Separation of Standings, Rosters and Wallets

IRVING, Tex. – All three of Thanksgiving Day's NFL games were knotted with each other in one way or another. The early Packers win in Detroit? Green Bay comes to Dallas next week.

The middle of the turkey sandwich, the Jets at Texas Stadium? The Cowboys did their part by moving to 10-1, setting up the year's showcase game in the NFL. And the late game in Atlanta? Well, the Falcons weren't able to stick with the Colts, and are not able to back up the claim of that Plano bodybuilder who insists he provided performance-enhancing drugs to members of the Falcons and the Cowboys. It can't be true, because no way those two teams are on the same stuff.

Just kidding.

Seriously, despite all the Thursday ties, the Cowboys' 34-3 pounding of the lowly Jets – a win that came with such ease that when Wade Phillips emptied his bench he almost stuck Kelly Clarkson in there at nose guard to add some beef – is a "separation game'' of sorts.

"We haven't met any of our goals yet," Phillips said, meaning that with this win the team "didn't make the playoffs, we didn't win the division, we didn't get home-field advantage. But I am proud of that (10-1 start, a franchise first). Our team is proud of that." There is a separation in the standings; only Green Bay, also at 10-1, can make a claim to be even close to Dallas' class among NFC contenders. (As for the AFC: We acknowledge what New England did to the Cowboys, though that may be as much of a challenge as the Pats get all year. We remember what the Cowboys did to Indy last year, so there's no need to bow to the Colts. And arguably the AFC's third-best team is Pittsburgh, and this crappy Jets team just got done beating them five days ago. So elite is elite.)

There is a separation in talent: In the New York papers today, they are touting the fine work of Jets rookie corner Darrelle Revis, who "held'' Terrell Owens to six catches for 65 yards and a score. Earlier in the week, T.O. was unable to I.D. the Jets' top pick. "The diva,'' huffed some NY writer this morning, "knows who Revis is now.''

Well, yeah, kinda; he knows that he's a kid who "held'' him to 6-65-1. But it seems like this was more about Owens heroics being unnecessary than it was about the Jets controlling him. Jason Witten contributed touchdown catches of 25 and 22 yards. Sam Hurd and Miles Austin came from deep on the depth chart to combine for three catches and 38 yards. Dallas played grind-it-out late – very reminiscent of the way the ‘90's Super Bowl teams closed out games – by feeding MB3, who totaled 103 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. Defensively, Greg Ellis recorded two sacks and all-the-sudden-playmaker Terence Newman sprinted 50 yards the other way for for an interception touchdown, all of it adding up to what QB Tony Romo called "maybe the best performance by our defense since I've been here.''

In only one area does a Cowboy salute to an opponent in the "separation of talent'' department. That would be Romo, who grew up in Packer Country idolizing Brett Favre. Romo's success Thursday gave him 29 TD passes for the season, matching the Dallas franchise record. But the Cowboys QB, who watched some of Favre's dominant effort in Detroit before the Texas Stadium kickoff, was asked who performed better, the Master (Farve) or the Pupil (Romo). "Yeah,'' Tony grinned, "I think he was better." Packers vs. Cowboys for home-field edge in the postseason will be sold as "Romo vs. Favre,'' whose one blotch on his illustrious career is the fact that he beats the Cowboys about as often as an important "nationally-televised game'' in the NFL won't actually be seen by very many people.

Which brings up another separation issue: Separation of your money from your wallet. That's the situation for next Thursday night, as Packers-Cowboys is slated for the NFL Network, not presently carried on so many TV systems. Brace yourself for all the money involved to be an underlying theme as the Cowboys progress this week and beyond: Not only will we hear Jerry Jones pushing for fans to protest the evils of cable, we'll also be subject to lots of hand-wringing and teeth-gnashing over the outrageous pricing being etched into the menu at the new Cowboys stadium in Arlington.

What's this? A one-time fee of $50,000 for the right to buy a good seat? And then $340 more for each of, what, 10 or so games? And a $750 parking pass?

Geez, Mr. Jones, that concession line is going to be sorta inefficient what with folks trying to order nachos while also dropping their pants and bending over, eh?

Again, I'm kidding.

Seriously, the Cowboys will charge what the market will bear. Supply-and-demand, and all that. If the prices are too high for the audience, the prices will slide down. If the Cowboys aren't any good, the prices will slide down.

Of course, given separation between the Cowboys and the rest of the field, what are the chances of that? More likely: Little children all over Texas and all over America will, as much as ever, want to grow up to be Cowboys and play in the new stadium.

And in case they fall short of that goal, little children all over Texas and all over America are saving their pennies. About five million of ‘em. So when they grow up, they can actually attend a game.

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