? A number of key players could be rehabbing injuries through the offseason, but the coach doesn't expect that to be a hindrance.
"We'll have a very good month of May," Coughlin said, referring to the early stages of the team's offseason program. "And extend on to June with our normal camps and normal days on the field. It's already been mentioned there will be some vital parts of our team that won't be able to participate then, but nevertheless, the majority will."