First Place Isn't A Bad Place To Be

Ronald Martinez - Getty Images

The Cowboys haven't played well on offense in a couple of weeks, they got blown out on the road, they barely won at home - yet, they're 2-1 and in first place in the NFC East. The season is full of promise.

First place in the NFC East after three weeks. It may not mean much for the ultimate, end-of-year standings, but it is a symbolic reminder that this Cowboys season still has a lot going for it.

Technically, by the tie-breaking rules in the NFL, Dallas is ahead of both the New York Giants (2-1) and the Philadelphia Eagles (2-1). 1-0 in the division, and 2-1 in the conference. Not a bad start to the playoff race.

The division is wide open at this point, with no dominant team. Consider the Giants. Losers at home to Dallas in Week 1, they next played the Bucs a week before Dallas did. In a wild affair, Eli Manning and Co. managed to dig themselves out of a huge hole in the second half and win a thriller that was an offensive explosion. Credit for the comeback win, but how did they turn the Bucs offense into a points machine? A Bucs offense that the Cowboys absolutely throttled the next week. New York's defense shutdown Carolina last week, but they still have issues over there, especially in the secondary.

Philadelphia has also been a live on the edge team. They get credit for winning a couple of close games, but they get deductions for getting blown out in Arizona and too many turnovers. Like the Giants, they also have issues. Washington has the exciting RG3, and what looked like a signature win over the Saints, only to find out the Saints are not good this year. They have the centerpiece, but injuries on defense and not enough other parts leave them an incomplete team.

That brings us around to the Cowboys. Like the rest of the division, they have been uneven so far. After the Giants game, they were world-beaters, managing to look very good in a win over the Super Bowl champs, on the road. The offense and defense worked together to grab a huge win. Then came the Seattle game, where special teams and the offense immediately fell flat, then the defensive dam finally gave way to Marshawn Lynch. A bad loss, but against what may turn out to be a good team.

Last week's game was perceived to be a middling affair, with the Cowboys getting a lackluster win. In reality, I think there was plenty of encouraging news in the win. First, the defense is starting to show signs of finally being the kind of unit we've been praying for. The secondary, even with the issues at safety, is no longer a sieve. Brandon Carr, Morris Claiborne, a reinvigorated Mike Jenkins and perennial slot-guy Orlando Scandrick give us depth at cornerback. Enough depth that they help cover for the safety position. Jay Ratliff has been missed, but not near to the level we might have expected. Bruce Lee is emerging in the middle, and oh yeah, we still have DeMarcus Ware. With Rob Ryan pulling the strings, this defense could be formidable all year long.

On offense, we have one major issue, and it's a biggie. It's not the receivers and Jason Witten, Jason will eventually starting catching the ball again. Kevin Ogletree has been productive, rounding out a very solid group. At running back, DeMarco Murray has the goods. Given a little daylight, he will produce. Tony Romo has never been the problem, and still isn't.

So what it comes down to is the offensive line. As ever in the NFL, it comes down to the offensive line. At least Tony Romo is an escape artist and can salvage things some of the time. It's impossible to say how well the o-line will play for the rest of the year, you can either be an optimist or a pessimist.

Right now, I'm going with guarded optimism. Dallas is in first place in the East, and they look just as good as any other team in their division.

It's a good start.

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