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Keidel: Giants Cowboy Up On Dallas

By Jason Keidel

Unlike the Jets, the Giants are regarded in NYC with a measure of respect, if not reverence.

When the Jets tried hard, played well, but ultimately lost to their eternal tormentors -- Tom Brady and the Patriots -- you couldn't say you were stunned.

But the Giants, going back to Bill Parcells and now carried over by Tom Coughlin, are considered a clutch club. As if to remind Gang Green of this, they beat the Pats twice in the Super Bowl.

So Big Blue has been Gotham's big brother for over 30 years. The Jets dip in and out of the back page, but the Giants own the bold ink.

So when the Giants play the Dallas Cowboys -- forever branded America's Team -- there's Twitter chatter and frothing fans pounding their blogs and speed-dialing sports radio stations.

The Cowboys, with their sparkling, cavernous JerryWorld stadium, and five-mile flatscreen TV over the field, are the purest emblem of pro football -- opulent and rich, with a nose for a nickel, worried that any mention of their team doesn't yield some merchandizing money.

But they're also a team that hasn't won a Super Bowl since Bill Clinton was president.

Now, fresh off a 12-4 season, with soaring expectations for 2015, they lost Tony Romo and Dez Bryant before they could put a chokehold on the NFC East.

Enter Brandon Wheeden, who couldn't plug the leaks in the club's offense, losing three straight, and 11 overall over his career. So they bench Wheeden for a more seasoned QB for their big game against the rival Giants. Enter Matt Cassell. Three interceptions later, the Cowboys slithered out of the Meadowlands last night with a four-game losing streak and a season on life-support.

Add to the losing the way they lost it -- a kick return from former Cowboy Dwayne Harris. Darting through a hole in the middle, slipping past the kicker, then dashing down the sideline, Harris took the game, and another chance for the Cowboys to keep some grip on the division.

The Giants were typically solid. The Tom Coughlin coda is you lose games more than you win them, through penalties, turnovers and field goals inside the 20-yard-line. He's even renamed the Red Zone the Green Zone.

But, like most things Dallas, this game was more a referendum on the careless Cowboys than the fundamentally sound Giants. Add a rather public, televised squabble between Dez Bryant and Greg Hardy, and the soap operatic bent that has followed the Cowboys since Hollywood Henderson continues.

It was the rare moment when the world cheered a Bryant outburst. Hardy would easily be a finalist on Keith Olbermann's "World's Worst Person" list. After assaulting a former girlfriend, tossing her on a bonfire of weapons, Hardy recently talked about coming out "guns blazing" and then mused profoundly over Tom Brady's wife.

Fans wonder why Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett has gotten tenure despite the lack of success, when so many of his peers got the boot.

It's pretty facile. As Troy Aikman's former backup, Garrett is considered something of a native son. He's grateful for the gig. And he won't buck the bizarre corporate ladder, which has owner Jerry Jones at the top rung, while doubling as general manager, the only owner with the hubris to assume he's not only absurdly wealthy but also a personnel wizard.

But Garrett can't be blamed for this slide. With the NFL rules bent so steeply toward the passing game, every team is more quarterback-dependent than ever. You can't lose a Pro Bowl quarterback and expect to contend, not even in the enervated NFC East.

And despite his conga line of detractors, Romo is more than gifted enough to win a Super Bowl. After Aaron Rodgers, Romo had the best statistical season of any QB last year.

But it doesn't help that they not only lose Romo, but also their star wideout (Bryant), stalwart defender Orlando Scandrick and failed to re-sign 2014 rushing champ DeMarco Murray. And then there's the clear bad karma that comes with snagging Hardy.

The division is still open. In spite of their preseason, dream-team hyperbole, the Eagles are 3-4, losing last night to the Carolina Panthers. The Redskins are also 3-4 after their epic comeback against Tampa Bay. And the resurgent Giants are just 4-3. Dallas is now 2-4, and counting the hours until Romo returns around Thanksgiving, and they hope Bryant emerges from the injury mist in a week or two.

But the Giants have something the other NFC East clubs do not -- a healthy Eli Manning, who has the blessed family gene and epic allergy to missing games, seasons or snaps.

Manning is also a two-time Super Bowl champion and MVP. Even when Romo returns, he won't have that kind of hardware, or even the goodwill Manning gets 1,000 miles north on the map, and two wins north in the standings.

Jason writes a weekly column for CBS Local Sports. He is a native New Yorker, sans the elitist sensibilities, and believes there's a world west of the Hudson River. A Yankees devotee and Steelers groupie, he has been scouring the forest of fertile NYC sports sections since the 1970s. He has written over 500 columns for WFAN/CBS NY, and also worked as a freelance writer for Sports Illustrated and Newsday subsidiary amNew York. He made his bones as a boxing writer, occasionally covering fights in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, but mostly inside Madison Square Garden. Follow him on Twitter @JasonKeidel.

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