If you're a Sports Illustrated subscriber, you'll be happy to know that after opening your mailbox on Wednesday you'll have a chance to gaze deeply into Tony Romo's limpid brown eyes. Unless you live somewhere outside the region that gets the Romo cover, in which case you'll have to make do with the eyes of another helmeted quarterback and stew in jealousy for the rest of the day.
Once you find a way to open the cover, you'll likely be pleasantly surprised by what you find inside. SI is picking the Cowboys to finish ahead of the Eagles and Redskins as the second-place team in the NFC East. Presumably, the Giants got the number-one spot because Peter King knows of a particularly good Starbucks near the Meadowlands. History says finishing second makes you a pretty strong bet to make the playoffs. This year is no exception, thanks to the scheduling gods that placed the Broncos, Chiefs and Raiders on each of the division teams' schedules.
Now, before you start pre-ordering those Dallas Cowboys 2009 Wild Card t-shirts, it's important to remember that SI's prognosticating abilities tend to be on par with your neighborhood storefront tarot card reader. Cowboys fans with a long memory will surely recall that last year they eased into Labor Day weekend reading about how their beloved squad would make it all the way to the Super Bowl before bowing to the Patriots. That didn't go so well, and no one talks about a Sports Illustrated jinx because of their long history of being on the money.
That's good for the Cowboys, though. If the teams picked to do well rarely make good on the hype, that leaves a lot of room for the also-rans to find their way to the top of the heap when all is said and done. The Eagles have major issues on their offensive line and could see the whole grand Vick experiment blow up in their face, while the Giants suddenly seem a lot less calmer and composed after Osi Umenyiora ran away from the team because he got criticized by one of his coaches.
Basically, though, the SI pick is right in line with the running theme of the offseason. After years of being pumped up as the biggest and baddest Boys on the block before disappointing the masses, this year's Cowboys are in position to be the team that everyone spends November wondering why they'd been written off during the preseason.
Or as reasonable an approximation of that team as is possible when your home stadium is the real-world embodiment of Kubla Khan's stately pleasure-dome.