'Boys Stake Their Claim on NFC East

IRVING, Texas -- This season's battle for the title of "NFL's Best Team'' figures to change hands as frequently, as violently and sometimes as clumsily as stolen O.J. Simpson memorabilia in Sin City. But at this moment – speaking of Las Vegas – guess which club can make as legitimate a claim as anybody?

Check those odds now that Dallas has used Sunday's 37-20 blowout at Miami to vault to 2-0: According to one sportsbook as of late Sunday, the Cowboys are but modest 1-point underdogs to the powerful Bears in next Sunday night's showcase showdown. Meanwhile, they remain among the favorites to win their division, to win the NFC Championship and to win the Super Bowl.

QB Tony Romo as a weakness? Three missing defensive starters as a handicap? Wide receivers as too old and brittle? Offensive line as underachievers? Wade Phillips as a milquetoast, Jason Garrett as a virgin, Brian Stewart as a trash-talker? Terrell Owens as a timebomb? Roy Williams as a secondary statue? The running backs tandem as a flaw? All the way upstairs to Jerry Jones as a meddler?

If this team has problems, imagine how crappy the other 31 franchises must be?

Actually, there are notable woes for the rest of the NFL elite:

New England is a 2-0 juggernaut. But thanks to coach Bill Belicheat, the Football Gods simply cannot continue to smile on the Patriots. Belicheck, you're a regular Woody Allen: an immoral filmmaker.

San Diego is 1-1 after getting blown out in Foxboro. Watching LT, Rivers, Merriman and other hot-tempered Chargers, you get the impression the lid on the pressure cooker is ready to blow. … and you suddenly don't trust Norv to turn off the burner.

Denver played poorly enough to need a miracle win over the lowly Raiders. Indy is 2-0 after doing the same against Tennessee. Carolina just lost to Houston. New Orleans reeks. Seattle lost a home game to the Cardinals. Cincinnati throws six TD passes in Cleveland – and loses.

Jacksonville is 1-1 with an offense that can't make plays. Green Bay is 2-0 but I believe their biggest season highlight will be Favre's terrific acting in those Wrangler Jeans commercials. (Even in a fake staged-for-the-cameras backyard game of touch football, Brett insists on throwing one of his "magical'' no-look passes. What Wrangler doesn't show you from the fake game is the Brett threw five picks.)

The Steelers are 2-0, yeah, but they've dumped two humpties. And besides, Pittsburgh gets downgraded for those nasty yellow uniforms that appear to have been puked up by Steely McBeam. Chicago? The defending NFC champs are 1-1. Of course, they're the only team in football that tries to keep it's OWN offense OFF the field. I hear Lovie is thinking about putting Devin Hester at quarterback, only he'll be positioned 40 yards deep in the backfield.

How limp is the Bears' offense? The Bears' offense is so limp they oughta be asking Wade Wilson to ship ‘em his leftover samples. The Cowboys, though, can claim that Week 1's high-scoring win over the Giants in which there were assorted breakdowns was simply part of the defensive learning curve under new boss Phillips. And that forcing five turnovers against the Dolphins is evidence of the true genius of the vaunted "Phillips 3-4.'' They can also claim that offensively they employ a collection of weapons as dynamic as the Pats, the Colts, the Bengals, you name it.

Oh, and the Romo thing. Last week he won NFC Offensive Player of the Week by engineering 45 points. What's going to happen to him on the awards circuit THIS week, a surprise Emmy victory over Gandolfini?

It's all a little confounding. And again, the Bears in Chicago next Sunday night figure to have plenty to say about it. But two games into this Cowboys season, pleasant and zany unpredictability reigns. It's not as pleasant or zany or unpredictable as O.J. being arrested in Vegas for stealing his own memorabilia. (I mean, why would the guy need to swipe his own autograph? Couldn't he, like, just scribble out some new ones?) But it's way up there. And so are your Cowboys.

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