Division Rundown: After Eight Weeks, Frontrunner Emerges

While the people of New York have much more pressing issues on their minds, the Giants took complete control over the NFC East following one of the crazier games in recent memory.

New York Giants 6-2

Philadelphia Eagles 3-4

Dallas Cowboys 3-4

Washington Redskins 3-5

Giants:

What exactly happened in the Giants-Cowboys matchup last Sunday? How much time do you have?

Tony Romo threw four interceptions. He also nearly threw for 250 yards more than Eli Manning, who had his worst game of the season. The Giants went up 23-0. They blew the lead and fell behind in the third quarter. They grabbed the lead again. Then Dez Bryant caught a miraculous game-winning touchdown. Then it was overturned and the Giants won, 29-24.

So that happened. So what did New York take away from that? I have no idea. The cliché' of finding a way to win works, I suppose. Giving up a 23-point lead is certainly not a positive. Also, it seems hard to fathom that the Giants only had one offensive touchdown.

Perhaps the biggest positive for the Giants was the success of their running game. The numbers are nothing to gawk at (103 combined yards), but they are exactly the kind of numbers that the Cowboys would love to boast in a game like this. The Giants are not blessed with an "elite" running back, but to be able to get first downs on the ground to compliment a dangerous passing game is crucial. Dallas' defense played terrific football on Sunday, which made some of Bradshaw's 7 or 8-yard first-down runs heartbreaking.

If the Giants' running game can allow them to control the pace and take advantage of turnovers, then they will be a very successful team moving forward. It doesn't have to be the best rushing attack in the league, but there is a huge difference between what New York did on the ground on Sunday and what the Cowboys did.

Eagles:

There's a lot of heat on head coach Jason Garrett among fans and media, but at least for now, he is not the most scrutinized coach in the NFL. That title belongs to Philadelphia's Andy Reid.

After defensive coordinator Juan Castillo was fired, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan lit up the Eagles secondary, as the team fell 30-17. The fact that Philly is sitting at 3-4 is only part of what has its fan base so upset. It's also how they are losing games.

Last Sunday, quarterback Michael Vick was unable to get any consistent offense going. He only accounted for 191 yards, but because he didn't turn the ball over once, you could sadly argue that it was one of his better games of the season. On the defensive side of the ball, cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha was completely out played by the Julio Jones. At one point, Jones flew by Asomugha for a 63-yard touchdown.

Both of these players were recently signed to long-term contracts, which were publicly supported and encouraged by Reid. There may soon be a change in Philadelphia. If so, the longest-tenured coach in the NFL will likely be the one out the door.

Cowboys:

Tight end Jason Witten broke a number of records in the Cowboys' loss to the Giants on Sunday. He also summed up the game pretty nicely when he applauded his team's determination but said, "To be honest, you can't just battle. You have to find ways to win games."

The Cowboys and Giants have a lot of parallels. One of them is that some of there best playmakers can be inconsistent on a game-to-game basis. But the difference between the two is that when certain Giants' playmakers are off their game a little bit, they find a way to have an average performance. Bradshaw did not put up great fantasy numbers on Sunday. Neither did Manning. But they did enough to win while their defense made big plays in big moments. The Giants defensive line has been inconsistent at times this year, but they always show up enough to win when Manning is throwing for 300-plus yards.

But with the Cowboys, it's either hot or cold. Romo has had great games and terrible games. Same goes for Dez Bryant. Even Witten, of all people. The Cowboys have had a game where they have rushed for over 250 yards and a game where they rushed for 19 yards. That kind of inconsistency rarely leads to winning seasons. And, the inconsistency extends beyond just the ground game.

Redskins:

The Pittsburgh Steelers may not be quite as intimidating as they have been in recent years, but they still have the reputation of being "bullies." Being the "new kids on the block" the Redskins were victims of a fair amount of bullying in Pittsburgh's 27-12 victory.

Robert Griffin III was only sacked one time, but don't think that means he wasn't beat up. Griffin took hit after hit as he tried to find a receiving corps that was not giving him a lot of help. There were a number of dropped passes by Washington and their normally consistent running game only managed 86 yards.

On the other hand, Ben Roethlisberger was able to stand in the pocket unfazed as he threw for three touchdowns. In vintage Steelers fashion by midway through the first quarter it was clear that the Redskins were not tough enough to win this game.

Injuries:

Dallas Cowboys: After losing linebacker Sean Lee to season-ending surgery, the Cowboys inserted veteran Dan Connor into the starting lineup against New York. However, Connor left the game with a neck strain. An MRI showed what is commonly referred to as a "stinger," but a relatively severe one. It is normally a week-to-week injury, making his status moving forward uncertain. Running back DeMarco Murray is said to be making progress on his injured foot, but a timetable on his return is still unclear.

New York Giants: Cornerback Antrel Rolle suffered a concussion against Dallas and will be listed as questionable in New York's game against the Steelers on Sunday. Linebacker Chase Blackburn also left the game with a hurt hamstring and may miss Sunday's game as well.  

Philadelphia Eagles: Wide receiver Mardy Gilyard left the Eagles' game against the Falcons with a hurt hamstring and it is unclear whether he will be able to play next week.    

Washington Redskins: The Redskins, who have had their fair share of devastating injuries this season, managed not to lose any players in their game against the Steelers. Pierre Garcon is likely inching closer to a return to the field, but no announcement has been made concerning his status.

National Attention:

* *

NFL.com Power Rankings:

 

3– New York Giants (previously #3)

14 – Dallas Cowboys (previously #14)

15 – Philadelphia Eagles (previously #13)

19– Washington Redskins (previously #15)

ESPN.com NFL Power Rankings:

 

2 – New York Giants (previously #2)

14 – Dallas Cowboys (previously #15)

18 – Philadelphia Eagles (previously #13)

19 – Washington Redskins (previously #18)

Miscellaneous:

• The Giants have not just separated themselves in terms of their record from the rest of the NFC East. They are also the only team in the division with positive net points at 73. The Eagles (-35), Cowboys (-25) and Redskins (-14) have all given up more than they've scored.

• Hurricane Sandy has affected the practice schedule of the Giants. Due to safety concerns, they decided to treat the week as if they had played a Monday night game and officially start practicing on Wednesday, assuming the conditions improve.

"(We're) just trying to do the smart thing, that's all," Coughlin said.

The Giants were forced to scramble to the airport after their victory over the Cowboys on Sunday in order to get to New York before the hurricane made the city temporarily unreachable.

• The three top-ranked passing teams in the NFL, the Saints, Lions and Cowboys, all have losing records.  

Week Seven:

Carolina Panthers @ Washington Redskins

Sunday, November 4th, Noon CT (FOX)

Pittsburgh Steelers @ New York Giants

Sunday, November 4th, 3:25 CT (CBS)

Dallas Cowboys @ Atlanta Falcons

Sunday, November 8th, 7:20 CT (NBC)

Philadelphia Eagles @ New Orleans Saints

Monday, November 5th, 7:30 CT (ESPN)

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