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The fight for the NFC East starts Sunday

Situations are rarely as dire as they appear while in the midst of a crisis. There is the occasional exception: the passengers on the Titanic come to mind.

But comparing life and death scenarios with wins and losses during the NFL season seems extreme: I will leave the reader to decide in which way...

The gloom and doom surrounding the Dallas Cowboys following a 3-5 start is premature. The Cowboys continue to show improvement in specific areas from week to week: a demonstration that the messages from the coaches are not being dismissed or ignored.

Player (2011)

Interceptions

Fumbles lost

Penalties

Yards

@ NYG

1

0

13

86

@ SEA

1

1

5

47

TB

1

2

13

105

CHI

5

0

2

10

@ BAL

1

0

13

82

@ CAR

0

1

6

43

NYG

4

2

2

10

@ ATL

0

0

6

43

After turning the ball over 6 times in Arlington against the Giants, the Cowboys did not turn the ball over once in Atlanta. Coming into the game, the Falcons were among the league leaders in takeaways and turnover margin.

In fact, with the exception of the turnover-fest in Arlington against the Giants, the Cowboys had committed no more than one turnover after Romo threw five interceptions versus Chicago. Dallas has only completed four games this season with one turnover or less this season, and three have come in the last four games.

Following the Carolina game, Witten, Smith and Free had committed 14 false start penalties. In the past two games, the Cowboys have not committed a single false start penalty.

The Cowboys are not a dumb team: there is some progress. The players are listening to the coaches.

Still, the dropped passes in critical situations persist. Mistakes along the offensive line, running backs missing holes, and the quarterback missing open receivers continue to plague this team. If recent history holds true, the Cowboys will gradually limit or eliminate these issues.

The popular belief among media doomsayers is that the Cowboys are too far behind at 3-5 to make a playoff push. But it would behoove many to hold off on burying this edition of the Cowboys just yet.

The truth is that the Cowboys have a relatively easy schedule over the next eight weeks. Unlike the Eagles and the Redskins, the Cowboys are showing signs of improvement and are competitive in games against good teams. In the meantime, the Giants are entering their toughest stretch of games.

Giants opponents

Record

Notes

@ CIN

3-5

The Bengals are a young team that can play well or self-destruct

GB

6-3

The Packers will test a weak Giants secondary

@ WAS

3-6

The Redskins were 2-0 last season against the Giants

NO

3-5

The Saints are 3-0 v NYG since 2006, winning by a combined 127-58

@ ATL

8-0

The Falcons are 30-4 at home with Ryan at quarterback

@ BAL

6-2

The Ravens have a great home field advantage record with Flacco

PHI

3-5

A good-bye present for Andy Reid?

Inspecting the Giants remaining schedule, it is likely that 10-6 will win the NFC East (9-7 could also win the division). The first tie-breaker to decide a tie within division rivals is head to head record. Since the Cowboys have split the season series with the Giants in 2012, the second tie-breaker is in effect. The second tie-breaker is record within the division.

The Giants have lost to Dallas and Philadelphia (2-2). The Cowboys have only lost to the Giants (1-1).

That makes winning the remaining divisional games paramount for both teams. For Dallas, the game at Philadelphia this weekend will either begin a run for the NFC East, or lay the foundation for a high draft choice in the 2013 NFL Draft.

If Dallas is able to sweep the Eagles and Redskins, the Cowboys will have no fewer than 7 wins. Winning three of the remaining games against Cleveland, @ Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and New Orleans would probably permit Dallas to host a playoff game.

Much in the same way the Giants did last season...

Another user-created commentary provided by a BTB reader.

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