EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Halfway through the season, it's safe to say the Super Bowl champion New York Giants are the team to beat in the NFC, and the injury ravaged Dallas Cowboys - the preseason favorite - will need to make a run after their bye just to make the postseason.
Eli Manning threw three touchdown passes, Brandon Jacobs rushed for 117 yards and a score and the Giants defense took advantage of the continued absence of the injured Tony Romo to intercept three passes in a 35-14 victory on Sunday.
"When a football team comes in here and it is kind of depleted as far as injuries go, you don't want to give them any sunlight," said Giants defensive end Justin Tuck. "You don't want to give them any light whatsoever."
In winning their five straight at home, the Giants (7-1) were in control from start in opening a three-game lead over the defending NFC East champion Cowboys (5-4) in the division.
"It was important for us to win the game and be 2-0 in our division," Giants middle linebacker Antonio Pierce said. "When we were 4-0, somebody asked me about an undefeated season. I just think about being undefeated in our division. That's 6-0. That's
the most important record to us. This is another step toward that."
The loss was the third in four games for Dallas, which fell into last place in the division behind Washington (6-2) and Philadelphia (5-3), not something anyone expected from the team many considered the favorite to win the NFC.
However, nobody expected the Cowboys to either lose Romo for three games with a broken pinkie or to have safety Roy Williams and punter Mat McBriar lost to season-ending injuries or to have cornerback Pacman Jones suspended again.
"We still have seven games left and we need to go on a run," Cowboys linebacker Bradie James said.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones smiled when asked if the goal was to simply make the playoffs.