Gil LeBreton

Cowboys’ star can still rise in NFC East

With quarterbacks like the Eagles’ Sam Bradford and the Giants’ Eli Manning, the NFC East is still there for the Cowboys’ taking.
With quarterbacks like the Eagles’ Sam Bradford and the Giants’ Eli Manning, the NFC East is still there for the Cowboys’ taking. AP

Let me take back everything nice that I previously said about the aww-they’re-not-so-bad prowess of the NFC East.

Clearly, the division stinks.

The Dallas Cowboys are hurt. The Giants are fatally erratic and need Victor Cruz. The Eagles are quarterbacked by Sam Bradford. The Redskins may be about to turn their offense over to Colt McCoy.

Did you happen to see Philadelphia’s 27-7 victory over the New York Giants on Monday night?

If, instead, you watched Dancing with the Stars, consider yourself lucky. The blocking and tackling had to be better.

And the quarterbacking. But this is what happens sometimes when things begin to crumble around the Giants’ Eli Manning. Eli was intercepted twice (Bradford was picked off three times — it was that kind of a game), and the Giants were held scoreless for the final 55 minutes of the contest.

Forget anything I may have said, therefore, about one of these mutts assuming the role of alpha dog during Tony Romo’s and the Cowboys’ recoveries.

As of today, the Cowboys won’t see a plus-.500 team on their schedule until they face Carolina on Thanksgiving.

There is no urgency to rush Dez Bryant back into action. Romo can remain packed in ice. The running back committee can take another week to sort itself out. The multitude of injuries, suspensions and hip replacements sustained by Cowboys, Inc., as it turns out, is not going to be life-threatening.

The division stinks, just as Cowboys fans hoped it would.

Fooled me. I thought one of these rats would grab the pizza and run.

Instead, they may have missed their chance. Bryant and Randy Gregory apparently are close to returning to play. The Brandon Weeden Era is behind them.

As of today, the Cowboys won’t see a plus-.500 team on their schedule until Thanksgiving (Carolina). By then, Owner Jones and his new hips will be back disco-dancing.

This partly depends, of course, on what’s left of Matt Cassel. No one expects him to play like the 2008 Cassel, the guy who filled in for Tom Brady in New England and U-turned his football career. It’s even hard to say whether anybody expects Cassel to play as he did in 2013, when he went 3-3 in six starts for the Vikings.

He really hasn’t played much since then. Ring rust could be an ugly factor Sunday in the Meadowlands.

Indeed, you have to burrow deep within Google to find credible evidence of what kind of quarterback Cassel will be.

10-19 Matt Cassel’s record in his last 29 starts

You can expect this much — he’s far bolder than Weeden, who refused to take any chances. If anything, after we’ve watched Weeden for three weeks, Cassel may seem more like Vinny Testaverde than Tom Brady.

A lengthy perusal of Cassel in past action — there was some black-and-white footage available, I discovered — suggests that he is very confident while in the pass pocket. He trusts his throwing arm, even if coach Jason Garrett would rather not.

One humbling statistic is this: Since the final month of the 2010 season, when he was with the Chiefs, Cassel is 10-19 as a starter.

Don’t worry, though. In the NFC East, I still think this is good enough for the Pro Bowl.

Gil LeBreton: 817-390-7697, glebreton@star-telegram.com, @gilebreton

Cowboys at Giants

3:25 p.m. Sunday, KDFW/4

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