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Published: Saturday, 12/1/2007

Cowboys back Jones' hunch

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Receiver Terrell Owens celebrates his second quarter TD against Green Bay Thursday night. Receiver Terrell Owens celebrates his second quarter TD against Green Bay Thursday night.
TONY GUTIERREZ / AP Enlarge

IRVING, Texas - Jerry Jones has been known for the occasional crazy Super Bowl prediction for his Dallas Cowboys. This season, the owner's hunch certainly seems more realistic.

Barring a collapse, the Cowboys could be two home playoff victories from their first Super Bowl in 12 seasons.

"I'd have a lot less chance of getting kidded now than I would over the last eight years," Jones said. "It's easy to get excited about this team, so you can envision getting to play in some big games."

Even bigger than the Cowboys' 37-27 victory over the Green Bay Packers on Thursday night.

With four games left in the regular season, Dallas (11-1) is off to the best start in franchise history and already in the playoffs.

And if the New York Giants lose tomorrow at Chicago, the Cowboys clinch their first NFC East title since 1998, three seasons after the latest of their five Super Bowl titles.

If the Cowboys only go 2-2 in December, they would still match the franchise record with 13 wins. More importantly, Green Bay would have to win all four of its games to take away home-field advantage through the NFC playoffs.

"The numbers are there. We all know how to calculate home-field advantage," Jones said.

Still, this group knows it's far from finished. Like Jones, the players have bigger goals than what they've accomplished in the first three-fourths of the regular season.

"What have we really accomplished at 11-1? We've got off to a great start, but 11-1 doesn't crown a champion," center Andre Gurode said.

"This win doesn't put us in the Super Bowl, and a loss wouldn't have knocked us out of it," Tony Romo said after throwing four touchdown passes against the team he grew up cheering for in Wisconsin. "I don't think this does anything else except say, 'You know what? We're a pretty good football team and we're playing pretty good football right now.'•"

That they are, with a six-game winning streak since a 48-27 loss in mid-October to New England, which is still the NFL's only undefeated team.

With childhood hero Brett Favre on the other sideline, and Hall of Fame and Super Bowl-winning Dallas quarterbacks Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman watching in person, Romo was 19-of-30 for 309 yards against the Packers.

He matched Aikman's team record by throwing a touchdown in his 16th straight game.

Romo also broke his tie with Danny White for the single-season TD mark, going from 29 to 33 with his fifth career four-TD game.

Terrell Owens caught seven passes for 156 yards and a touchdown, his 14th to match Frank Clarke's team record set in 1962. Owens also equaled Bob Hayes and Clarke as the only Dallas receivers with scoring catches in seven straight games.

"It's a continuation of the way he's been playing," coach Wade Phillips said. "He continues to get open, he continues to make plays."

In the Cowboys' six-game winning streak, Owens has 44 catches for 796 yards and 10 TDs. And he even proved that "Getcha popcorn ready" is more than just a saying for him by dumping a small bucket of popcorn into his facemask after scoring a touchdown.

After winning consecutive Thursday games, Romo, Owens and Co. get a three-day weekend with no practices. They don't have to be back at Valley Ranch until Monday.

The Cowboys play three of their final four games on the road, starting Dec. 9 at Detroit. Then they get Philadelphia at home before closing the regular season at Carolina and Washington.

"We don't need to stub our toe or pat ourselves on the back too much or too long," said Greg Ellis, the 10-year Cowboys veteran who was on two playoffs teams his first two years before being part of three straight 11-loss seasons.

"We've got ourselves in the driver's seat," Owens said. "Now we've got to stay there."



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