FRISCO, Texas –If Steve Spagnuolo needed advice on how to handle interim coaching duties with the New York Giants, one resource could have been Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett.
"I probably need to call him and ask him what are some suggestions – although I don't think he'd give me any this week," Spagnuolo joked.
Not with the Cowboys (6-6) still in the playoff hunt entering Sunday's division rematch at Meadowlands. The Giants (2-10) were officially eliminated from postseason contention in late November, and this week they're in reset mode after firing head coach Ben McAdoo two days ago.
Spagnuolo, also the Giants' defensive coordinator, will take over for the season's final four games. He described the week as a "rough 60 hours" since the team lost at Oakland last Sunday and learned of McAdoo's firing.
Spagnuolo also confirmed that quarterback Eli Manning, benched by McAdoo last week for the first time in his 14-year Giants career, will return to the starting lineup this Sunday.
"He's the guy I think we need to put in there right now," Spagnuolo said. "I think it's the best thing for this football team.'
"I did ask them that going forward here, every day that we walk in the building, walk in the building expecting to win – which is another way of saying, have a great attitude about what we're doing. Forget about what's happened in the past. Got to look forward."
Garrett knows exactly what Spagnuolo is going through. He took a similar approach after the Cowboys named him interim coach eight games into the 2010 season, when Wade Phillips was fired amid a 1-7 start.
The Cowboys won five of their final eight games that season with Garrett in charge.
"You try not to compare situations," Garrett said. "That was a particular situation that we had a few years ago, and we tried to handle it the best. The biggest thing we tried to preach to our guys is just to prepare for the opportunity that we have on Sunday. It's the same thing we're preaching right now to our team, to get ready for this opportunity that we have."
The Cowboys will look to build on last Thursday's 38-14 win over the Washington Redskins, the end of a three-game losing streak in which opponents outscored them 92-22.
Big picture, they're currently two games out of the wild-card race and aware that they quite possibly must win each of their final four games, starting Sunday at New York.
"Playoffs start now, simple as that," quarterback Dak Prescott said. "You've got to embrace it if you play this game. It's about what you do every day that pays off on Sunday. That's what makes this game fun.
"It's about winning today at practice. We're going to win tomorrow and give us our best shot to win on Sunday."
Meanwhile, the Giants can play spoiler – and in the process, avenge a 19-3 loss at AT&T Stadium in the season opener.
Perhaps Manning's return to the lineup will provide an emotional boost for the Giants after McAdoo's decision to bench the two-time Super Bowl MVP -- a move met with plenty of controversy in the New York area.
Yet, there's always something at stake between these two teams: pride.
"It's also Cowboys-Giants," Prescott said. "The energy's going to be there regardless because it's a rivalry and it's in the division."