Victory over Washington makes Dallas Cowboys top team in NFC

The Cowboys can’t be stopped, and that’s bad news for the Giants.

Thanks to more standout play from rookies Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas extended its improbable winning streak to 10 games with a 31-26 home Thanksgiving victory over division-rival Washington. At 10-1, the Cowboys now seem destined for their second NFC East title in the past three years.

It’s a dramatic shift for Jerry Jones’ club. At this time last year, the Cowboys were floundering along with the rest of the division. They lost to the Panthers in a Turkey Day debacle, during which Tony Romo broke his clavicle for the second time in three months. He went on to miss the remainder of the season.

Now, despite Romo injuring his back in the preseason and missing half the year, the Cowboys have established themselves as the best team in the NFC, slightly ahead of the Seahawks. In the AFC, only the Patriots and Raiders can challenge Dallas for the title of best team in the league.

Prescott, Romo’s replacement, and Elliot have been the catalysts behind the resurgence.

Prescott, a fourth-round pick out of Mississippi State who many thought wouldn’t transition to the pro game, threw for 195 yards and a touchdown Thursday in his first Thanksgiving showdown. He also ran for a touchdown. And behind arguably the best offensive line in football, Elliott gashed the Washington defense for 97 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries.

“It was awesome. It was a great environment,” Prescott said after the game. “Offense got going. Defense did what they had to do. Now I’m ready to get on the couch and get full.”

Washington QB Kirk Cousins did all he could, throwing for 449 yards and three touchdowns in the loss. He twice cut the deficit to five points in the fourth quarter, first connecting with DeSean Jackson on a 67-yard touchdown with less than 10 minutes remaining, and then finding tight end Jordan Reed for a score inside two minutes.

But it wasn’t enough to take down Prescott and Elliott, as Dallas drained the clock with the offense on the field.

“We’ve got strong mentalities, Dak and I,” Elliott said. “We’re peaking right now.”

A Dallas win was not the result Giants fans were seeking.

Had Washington won, Big Blue would have controlled its own destiny. With games against the Cowboys (Dec. 11 at MetLife) and Washington (Jan. 1 in Landover, Maryland) still on the schedule, the Giants would have been guaranteed a division title if they won their final six games.

Now any hopes of winning the NFC East are dwindling for the G-Men, who face the winless Browns in Cleveland on Sunday.

That’s largely because after this weekend, the squad’s schedule gets increasingly difficult. On top of Washington and Dallas, the Giants play on the road against the Eagles in a hostile environment at Lincoln Financial Field. They also play at Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers in Week 13 and host the Lions in Week 15.

Detroit played the early game Thursday and earned a miraculous come-from-behind victory over the Vikings to improve to 7-4 on the season. The Lions are alone in first place atop the NFC North, so that matchup will be far from a cakewalk for Big Blue.

Giants fans must now turn their attention to the wild-card race. While not impossible, the division is a long shot. The Cowboys are showing no signs of slowing down, and some of the Giants’ flaws – particularly the inconsistent and lackluster rushing attack – could be exploited against tougher competition over the final stretch of the season.

So how is the wild card shaping up?

At 7-3, the Giants are leading the race and currently hold the No. 5 seed. Washington (6-4-1) will provide the stiffest challenge over the final six weeks, and that contest in Week 17 should go a long way to determining who claims what spot in the NFC wild card.

Behind those two, the Vikings are 6-5. But after a tremendous start to the season, Sam Bradford – who was brought to Minnesota as the replacement for third-year man Teddy Bridgewater- is starting to regress back to his normal self.

Bradford threw a devastating interception with less than two minutes remaining Thursday that set up Matt Prater’s game-winning field as time expired. The Vikings have lost five of their past six games, and it appears Bridgewater’s catastrophic knee injury in the preseason will prevent them from making any noise in the postseason.

The Bucs are Eagles are both 5-5, rounding out the NFC playoff picture.

Ezekiel Elliott has been a major catalyst behind the Cowboys' resurgence.

Ezekiel Elliott has been a major catalyst behind the Cowboys’ resurgence.

(Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

After being the butt of jokes all of last season, the NFC East is now the only division in the league without a team below .500. The turnaround has been startling.

The same goes for the Cowboys, whose young studs are playing well enough to lead the franchise to their first Divisional Round playoff victory since 1995, when they won the Super Bowl.

The Giants will have a tough time catching them.

INJURY REPORT

Jason Pierre-Paul missed his second straight practice Thursday because of a sore knee.

Ben McAdoo said Wednesday that the defensive end has some swelling in the joint, but Pierre-Paul made it clear last week he intends to play in every game, even if he misses practice.

“For the 2016 season to 17, I am going to be on the field no matter what,” he said then. “So you will probably hear that JPP is not going to practice, but I will be out there on Sunday.”

Of more concern is the offensive line. Guards Justin Pugh (knee), Marshall Newhouse (knee) and Brett Jones (calf) all didn’t practice Thursday.

Pugh, the Giants’ starting left guard, sprained his knee in Week 9 against the Eagles and hasn’t played since. Jones was Pugh’s replacement, but he hurt his calf in a Monday night win over the Bengals two weeks ago. Newhouse, who started the season as Big Blue’s starting right tackle, then filled in at left guard against the Bears. Now he’s injured as well.

The next man up would be Adam Gettis. He played five snaps in Sunday’s win over the Bears after Newhouse went down. But he was limited on Thursday with a calf problem. Gettis wasn’t on Wednesday’s injury report.

Wide receiver Dwayne Harris (wrist), running back Orleans Darkwa (lower leg), and wide receiver Roger Lewis (concussion) were limited Thursday. Darkwa was not listed in Wednesday’s injury report.

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Source: NY Daily News Headlines Sports News

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