FRISCO, Texas – I was going to write the bulk of this column on Wednesday night, but I decided to put the laptop down and enjoy one of the best sporting events I can remember, instead.
I didn't have a real rooting interest in this Cubs-Indians World Series, but that captivating Game 7 was what sports are all about. You root for teams and get invested in the outcomes of these ridiculous games in the hopes that one day, you too will get a payoff like the Cubs and their fans got on Wednesday night.
The Cowboys' 21-year title drought pales in comparison to a team that hadn't won a championship since Theodore Roosevelt's presidency. But man, in this day and age? With the size of this fanbase and the popularity of social media? Can you even imagine what a Cowboys championship would look like in 2016?
I honestly don't think imagination does it justice.
But anyway. That's that's why my column is later getting posted than I'd prefer. Congrats to the Cubs.
1.On a related topic, can we talk about where this Cowboys team is going and what the NFL landscape looks like near the midpoint of the season?
Some of y'all probably don't want to talk about this, and that's fine. I'm not a particularly superstitious person, and I don't believe in jinxes – so I'm going to.
Granted, there's still more than half the season to play. But it's not too early to look around the NFL and realize that the Cowboys have developed into one of this league's elite talents. That's doesn't necessarily mean that this is some all-timer of a Cowboys team – but the NFL sure looks mediocre right now, doesn't it?
Fresh off that dramatic win against Philadelphia, the Cowboys have a shiny 6-1 record, a dominant running game, an embarrassment of riches at quarterback and an efficient defense. Even when they've looked sloppy, they've managed to handle business on a variety of fronts, with wins against three or four clubs that look like they'll challenge for playoff spots.
Taking a look around the NFC, who exactly has the better resume? Would it be the Minnesota Vikings, who have seen their offensive line implode, their offensive fall apart and their offensive coordinator resign all within the last two weeks?
Would it be the Seahawks, who have similar offensive line problems and an offense that has sputtered for most of the year? Or the Packers, who have faced similar offensive problems – not to mention getting soundly beaten by these very Cowboys two weeks ago.
Atlanta looks like a tough test, as Matt Ryan is playing at an insane level and Julio Jones is one of the game's top talents. But it's worth noting that the Falcons are ranked 25th in total defense and 29th in scoring defense – allowing 29 points per game.
On the other side of the league, you have the very impressive Patriots, and the AFC West looks formidable with Denver, Oakland and Kansas City all excelling. But none of those teams would be the Cowboys' problem unless they actually made the Super Bowl.
I'm sorry if you'd prefer your team to stay under the radar, but it's not going to happen. As it stands right now, the Cowboys are the class of the NFC – and that's not something they've been able to say for a decade or more. In 2014, I'd have argued that there were better teams in the playoff race than the Cowboys.
This time around, I can't do it. Dallas looks like the team to beat. It'll be interesting to see if they can maintain the momentum.
2.My parents told me I could be anything I wanted when I grew up, so I became an Internet meme.
I don't know how many times you watched the replay of Jason Witten's game-winning touchdown against Philadelphia. But if you did, there's a good chance you saw a picture of me with a less-than-pleased expression on my face.
Considering how often I've teased Bryan Broaddus about his TV moment during the Cowboys' Week 3 win against the Rams in 2014, I guess I deserve it. I made the crucial error of forgetting that, in 2016, there are cameras everywhere.
That's why, when Witten was celebrating his big moment, I could be seen in the background looking less than enthused. In fact, my face was unfortunate enough that I've been given the dreaded label of "hater."
I apologize for the shameless shelf-promotion, but this really made my entire week. Who'da thunk I'd go from silently watching the end of a classic game to blowing up someone's Instagram feed?
I haven't stopped hearing about it since Sunday. Fans and coworkers have been giving me grief since Monday, and players were dogging me about this week in the locker room. My own mother made a crack about it.
Anyway, two points: firstly, I have a really bad habit of chewing on the inside of my lip when I'm stressed or deep in thought. At that point in time, I was probably thinking hard about what stories we'd need to write and what all I'd need to do before the end of the night. Secondly, even though I'm on the Cowboys' payroll, it'd be pretty poor decorum to cheer during a game. My main concern is sharing insight and information with y'all. I leave the rooting and cheering for the fans.
Sorry if that sounds snooty, but that's pretty much the way the business works.
For the record, though, I did pick the Cowboys to win that game.
3.Speaking of winning games, let's examine one of my least-favorite clichés in the sports world – the oft-discussed "trap game."
I hate it so much. Have we not determined by now that the NFL has purposefully designed itself around total parity? Last year's NFC champion, Carolina, is sitting at 2-5 right now. The Cowboys, who finished 4-12 in 2015, are the class of the conference.
How about the 6-2 Raiders rising to prominence, while the Jets, a 10-6 team last year, sit at just 3-5. Every single year, roughly half of the playoff field is comprised of teams that didn't make the postseason the year before.
Obviously, the Browns are in a different class with zero wins through eight games. But the point remains: they are an NFL team, stocked with highly-talented and highly-motivated professional athletes. Guys like Joe Thomas, Joe Haden and Terrelle Pryor would start on nearly any team in the league.
Jason Garrett's favorite mantra is "focus on ourselves" – do your job to the best of your ability, and the rest will take care of itself. This should be the perfect week to test that mantra out, since everyone in the world has written the Browns off in this game.
But in a league this unpredictable, a win is something no one should take for granted. Just look back to last year's Cowboys, who were within one possession in the vast majority of their games, despite slumping to a 4-12 finish.
In the NFL, no win is ever guaranteed. I recognize that, and I'm not a professional player. If the Cowboys can't recognize that, it's on them.
4.This feels like a fitting topic of conversation this week, since Dallas just finished playing Carson Wentz and plays Cleveland next. How are you feeling about that Browns-Eagles draft trade so far? Obviously it's early, but it sure is fun to speculate on who's going to feel better about the deal.
I think it's fair to say that some of the shine has worn off on Wentz after three losses, but the guy is still playing an outstanding rookie season. He's completing 66 percent of his passes with a quarterback rating of 92.5, with nine touchdown passes to just three interceptions.
If he maintains this growth and develops into a franchise quarterback, you have to admit it was a good deal for Philadelphia. But I'm going to have a close eye on the Browns' rookie this weekend in Cleveland.
By making that trade with the Eagles, the Browns got: explosive wide out Corey Coleman, who is returning from injury, an offensive tackle with upside in Shon Coleman, a quarterback project in Cody Kessler, a hard-hitting safety named Derrick Kindred, a versatile offensive lineman in Spencer Drango and two other receivers in Ricardo Louis and Jordan Payton.
On top of that, they still hold Philadelphia's first-round pick and Tennessee's second-round pick for 2017, as well as the Eagles' second-round pick in 2018.
The Browns are heading for a likely No. 1 overall pick next spring, followed by a likely mid-tier pick from Philly. Following that, they'll have two premium second-round picks.
They could draft their quarterback of the future by taking a guy like DeShone Kizer, or they could select a freakish pass rusher like Myles Garrett. This is a team that is already starting to turn its roster over, and if they hit on some of these picks, they could get real scary, real fast.
Of course, this all hinges on whether they pick well. But I'm just as intrigued by Cleveland's upside as I am by Wentz's.
5.When I wasn't mean-mugging the camera down on the sideline last Sunday, I was insisting to all my coworkers that the Cowboys needed to go for it on that crucial 4th-and-1 in overtime. Kicking a field goal is a tempting proposition, given how well the defense had played – but why did you invest so much money on offense if you're not going to trust it?
Turns out, Jason Garrett agreed with me. He had his guys bulldoze their way to the first down behind the strength of the offensive line – which should be the envy of every team in the league.
That's why the Cowboys designed this team the way they did, and that's why they're winning – dominance up front. I loved that Garrett had confidence in the blueprint he helped design.
6.When Dez Bryant was done answering football questions on Thursday, he talked with reporters for just as long about his shoe game – and man, is it impressive.
If you're unaware, the Cowboys' star receiver is one of the marquee players signed to the Jordan Brand, which means the guy is literally swimming in dope footwear. Obviously, footwear is a hobby for a lot of NFL players, but Bryant takes it to a different level with the type of exclusive deals he gets.
"I'm not wearing a shoe after release. When that shoe release, I'm done wearing it," he said. "I get my shoes, like, at least six months to a year early – no joke. I'm already in January 2017 now."
Much has been made in the last week or two of the shoe rivalry between Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott, as the two have taken turns making fun of each other's kicks on social media. With a self-estimation of 3,000 to 3,500 sneakers at home, it's hard to imagine anyone can mess with Dez's shoe game.
"Nobody, nobody – besides Jordan himself," Bryant said.
7.I swear, if we get another tie this week, I'm going to lose my mind.
Not only are they boring and aggravating, but ties throw my whole record off. Last week was utterly abysmal – but at least I picked the Cowboys game right. I'll have my Dallas-Cleveland pick on Friday. For now, here's the rest:
Atlanta over TAMPA BAY
Pittsburgh over BALTIMORE
KANSAS CITY over Jacksonville
New York Jets over MIAMI
NEW YORK GIANTS over Philadelphia
Detroit over MINNESOTA
Carolina over LOS ANGELES
New Orleans over SAN FRANCISCO
SAN DIEGO over Tennessee
GREEN BAY over Indianapolis
OAKLAND over Denver
SEATTLE over Buffalo