GREEN BAY, Wis. – As I walked through the narrow corridor that led to the visitors' locker room at Lambeau Field on Sunday night, a loud voice with a familiar Arkansas twang blindsided me like a third-and-20 Miles Austin touchdown dash down the right sideline.
"Hey Mike, if you need a loan I can help you out,” Jerry Jones intoned, a Texas-sized grin plastered on his face. "Cause I know you lost your shirt pickin' against the Cowboys."
It was a perfectly appropriate response to the lack of faith I had displayed in Jones' billion-dollar investment – humorous, devoid of sandbox-style emotion and delivered with reasonably good grammar. In the wake of the Cowboys' convincing 27-16 victory over the Packers – and the reshuffling at the top of the rankings it necessitated – I'm grateful that a) I'm not a gambling man and b) my baby-blue button-up was not within the reach of many of you.
So yes, the Cowboys are the subject of this week's honorary initial query, and no, it still doesn't mean a thing.
Jones knows this. So does his quarterback, Tony Romo, who said of Sunday's victory: "You're not trying to be the favorite in Week 3; you're trying to be the favorite at the end of the year."
That's why, as big of a game as this was for Romo, who grew up in Burlington, and dreamed of playing in Lambeau as a kid, even those closest to him understood that it was nothing more than an interesting clash of perceived NFC powers in September.
"You'd love to win a game like this," Tony's father, Ramiro, said Sunday afternoon. "But if we lose, it really won't be a big deal."
Smoking a pregame cigar at a tailgate outside Lambeau that included scores of Burlington residents – many of whom were avid Packers fans moonlighting as Dallas devotees for the day (there was even a green-and-gold Packers E-Z UP and accompanying banner that belonged to some of Romo's cousins) – Ramiro added, "Something tells me we're going to have to play this team again before all is said and done. And every game in the NFC East is a big game."
True that – not since "Seinfeld" went off the air has there been such a formidable foursome.
"Dude, the NFC East is brutal," Tony Romo said in the locker room. "What are we, a combined 10-2? And the two losses were to other teams in the division. That's crazy."
It's also reflected in this week's top-to-bottom rankings, with all four teams in the division among the first dozen. And don't worry, Dan Snyder – you'll probably get your chance to goof on me soon.
2. New York Giants: How cool was that when savvy middle linebacker Antonio Pierce took an intentional encroachment penalty against the Bengals to avoid having to defend Carson Palmer with only 10 men on the field?
5. Philadelphia Eagles: Was that the real Philly defense on Sunday, and if so, how scary is that?
7. Pittsburgh Steelers: Why do I get the feeling Mike Tomlin and his assistants will make some shrewd adjustments before they face the Ravens?
8. Denver Broncos: Do the football gods want them to win, or what?
10. San Diego Chargers: Was that what you'd call a Monday Night Massacre?
11. Carolina Panthers: Which Twin Cities spectacle dragged on longer – John McCain's speech at the Republican Convention, or the 19-play, three-penalty drive the Panthers surrendered to the Vikings on Sunday?
14. Indianapolis Colts: Is it time to start thinking about moving back to the RCA Dome – or building another new stadium very quickly?
15. Minnesota Vikings: In Gus they trust?
17. Baltimore Ravens: After two games, can we already conclude that John Harbaugh's presence has revitalized their defense?
21. Miami Dolphins: With Michael Vick incarcerated and Vince Young incapacitated – and with Dan Henning's innovative game-plan wrinkle – did Ronnie Brown just become the most dangerous running quarterback in the NFL?
24. New York Jets: All right, Jets fans – ready to deal with The Streak in all its splendor?
26. Cincinnati Bengals: Will they build on Sunday's valiant effort at Giants Stadium, or are we about to see their true stripes?
29. Oakland Raiders: How many lawyers does it take to fire a coach?
31. Kansas City Chiefs: Does Thigpen belong in a pigpen?
32. St. Louis Rams: Are the '76 Bucs getting nervous?