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Thursday's 60-second rant: Could Cowboys be a contender?

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Dan Arkush
Executive editor

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Posted Sept. 06, 2012 @ 12:46 p.m. ET
By Dan Arkush

I suspect Jerry Jones woke up Thursday morning with a smile on his face as wide as the state of Texas.

Wednesday, after all, had to rank as one of the Cowboys’ owner's best days ever, don’t you think?

The day began with a Forbes survey substantiating his well-documented opulence to the tune of a little more than $2 billion, establishing him as the NFL’s fattest cat by a wide margin.

Then, on Wednesday night on a national stage, his football team pulled off an impressive upset over the defending Super Bowl champion Giants in the Meadowlands, overshadowing everything else going on in this great country of ours, including Bill Clinton’s endorsement of President Barack Obama.

In my first 60-second rant of the 2012 NFL season, here’s my first thought worth pondering: Did I underestimate Dallas this season?

With key offensive players seemingly at less than full strength because of injuries to TE Jason Witten, WRs Miles Austin and Dez Bryant and RB DeMarco Murray, I certainly didn’t expect the Cowboys to pile up 433 yards in their 24-17 victory.

Of course, nobody on the planet expected some guy named Kevin Ogletree to be an instant fantasy-football sensation with eight catches for 114 yards, including a pair of TDs and a 13-yard third-down reception late in the game to seal the deal.

While it remains to be seen just how a real a deal Ogletree is, the biggest reason I find myself reevaluating the Cowboys’ playoff potential this morning is their quarterback, Tony Romo, who I believe couldn’t have done a better job of trashing his reputation as a late-game choker.

I’ve always had a soft spot for Romo, as much because I just love the guy’s name as anything. I don’t know if there actually ever was a Vegas lounge singer named Tony Romo, but it sure seems like there should have been. And Romo has always had that gambling flair in his play, which I always have found entertaining.

More often than not throughout his career, though, that flair has been a detriment, with ill-advised, boneheaded plays at the worst possible time becoming an m.o. of sorts.

But last night, that clinching pass to Ogletree was a gamble that generated a major payoff — and perhaps a major upswing in Romo’s confidence moving forward.

Another reason I might have underestimated the Cowboys is the extent to which I might have overestimated the Giants, although it’s important to remember that it’s only Week One.

But a Giants secondary already missing CBs Terrell Thomas and Prince Amukamara suffered a further blow when CB Michael Coe limped off the field late in the game with a hamstring injury. In addition, New York’s ground game couldn’t hold a candle to a Cowboys ground game featuring Murray, who cranked out 131 yards on 20 carries. Entering the season, I envisioned Giants RB David Wilson as a sleeper for top rookie honors, based on the way he looked in preseason. But an early fumble last night might have landed Wilson in Tom Coughlin’s doghouse for a spell.

I’m not ready to rearrange my NFC East predictions, but suffice it to say the Cowboys’ effort last night sure has me thinking.

One last thought: After watching Romo get the best of Eli Manning, I now find myself looking very forward to watching Eli’s brother, Peyton, cap off the first regular-season Sunday of the 2012 season in his first game in a Broncos uniform on a national stage against the Steelers.

Will Week One end up being a week both Eli and Peyton would rather forget? Or will Peyton pull a fast one on his detractors, including yours truly, who think four neck surgeries might have taken their toll with a vintage prime-time performance that keeps the family name in good standing?

I can hardly wait to find out.

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