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Debate is settled, Cowboys are NFL's best team

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- For now, the debate is settled.

Best team in the NFC? Dallas.

Best team in the NFL? Dallas.

To be the best, you should have a record that says as much. The Cowboys' 3-0 record does.

To be the best, you should have quality victories. The Cowboys have a minimum of two, their Week 2 shootout against Philadelphia and Sunday night's convincing, 27-16 win over Green Bay. Even with a new quarterback, that was a pretty good Packers team the Cowboys disposed of handily in prime time. And, counting their opening-day triumph at Cleveland, the Cowboys have won twice on the road.

Those are the credentials of a club worthy of sitting atop its conference and the entire league.

For now, at least.

"Green Bay and Philadelphia are both really good football teams," coach Wade Phillips said. "I think you gain a lot when you beat a good football team."

"We've got a good football team, I know that," quarterback Tony Romo said. "But it doesn't matter whether you're the favorite now or the least favorite. You're not trying to be the favorite in Week 3. You're trying to be it at the end of the year."

I can already hear New York Giants fans saying, "What about us?" Sure, the defending Super Bowl champions have also achieved perfection. But they haven't quite proven they're the best, have they? Beating Washington and St. Louis certainly doesn't make a very compelling case. Nor does needing overtime to beat the lowly Bengals.

Sure, the Denver Broncos, Tennessee Titans, and Buffalo Bills are intriguing 3-0 clubs. Their surprisingly strong starts have made for an interesting discussion about which should be the No. 1 club in the AFC.

But none could be seriously regarded as No. 1 in the NFL.

The Cowboys can because, for one, they compete in what, for a change, looks like the stronger conference. For another, they are the most complete of the league's elite teams.

"There are a lot of different ways to win," Phillips said. "Sometimes, it's individual plays. Sometimes, it's team-wise, being able to run the ball, stop the run or stop the pass, or pass the ball. We seem to have all the dimensions that we need. We just have to put them all together."

The Cowboys have home-run threats everywhere on offense. With a flick of his wrist, Romo can connect with a receiver on a game-breaking bomb, as he did multiple times against the Eagles and Packers. Sunday night, he connected on a 63-yard throw to Miles Austin that set up a 2-yard touchdown run by Marion Barber to give the Cowboys a 20-9 lead late in the third quarter, and later in the fourth he had another hookup with Austin, this time a 52-yard touchdown play down the right sideline.

Importance of starting 3-0

Since 1990 (under current playoff format):

» 93 teams started 3-0 entering this season

» 72 teams (77.4 percent) made the playoffs

» 21 teams (22.6 percent) missed the playoffs

Rookie running back Felix Jones is a threat to break a long one as a return man (as was the case against the Eagles) or on the ground, as he did with a 60-yarder against the Packers that put Dallas up 10-6 in the second quarter. And Barber can be counted on to hammer away in the late stages to close out a win.

No, Terrell Owens wasn't much of a factor against Green Bay, but he was a huge factor against his old team, the Eagles, and will be a factor in more games this season.

Yes, Romo will do the great, such as hooking up for long touchdowns, and he will do the awful, such as fumbling in the end zone to give points to the other team (as he did against Philly) or throwing an interception in the end zone and getting called twice for intentional grounding (as he did against Green Bay).

Although the Cowboys' defense was a no-show against the Eagles, it did perform well against the Browns and the Packers. Even when the Packers were able to make big plays, such as Aaron Rodgers' 50-yard pass to Donald Driver that put them at the Dallas 8 in the third quarter, the Cowboys saw to it they only came away with a field goal.

The Packers were left deflated, which is exactly how a superior team is supposed to leave an opponent feeling.

For now, a bunch of teams in the NFL might feel that way after watching what the Cowboys have done the past three weeks.

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