The League

Dave Goldberg
Sports Reporter

Dave Goldberg

Covered the NFL for the AP for 25 years and now is a senior NFL writer for Fanhouse.com

D the difference for Big D

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It even plays badly with me, having lost patience long ago with "entitlement" -- the word I always think of when I think of the Dallas Cowboys. As (allegedly) "America's Team,'' their fans (and their owner) think they are supposed to win every year.

This year they may be right after not having won for a decade-and-a-half.

As I look at the way the Cowboys have played over the last month I put aside my biases and think "Super Bowl winner.'' Or at least "best team in the NFC.'' Then I think how silly it's been for everyone to assume that past playoff performance -- the pathetic last 31 minutes against the Giants two years ago and Tony Romo's fumbled snap in Seattle the year before -- have anything to do with what might happen in the playoffs this season.

Until last week, I liked Philadelphia to beat the Cowboys and win the NFC East. Earlier in the season, I thought the Giants were better -- they did, in fact, beat the Cowboys twice.

But having knocked the Saints off their perch (perhaps permanently) and then having shut out the Redskins and Eagles, the Cowboys clearly have shaken off the "late-season choker'' label. I actually never believed in labels like that, preferring to take it (football cliche alert!!) one game at a time.

And what I have seen has been impressive. Not necessarily Romo, although he hasn't made the big mistake ("choked'' if you must). Not even the three-headed running game and the remarkable Miles Austin, the free agent from Monmouth who blossomed into a Pro Bowler in his fourth season, an exemplar for patience (are you listening, Dan?).

What is different about these Cowboys is defense -- two straight shutouts in a league where every year they adjust the rules a little more toward the offense. It's one thing to hold the Redskins to nil; another to do it to the Eagles with all their young weapons.

And it's not just the defenders you'd expect -- DeMarcus Ware, Jay Ratliff and Terence Newman. It's Anthony Spencer, No. 93, in your program, who in his first two seasons was an underachieving first-rounder (PATIENCE, DAN!!); Michael Jenkins, last year's underachieving first-rounder and Keith Brooking, an old name, who at 35 has become the glue of the defense. (Yes, Dan, old "names'' at the right place and time can be helpful.)

Brooking also is the veteran leader who can stop hemorrhaging like the 46-second drive engineered by Eli Manning at the end of the half two years ago that doomed the Cowboys in those playoffs. And Jerry Jones didn't have to break the bank to get him.

At some level, I like Green Bay among the teams that play this weekend. And the Eagles too -- this is a year in the NFC for underdogs.

But I think the Cowboys will beat Philly. And then go on to beat Minnesota or New Orleans. Or both in some order.

After that, they're on their own.

By Dave Goldberg  |  January 8, 2010; 12:21 PM ET  | Category:  Dallas Cowboys Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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