Bully Ball

It's hard to decipher which is has received more prep and air time this weekend; the expansive Hurricane Ike or Ohio State vs. USC in the Land of Fruits and Nuts. While both are noteworthy, neither is the biggest event or storm to roll in this weekend.

Top billing belongs to the Dallas Cowboys as they prepare to jump into the ring with the biggest division bully for Round One. Big, bad (overrated) Philly arrives having dispensed with the powerhouse Rams as if they were a hot knife thru butter. Don't know about you, but something says the Rams aren't that bad and the dreaded Eagles aren't that good.

Take this one to the bank. If the Cowboys do not win the tilt on Monday night, they have no chance of reaching the Super Bowl. None, whatsoever. Mark it down. Preposterous, you say? Blasphemy? Pure silliness with it only being the second game of the 2008 season? Plenty of time to rebound and right the ship? OK, if you say so. Again, it's not going to happen should the Cowboys stumble to 1-1 after their first home game in the Texas Stadium Farewell Tour. Proof? You can't handle the proof. Besides, like a quality scribe, I have none.

None, whatsoever. Just like the Cowboys' chances of playing in Tampa come February if this game is fumbled away.

Never has an early season game taken on this importance and magnitude in quite some time. Plan and simple, the Cowboys are exorcising demons when they take to the field on September 15th. The same field which claimed their lunch and ticket-punched invite to last year's Super Bowl beckons their redemption. Do they have it in them to completely forget the playoff loss to the Giants, or will those memories linger? Not only are they trying to play thru the Giants debacle, they also have that lingering odor of the December home loss to the Eagles to dispense with. Are they capable of taking care of both in one fell swoop?

Three days until a great deal is known about the 2008 Dallas Cowboys. There is no greater measure of intestinal fortitude. Will they possess it, or will they crater to the demonic pressure?

The film has been studied. The Cowboys have had a heavy dose of the Eagles pummeling the St. Louis Rams in Week One. They've also rewound the horror film of last December when the Eagles planted a gigantic pin/nail in the Cowboys' hot air balloon. The "full of themselves" dirigible was brought to the home turf like the Hindenburg back in 1937. Tony Romo's thumb was left behind throbbing in the wake of three critical interceptions. Plain and simple, history cannot repeat itself. Cannot.

A loss, especially one to the Cheese steaks, will be the first 2008 shot over the Wade Phillips' bow. The Cowboys' faithful can only hope Wade Phillips has the internal mantra of "have to win this one." He has been all about "finish" as it relates to team theme, but for his own good and longevity, it better be WIN NOW. Yes, he's only in Year Two, but the test has never been of this caliber. Hopefully the cameras will be all over the Jones' box/suite. Jerry's non-verbal and facial expressions will be the barometer for Monday's contest. He will provide situational down and distance in every wince, frown and utterance. Conversely, you will know if the Cowboys are in control. For Wade's sake, Mr. Jerry better be smiling and high-fiving in the Owner's box.

Sure it's a long season, but the Cowboys can make it even longer. The Cowboys have lost three straight to divisional opponents since last December. This game starts the cycle all over again, and for their benefit, it better be a change of fate and outcome. This game truly sets the entire tone for the 2008 season. The road win in the Dawg Pound was a great start, but it pales in comparison to this contest. Many will point to the fact the Cowboys took care of business in Philly last year, so they'll be just fine if a loss happens to surface here.

Tap those brakes. Check that, stomp those brakes.

Yes, the Cowboys did march into Lincoln Financial last year to destroy the Eagles in the worst venue known to man. In early November. Under ideal playing conditions. Lose this contest and they try to redeem themselves in the Linc. On December 28th; the last game of the season. No thanks. Not with divisional and playoff implications possibly on the line. Ever hear the phrase "Take Care of Business?" The Cowboys MUST deliver a home-opener victory like there is no tomorrow. A victory will bring a confidence boost, and then it's up to the Team Sheriff and supporting captains to put things in proper perspective. However, a loss will test more than intestinal fortitude moving forward. It will benchmark the toughest stretch since T.O. went down in Carolina. Not only would it have the same impact, it would get much worse.

This one hangs in the balance and will be determined by two of Philly's finest. They being all-around super RB Brian Westbrook and Defensive Coordinator Jim Johnson. These two intend to wreak havoc on both sides of the ball for the home team. Each has been a proverbial thorn in Dallas' side for many years running. Each will come with "A" game firmly in hand. It will take a monumental effort to keep each in check. It's the job of all; not a select few. Everyone on the Cowboys' sideline must do their part. For if not, Mr. Jones will be pacing the home sideline, and when Jerry paces, it's never usually a good sign. When Jerry paces, stakes have a way of escalating.

A loss will signal "Game On." Have you ever heard the sky fall? No? If the Cowboys falter Monday night, you can start the audible exercise with the post-game radio talk shows. To get the full effect, you'll have to listen the entire day Tuesday. It would be an experience like no other. It's quite possible you would hear a collective call for public hangings of at least 5-10 Cowboys' personnel. Noose #1 is reserved, and it's a safe bet if not SS Roy Williams, the honor belongs to a non-player. Any guesses? Not that hard, is it? Harsh and cruel? Maybe, but this is Dallas, TX, and the opponent is the despised Philadelphia Eagles. Do the math. One plus one = Chicken Little.

While the Cowboys would gladly run from the public outcry and ridicule, the last thing they want is Lambeau Field on a hangover. Not with an over-the-hump Aaron Rodgers riding high in the saddle. The same Aaron Rodgers who with another quarter of football last year might have rallied the Packers right past the exuberant Cowboys. Think not? Go rewind that November 29, 2007 contest. Thankfully, time ran out.

So, it really does boil down to this. Wade, are your troops ready? Are they really ready for possibly the biggest battle of the 2008 regular season campaign? They better be for a whole host of reasons, but this one is personal for you. Fair or not, it's reality. Hopefully you'll be headed up the tunnel in players' embrace and not displaying the head hung, Dead Man Walking death row stroll. The stakes are as high as they've ever been all because of a fatal 30 days to conclude the Cowboys 2007 season. If there was ever a time for a good old fashion revival, this would be it.

Wade, our prayers and our pressure are with you. What's it going to be? Do you have a playground game plan for the Bully?

Ding. Ding.

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