Inside Slant 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." SERIES HISTORY: 9th meeting. The regular-season series is tied 4-4, although the Cowboys won a Super Bowl over the Broncos. Denver has won the last two meetings. The last Cowboys victory came in 1995. NOTES, QUOTES —Cowboys coach Bill Parcells said the Cowboys didn't evaluate Broncos quarterback Jake Plummer before the 2003 season even though he was unquestionably the best free-agent quarterback available. Parcells said the Cowboys passed on Plummer because owner Jerry Jones said the team had too much invested in Quincy Carter and Chad Hutchinson. —Troy Aikman, Rayfield Wright and Michael Irvin are among the 25 former players, coaches and contributors on the Pro Football Hall of Fame's semifinal list of modern-era candidates for the Class of 2006. Aikman, one of six semifinalists in his first year of eligibility, is expected to join Irvin and Wright among the 15 finalists. Irvin made it to the last cut in February, in his first year of eligibility. Wright was recently nominated as a finalist by the Hall of Fame's seniors committee. Hall of Fame selectors will reduce the modern-era list to 13 in a mail vote to be announced in mid-January. They will join senior's candidates Wright and John Madden on the Class of 2006 ballot. Selectors will meet Feb. 4, the day before Super Bowl XL in Detroit, with induction requiring 80 percent voting support on the final ballot. The Class of 2006 will include between three and six members. Cowboys in the Hall of Fame are Mel Renfro (1996), Bob Lilly (1980), Roger Staubach (1985), Tony Dorsett (1994) and Randy White (1994) and coach Tom Landry (1990) and general manager Tex Schramm (1991). —After the season's first 10 games, the Cowboys are 14th in the NFL (eighth in the NFC) in total offense with an average of 335.6 yards-per-game. Dallas is 13th in the NFL (seventh in the NFC) in rushing (118.6 yards-per-game). With an average of 217.0 passing yards-per game, Dallas is 14th in the NFL in passing (seventh in the NFC). —Dallas leads the NFL in time of possession, holding the ball for 33:16 per game. Dallas is followed by Denver (33:10) in that department. Since the start of the 2003 season, Dallas is 10-0 when holding the ball for at least 35 minutes. —The Cowboys are currently seventh in the NFL in third-down conversion rate with a mark of 41.7 percent (58-of-139). Dallas is also seventh in the NFL in first downs. QUOTE TO NOTE: "Look it, you gotta play well on defense. You gotta do a lot of things. But I think ... now, other than Philadelphia, which had its circumstances altered, I think there's a lot of parallel with us and Washington in that we both have veteran guys in there. I think the development of (Eli) Manning, which has been good, gives the Giants a good chance. I just think that's a key player on the team. You try to help him as much as you can. You also got to recognize and appreciate what your strengths and weaknesses are. You've got to hide your weaknesses as best you can and try to maximize your strengths. That's what we're trying to do." — Cowboys coach Bill Parcells on his statement that the team with the best quarterback will win the NFC East. STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL —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. GAME PLAN: The Cowboys must protect quarterback Drew Bledsoe. They will also continue to try to control the ball and the clock with the ground game and take calculated shots down the field. Defensively, they must contain the Denver ground game, which ranks second in the league and also not let quarterback Jake Plummer beat them with his feet. MATCHUPS TO WATCH Cowboys defense vs. Denver ground game — The Broncos are listed as the league's second best ground attack to the Atlanta Falcons. But they are the league's best true rushing offense if you take Falcons quarterback Michael Vick out of the equation. The Cowboys need to stop the run and put pressure on quarterback Jake Plummer. He is simply a different quarterback in Denver because he doesn't have to carry the offense. The Cowboys want to stop the run and see if they can flesh out the mistake prone Plummer again. Broncos CB Champ Bailey vs. Cowboys WR Terry Glenn — Bailey leads the Broncos in interceptions with five, as he is regaining his status as one of the league's top corners. But he is a physical cornerback who will have to be on his toes to keep up with the speedy Glenn. The Cowboys will almost certainly take shots down the field to Glenn, who is averaging 18.2 yards per catch. INJURY IMPACT: WR Patrick Crayton is expected to practice on Wednesday. He will not play against the Broncos but is hopefully if making a return for the Giants game Dec. 4. Crayton has been out with ankle injury since the Giants game Oct. 16. TE Brett Pierce was placed on injured reserve. The Cowboys will move up tight end Sean Ryan from the practice squad to replace him. They are expected to make the move on Wednesday.