September 5, 2010 1:10 PM
Just because the Super Bowl is in Dallas this year doesn't mean the Cowboys get an automatic bid.
Which may be surprising news if you've looked through any of a number of preseason publications that show the Cowboys easily winning the NFC.
They certainly took strides in that direction by winning a playoff game a year ago - but that is no guarantee that they will go a step further this year.
I think Wade Phillips and Tony Romo complement one another pretty well. And I'm not exactly sure that's a compliment.
Both seemed to capture lightning in a bottle in the final few weeks of the 2009 regular season and carry that into the post-season. First they handed the Saints their first loss, after New Orleans' 13-0 start. Then they ended the regular season with back-to-back shutouts in divisional games, first over the Redskins and then against the Eagles. They followed that up with a big win over the Eagles a week later in the playoffs - their first playoff win since the mid-1990s.
But here's the catch - just when they were riding high, the Cowboys lost, 34-3, to the Vikings in the second round of the playoffs. That's Tony Romo and Wade Phillips in a nutshell.
In some ways, this Cowboys team is better than the one a year ago. First-round pick Dez Bryant looks like an impact rookie, and a nice addition to last year's breakout receiver Miles Austin. The defense that allowed the second-lowest point total in the league a year ago returns nearly intact. But there are questions - has Romo really figured out how to be a consistent winner? Or will he return to his inconsistent ways? Is David Buehler a Super Bowl team-quality kicker? (He had a fantastic finish to the final week of the preseason.)
The story of the Cowboys' recent past has been talented teams, disappointing results. And those were teams that may not necessarily have been Super Bowl favorites, but rather simply playoff teams.
With the Super Bowl in their home stadium, the expectations this year are as high as they have been for the Cowboys in a long time. That may just mean even more disappointment for their fans.
2010 Prediction: 13-3, 1st Place in NFC East