When Bill Parcells joined the Cowboys in 2003, he told them to get their expectations up. Parcells was trying to rid the team of the culture of losing from three straight 5-11 seasons. He said he came to Dallas to turn the Cowboys into winners as he was too old to lose.
With his team 7-3 and sitting in first place in the NFC East, Parcells is still trying to get his team to play up too his standards.
Considering his hard-to-please nature, even a win against the high flying Broncos (8-2) won't be enough for Parcells.
Beating the Broncos would certainly legitimize the Cowboys as a possible Super Bowl contender, but it will mean more work down the road to Parcells.
"I'm not worried about that because then all we'd have to do is play the Giants after that to legitimize us and then we have a game with Kansas City to legitimize us," Parcells said.
The crusty coach says he wants his team to play with more consistency. He wants the players to understand the big picture.
"I just want my team to be more consistent in its performance that's all," Parcells said. "We are doing some things very well. We are doing extremely well on penalties, comparatively speaking. By and large we've played pretty solid on defense. There are just some areas we have to do better in. It's just the way it is."
Parcells' attitude is a testament to just how far the Cowboys have come since last season's 6-10 campaign.
Riding a three-game winning streak despite not playing your best in the past two outings is simply not good enough anymore.
The last three times they have won three straight games in a season they made the playoffs. Of course, they were one and done each time in 1998, 1999 and 2003. The Cowboys already know they are playoff worthy in 2005. They hope to do something when they get there, which is why style points suddenly matter.
"If we make it to Detroit (site of Super Bowl XL), then he'll be satisfied," Pro Bowl defensive tackle La'Roi Glover said. "Until then, I don't think so."
--QB Drew Bledsoe wants coach Bill Parcells to open the offense back up. The Cowboys have grown conservative since the injury departure of left tackle Flozell Adams. They have used max protection schemes, sending less receivers in the pass route. Bledsoe has followed suit by passing for less than 200 yards in three of the last four games. All Parcells cares about is winning and Bledsoe understands as much. Parcells said he is doing what he thinks is best for the team. What's also true, according to Bledsoe, is that Parcells would prefer to win running the ball and playing solid defense than with a wide open passing game.
--RB Julius Jones and RB Marion Barber are splitting time in Dallas. Cowboys coach Bill Parcells, however, admits being envious of the Denver two-headed ground game with Tatum Bell and Mike Anderson. Bell has rushed for 640 yards and five touchdowns, while Anderson has rushed for 782 yards and eight touchdowns. "I'd actually like to do that pretty much the way they are doing it," Parcells said.
--CB Anthony Henry may or may not start against the Broncos Thursday. But he is making progress after missing the Eagles game because of a partially torn groin. Henry played only in the nickel defense against the Lions last Sunday. Henry said it will take some time before he'll be 100 percent again. He said the injury affects everything and will only get better with rest. Suffice it say, Henry is looking forward to the 10 days off between the Broncos game and the Giants game on Dec. 4 in hopes of being ready to go all out for the final stretch of the season.
--DE Greg Ellis leads the Cowboys with seven sacks. He has recorded a sack and forced a fumble in the fourth quarter in each of the last two games to more than prove coach Bill Parcells right. Remember it was Parcells who predicted Ellis could play in the 3-4 defense and would be more productive getting less snaps. Ellis thought differently before the season, believing he was too small for the more physical 3-4. "Good football players can play in any scheme," Parcells said. "There isn't any doubt about it. Good guys make their own way and the guys that think they have to have a certain thing, they're probably not very good. I think Greg has adjusted well. He's doing a good job. I think he gets it now."
--QB Tony Romo has yet to throw a pass in a game this year. As the Cowboys are making a playoff push they don't know what they have in their backup quarterback if he was forced into action because of an injury to starter Drew Bledsoe. Romo has not been as sharp in practice lately as he was in training camp because of the limited reps. "I think I have a mentally bright, studious guy who now is mature enough as a pro player in his third year to put in the time to prepare himself, regardless of the fact that he may not play," Parcells said. "So I do feel confident about that. Now if he were just thrown into the fray right now, I can't tell you exactly what I think he would do. But I do like the player and I think he's studious and trying to keep up as best he can and trying to be sharp."
The New York Giants, believe it or not, are sitting on the precipice of earning a playoff date.
That's the same team that shoots itself in the foot, hammers its thumb when putting up a picture and planes off the top of a closet door instead of the bottom when higher carpeting is installed.
In fact, the NFC East appears to be one of the two NFC divisions that might produce a wild card team, joining the NFC South.
And the victory-starved Giants fans, callous and cynical and ultra-cautious, are beginning to allow the "P" word - playoffs - to sneak into their conversations.
But not coach Tom Coughlin.
He refuses to talk about anything but the next game, refuses to speculate, refuses to answer questions even a game ahead.
"Our most important game of the season is (this Sunday against) Seattle," he says. "Why? Because it's our next game, and it's a game we have to win."
The challenge will be great, of course. The Seahawks are 8-2, the best record in the NFC. Their star running back, Shaun Alexander, will be the most threatening challenge the Giants have met since way back on Sept. 25, when they were chewed up by San Diego's LaDainian Tomlinson.
So this week Coughlin will talk about that threat, because it's the next game. After that? You won't hear him mention Seattle until and unless it becomes the next game - sometime after the regular season has ended.
--C Shaun O'Hara (ankle) may miss the Seattle game, putting reserve Jason Whittle, who can play C or G, in the starting lineup. O'Hara was injured in the third quarter vs. Philadelphia last week. He hasn't missed a game yet this season.
--LT Luke Petitgout (knee) seems more likely to play than does injured C Shaun O'Hara. Petitgout has a "banged up, bruised knee," according to coach Tom Coughlin, who indicated the damage was not structural and the swelling was on the outside, apparently a good sign. If Petitgout doesn't play, veteran Bob Whitfield will start; he played most of the second half last week.
--RB Tiki Barber set a team and personal high last year with 1,518 yards, and through 10 games this season, he has 967. That leaves him just 33 short of 1,000 and five or six games to work on another career high.
--LDE Michael Strahan underwent MRI examinations to determine the cause of neck and shoulder stiffness but doesn't appear to be in danger of missing the Seattle game.
--QB Eli Manning is crediting the proximity to his receivers for his sudden ability to read their moves prior to throwing the ball. "I knew Plaxico (Burress) was going to do what he did on the 61-yard (touchdown) pass," he said. "The corner was playing tight and waiting for the hitch. I'm not about to throw a hitch pattern at a cornerback. So Plax broke it off, ran deep and I got him the ball behind the guy (Sheldon Brown of the Eagles)."
--LG Rich Seubert, who hasn't played in a regulation game since Oct. 19, 2003, when he suffered a spiral compound fracture of his right leg, may suit up in Seattle if Luke Petitgout and/or Shaun O'Hara can't make it. He has been on the roster all season but has been inactive every week.
--WR Amani Toomer caught his 500th pass as a Giant in last week's victory over Philadelphia, and four minutes later so did Tiki Barber. "I got there first," he smiled. "At least I beat him in something." Toomer, in his 10th season, has become Manning's secret weapon when both Plaxico Burress and TE Jeremy Shockey are double-covered.
--MLB Antonio Pierce, who has been everything the Giants hoped when they signed him as an UFA from Washington, remembered the first time he met coach Tom Coughlin. "When I signed my contract I sat with him and he said, 'The biggest thing we can do this season is beat Philadelphia.' Well, we did once. There's another one later on."
--CB Curtis Deloatch was the object of the Eagles' attention last week and admits he was being picked on. "Coach says that in this league, the cornerbacks have to just move forward. You can't think about what happened, only what is going to happen."
--LG David Diehl plans to spend Thanksgiving Day the same way he spends much of a normal week -- with QB Eli Manning. "Yeah, my fiance and I are going to his house. His parents are going to be there and Mrs. Manning is going to cook dinner." Better be plenty - Diehl is 6-5 and 320.
The Eagles issued the following statement after the Owens decision was announced:
We appreciate the careful consideration from the arbitrator, Richard Bloch, to present all of our arguments in this grievance. We are also thankful for his respect and understanding of the importance of the particular issues at hand. From this point, we look forward to moving on with our preparations for Sunday's game vs. Green Bay and the rest of the 2005 season and will have no further comment on this issue.
The Eagles made several roster moves Tuesday, waiving two players, signing two and placing two more on injured reserve.
The two players released were punter Reggie Hodges and kicker Jose Cortez. The two signed were Hodges' replacement, Nick Murphy, and cornerback Donald Strickland. The two placed on IR were quarterback Donovan McNabb and cornerback Lito Sheppard.
Hodges' release wasn't a surprise. He was last in the league in gross and net average and had a punt blocked in Sunday's 27-17 loss to the New York Giants. Murphy, 26, was in the Eagles' training camp two years ago and spent five games last season with Baltimore and Kansas City.
Cortez was originally signed after David Akers suffered a torn hamstring. Akers missed four games. When he returned three weeks ago, Cortez was kept on the roster to handle kickoffs until Akers' leg was completely healed, which it apparently has.
Strickland was signed because the Eagles need another cornerback after Sheppard suffered a season-ending ankle injury last week. Strickland started 12 games for the Indianapolis Colts in 2003-04. He was released by the Colts in October.
Sheppard will be replaced in the starting lineup by nickel back Rod Hood. Dime back Matt Ware likely will move up to nickel, unless the Eagles think Strickland can step in that quickly.
--QB Donovan McNabb was placed on injured reserve Tuesday. He will have surgery next week to repair a sports hernia injury.
--P Nick Murphy was signed Tuesday and will be the Eagles' punter Sunday against Green Bay. He replaces Reggie Hodges, who had the league's lowest gross and net averages and had a punt blocked Sunday against the New York Giants.
--CB Donald Strickland was signed by the Eagles on Tuesday to replace injured Lito Sheppard. Strickland, a former starter with Indianapolis, is expected to be activated for this week's game against Green Bay.
--CB Lito Sheppard was placed on injured reserve Tuesday, three days after he suffered a severe ankle sprain and dislocation that will require surgery to repair.
--PK David Akers missed a 38-yard field goal attempt late in Sunday's game and has made just 6 of 11 field-goal attempts this season. For the first time since he tore his hamstring and missed four games, he will handle the kickoffs this week.
--RB Brian Westbrook is looking forward to playing the Packers. Last year, in a 47-17 win, he caught 11 passes for 156 yards and three touchdowns against them.