The Cowboys we saw Sunday look like Super Bowl contenders

“Unequivocally” is the word of the day, and it is a fine word, especially if you’re a Dallas Cowboys fan.

You might like it because it adds emphasis with a touch of class, long enough to sound important yet not so nerdy to be beyond the bounds of conventional use.

Or, for those whose fall-and-winter existence breathes to the rhythm of the Cowboys’ fortunes, it just became something soothing and cheery. Because Jerry Jones said it, and he meant it — and it didn’t sound like hyperbole.

“A resounding ‘yes,'” said the Cowboys’ owner and general manager, after a 40-3 Sunday torching of the Minnesota Vikings prompted the question of whether the Cowboys (7-3) had the look of a genuine Super Bowl contender.

“Yes… unequivocally.”

Jones has said strange things over the years, made big statements, walked the fine line between honesty and optimism and done what he’s supposed to — which is to get the National Football League’s biggest fanbase feeling excited and hopeful. Those sentiments, we’ve come to know, don’t always last long.

This time, it just feels different. Like how it’s not just bluster. Like how the old-timer could possibly be — you’ve got to be kidding me now — underselling the reality of where Mike McCarthy’s squad sits among the league’s 2022 aristocrats.

This is a scaled-up version of the Cowboys. Jones never lied, and Dallas fans never completely lied to themselves. But what has happened, year upon year, tease after tease, is that the team’s elite players — they always have elite players — would put on the occasional spread of brilliance, an eye-popping statline or a dynamic series of plays, setting up a flashy win here and there and leading to what was, ultimately, false hope.

Just because a team can sometimes play at a high level doesn’t mean they will when it matters. All too often, ever since the last Super Bowl triumph in the 1995 season, the silver-and-blue have flattered to deceive. Gaudy, unsustainable bursts with no small enough of mediocrity tossed in.

Not now. Dallas isn’t perfect, but it is in a position at least as buoyant as any other team in the NFC and far more than most. The NFC East is not beyond reach, as it turns out, with the Philadelphia Eagles suddenly looking more fallible and just two games ahead. By beating the previously 8-1 Vikings, conquerors of the Buffalo Bills in the season’s best game, Dallas showed that going on the road during the postseason should not be something to fear.

As for the skeptics, I hear you. Don’t worry, I really do. I know all this is coming just a week after a letdown against the Green Bay Packers. And that past experience doesn’t allow you to go all in, just like that.

Prescott went down in an ugly season-opening loss. Cooper Rush came in and the team surged. Prescott returned, and they’ve reached new heights. The Cowboys have sometimes lost but never looked like they were toppling over, or inflicting defeat upon themselves.

It is like there is a spine to the Cowboys season, a resolve that comes from being well-rounded and well-positioned to win.

“I think we’ve had adversity,” Jones told reporters. “We very easily could have more adversity. If we use the experience of what we’re having in the season, then we’re going to be playoff-ready. But I sure do think that what I see out here right now is a team you could go get a Super Bowl with.”

Prescott looked as composed as he ever has on the weekend. He was 22-of-25 with 276 passing yards and a pair of touchdowns. It felt like a lot more, so complete was the dominance over a team that hadn’t lost at home since December.

The Cowboys defense is starting to look truly intimidating, too (and no, it’s not just Micah Parsons making plays) and it is all adding up to a new phenomenon, the scary Dallas Cowboys, which has been missing for years because inconsistent and scary don ‘t mesh.

There is a quick turnaround before Thursday’s clash with the New York Giants (4:30 pm ET on FOX) and this season makes no concession for form and reputation when picking its winners. Yes, the Cowboys were magnificent in Minnesota and yes, the Giants laid an egg in Detroit. Make no mistake, Thursday’s tussle will be an arm-wrestle worthy of attention, and both sides will know what’s on the line.

But it is also okay for Dallas followers to just enjoy how this feels for a while. To enjoy words like “reliable” and “composed” and feel that their team is comfortable wearing them.

To allow thoughts of a Super Bowl charge to float into their mind, and to see the status as a contender as something that wouldn’t require a series of flukes, some unseen happenings or a sudden shift in the team’s personality.

It’s a shoe that fits now, a reality that doesn’t seem silly to say.

The Cowboys; in the mix, bringing it, part of the discussion of the season and where it might lead. Solidly. Impressively.

And yes, Jerry, we didn’t forget. Unequivocally.

Martin Rogers is a columnist for FOX Sports and the author of the FOX Sports Insider newsletter. Follow him on Twitter @MRogersFOX and subscribe to the daily newsletter.


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