The Cowboys struggled to a 2-3 start this season in tight games that saw every game decided by less than four points. After week six, the Cowboys were third in the NFC East, trailing the Giants by two wins and the Redskins by one win. They were just barely ahead of the last-place Eagles who had one more loss than the Cowboys had at that point.
Since then, the Cowboys have gone 5-1, while the Giants and Eagles both went 2-3 and the Redskins eked out a win last week to come in at 1-5.
Today, the Cowboys sit atop the NFC East with a one game lead over the New York Giants. But while the Cowboys face the 4-7 Cardinals on Sunday, the Giants face the Packers, who'll come strutting into New York with an undefeated record and on a 10-day rest. The Giants already lost their last three games, and might easily drop to 0-4 before traveling to Dallas on December 11 for a game that could already decide the division crown.
But where the mood in previous years among the Dallas faithful would have been one of apprehension about the December stretch, there is much more confidence about the Cowboys this year. Part of that confidence comes from a toughness and resiliency that the Cowboys have displayed over the last couple of weeks, which might come in handy down the stretch, as Don Banks from SI.com observes after the break.
We haven't heard the Cowboys called a tough-minded team much in recent seasons, but that's the emerging trait I see from Jason Garrett's 7-4 team, which has now won four in a row. Dallas doesn't fall apart any more if its "A'' game isn't there from the start, and that resilience and ability to hang around was on display in the 20-19 win over red-hot Miami on Thanksgiving.
The Cowboys are poised for a big finish. Rick Gosselin from the DMN thinks the "NFC East race is already over", and it's true, if the Cowboys take care of business over the coming weeks, they're playoff bound.
But in order to take care of business, the Cowboys need to follow Garrett's mantra of taking one day at a time and stacking one good day on top of the other.
For now, that means the Arizona Cardinals will be waiting at the University of Phoenix Stadium on 4:15 Sunday afternoon (3:15 central), and they're a good football team.
Meanwhile, the Eagles and Redskins battle it out for who gets the higher draft pick.