Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 9/2/12

It's no easy task being "America's Team." Whether they're 4-12, 12-4, or 8-8, it's virtually impossible to fly under the radar.

The Dallas Cowboys always draw optimal attention. That's nothing new.

After going 11-5 in 2009, and winning their first playoff game in over a decade, the Dallas Cowboys set their hopes on high for 2010.

They set out to make history.

The Cowboys were very confident, believing that they'd be the first team in NFL to make an appearance while hosting the Super Bowl.

There isn't a more appropriate way to start the season, than with a win against the division rival Redskins.

However, that didn't occur.

A  late mental lapse at the end of the first half proved to be costly. Sadly, that wouldn't be the last.

The Cowboys although loaded with talent, continued to lack the mental toughness needed to win games in the National Football League.

The season turned out to be a devastating one, losing both their coach and quarterback by midseason. The following season proved to be just as disappointing. Winning only two more games than the season before, the Cowboys once again fell short of the playoffs.

Once again, gloom fell over Cowboys Nation.

Every fan expects excellence from their teams week in and week out. Dallas Cowboys fans are no exception to the rule. There's added pressure when the world watches your every move. I can't think of a more loved, yet hated team than the Cowboys.

With only one playoff win in the last 15 years, Cowboys Nation has been left in an uproar. Not only do the fans expect more, but Dallas has given the naysayers a reason to heckle whole-heartedly.

The most frustrating thing for the beloved Cowboys faithful is there's no defense or counter attacks. The Cowboys' haters have been right!

There is arguably no one who takes Cowboys' defeats harder than Uncle Jerry. I mean, he is the man shelling out the big bucks to everybody.

It should make him cry every week! Even though he hasn't stepped down as the team GM, he does feel the need for change immediately.

Critics seem to believe that the change should come with Jones firing the team's GM, himself. Yes, team owner Jerry Jones should fire himself from the ranks of that job, and allow some one else to take over the reigns.

Not likely.

The Cowboys' owner has continued to be as boisterous as we've always known him to be, stating at a pep rally at the start of training camp, that everyone should come out to Cowboys Stadium to witness the Cowboys whip the Giants (insert expletive).

Giants linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka fired back at Jones saying that Jones should be tired of the whippings and that it must be tough to be on the outside looking in.

Jones simply agreed. Saying that is was tough and he's had about enough of it. The owner's response may have come as a shock to some, possibly expecting Jones to fire back, but he quite simply to responsibility for the lack of success and shortcomings of the Cowboys as of late.

In a new Starter campaign, Tony Romo mirrors Jones in taking responsibility for the lack of accomplishments. Romo basically states all the things that people say they haven't achieved, and that they acknowledge this as a problem, too.

No one takes it worse than those directly tied to the organization. Tony Romo can definitely attest to that. The amount of scrutiny that the Cowboys superstar has come to know rivals that of any major figure in professional sports today.

It has been said that Romo has missed the clutch gene; that he doesn't have what it takes to lead the Cowboys to a Super Bowl; that he lacks the "killer" instinct; and that he's more enthralled with the idea of being the quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys, than with actually winning.

Well after breaking his collarbone during the 2010 season, it was said that 2011, would be his "make or break" year. Although they missed the playoffs last season, 2011 proved to be Romo's best statistical year.

Romo finished the 2011 season with 346 completions on 522 attempts (66.3 percent) for 4,184 yards 31 touchdowns and 10 interceptions for a quarterback rating of 102.5 in 16 starts.

His 102.5 quarterback rating was good for fourth best in the league behind eventual League MVP Aaron Rodgers, Offensive Player of the Year Drew Brees, and AFC Champion Tom Brady and second highest in Cowboys history.

He managed to alleviate some of the pressure that he faced, but several critics still believe that Romo is the problem.

But I've noticed a quiet change in the organization recently. It seems as if the Cowboys have hung up the excuses, the reassuring statements, the smiles, and the sad faces. They have finally decided to let the play on the field speak for itself.

A new identity. Taking on a new culture.

Although it's only preseason, the Cowboys won three of their four games.

After what I call an "ugly win" in Oakland in Week 1 of the preseason, Dallas managed to average 20 or more points in every game thereafter. Something worth getting excited about.

Even more exciting was Rob Ryan's defense. I called Ryan out for a poor showing last year after the Seahawks victory, and was asked why rip him for a win. Well, if we remember how last season played out, let's just say I saw it coming.

This season however, has shown a more cohesive unit. It was no secret that the Cowboys were vulnerable in the secondary.

The Cowboys spent this offseason making the necessary adjustments to fill the void. With the addition of cornerbacks Brandon Carr and trading up in the Draft to get Morris Claiborne, the Cowboys have shown that they are about the business of winning.

At the end of the 2011 preseason the Cowboys defense ranked 23rd, this season, 6th.

Although they started the regular season in decent fashion a year ago, they soon faltered. However, I expect consistency to be key in 2012.

Ryan has had his year to learn his players, and them learn his system. With everyone on one accord, the communication and understanding of where to be and when, should help to start a pattern of three-and-outs.

On the other side of the ball, Romo looked efficient all throughout the preseason, which is definitely a good sign for Cowboys fans.

The Cowboys were plagued by injury early in camp, losing tight end, Jason Witten, and both starting receivers Miles Austin and Dez Bryant. You wouldn't be able to notice after looking at Romo's stats against the Rams. Romo destroyed the Rams' first-team defense, throwing two touchdowns and passing for 198 yards.

Romo has proven to work well when short-staffed. He takes a lot of heat, but his heroic efforts are normally over-shadowed by his bad decisions or so-called, inability to win big games.

Although there were no touchdowns thrown nor caught in the game, he willed the Cowboys to a win over the division rival, Redskins in 2011 with a relatively rookie receiving corps. He did what it took to get the win.

He single-handedly willed the Cowboys to a win over the San Francisco 49ers last season. After leaving the game with a fractured rib, he came back to help secure an overtime win. He did what it took to get the win.

Tony Romo has shown that he is fully capable which was exemplified again this preseason. These facts prove to be important. With injuries to those responsible for almost half of the teams receptions last season, the meeting with the Giants of September 5th, may be another opportunity for Tony Romo to show that he can come through when faced with adversity.

Austin, Bryant, and Witten are all battling back from injury and could very well be minimal factors in the game. With the emergence of Dwayne Harris, Cole Beasley, and Kevin Olgetree finally coming around, Romo may have to find magic in his reserves again.

At first glance, the Cowboys schedule may not look too favorable. But after breaking down the "when and where," Dallas can definitely attain double-digit wins.

Win or lose, this Giants game will definitely prove to be important to the direction in which the Cowboys' season is headed.

Dallas doesn't necessarily need a win in Week 1, but they need to show that they've gotten: passed the pointless penalties; strong in the secondary; and most importantly, mentally tough.

Week 1: If not for it being Week 1, I'd say that the Cowboys leave the Meadowlands with a victory. However, I don't think they're healthy enough yet. Again, a good showing works in their favor.

Week 2: The Cowboys should go to Seattle and beat the Seahawks convincingly.

Week 3: Tampa Bay fell in embarrassing fashion to Dallas last year at home. Same place. Same result.

Week 4: Although it'll be a tough game, I think the Bears walk away from Cowboys Stadium with a win.

Week 5: After a tough loss to the Bears, the Cowboys at 2-2 have a bye week. This helps to prepare for the road trips to both Baltimore and Carolina.

Week 6: The Cowboys edge out the Baltimore Ravens.

Week 7: Cam Newton meets and falls to America's Team for the time in his young career. Panthers lose.

Week 8: Another date with the Giants, another notch added to the win column. Cowboys win.

Week 9: Back on the road, the Cowboys drop one to the Falcons.

Week 10: The Cowboys drop another one to a bird. Eagles win in Philly.

Week 11: Dallas welcomes and beats the Cleveland Browns.

Week 12: Long lives the rivalry, the Redskins visit the Cowboys and lose.

Week 13: Michael Vick and the Eagles are finally overcome by the Cowboys in Dallas.

Week 14: Keeping up with the spirit of winning, Dallas goes to Cincinnati and beats the Bengals.

Week 15: Back home, but losing to the Steelers.

Week 16: Dallas gives the Saints an early Christmas present, not sure they'll appreciate it. Cowboys win.

Week 17: Finishing the season on the right note, the Cowboys win at FedEx over the Redskins.

In case you didn't care to do the math, the Cowboys should end the regular season with a record of 11-5. All of the intangibles are in place. Flying below the radar. Not making excuses. Taking accountability. And most importantly, letting their play on the field speak volumes. Winning games.

 

Before long, there won't be anything to say but...

 

How 'Bout Them Cowboys?!



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