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Can Tampa Bay’s football team stand up to America’s Team?

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The star. You recognize the star.

You may not have understood the old flying Elvis of the Patriots, and the Browns are kind of bland up top, and who knows what that Pittsburgh symbol is. But you know the star of the Dallas Cowboys, and you know the stars who have worn it. Roger Staubach. Tony Dorsett. Bob Lilly. Michael Irvin. Emmitt Smith.

There is indeed an aura to the Cowboys, only part of it self-perpetuated. The Cowboys can be accused of a bit of arrogance when it comes to the “America’s Team” nickname, but in a couple of eras, Dallas has indeed been special. And except for being upset by the Giants last week, it would seem they’re on their way again.

Let by marvelous rookies Dak Prescott and Zeke Elliott, the Cowboys have been the turnaround team of the NFL. They were horrible a year ago, but they have been rejuvinated. And now they have to play the Tampa Bay Bucs, themselves a nice comeback story.

For years, the Cowboys led the league in headlines, and they built a fabulous stadium, and they were among the leaders in merchandizing. Jerry Jones was always good for a soundbite in his latest face. But the team didn’t win. They haven’t won a Super Bowl since after the 1995 season. They’ve reached the playoffs in only eight of the last 21 seasons. Isn’t America better than that?

Still, the Cowboys have held onto much of the luster. Winning five Super Bowls will do that.

Maybe that’s why Dallas is a seven-point favorite despite the Bucs’ five-game winning streak.

Oh, there are some similarities at the top of the roster. Jameis Winston and Prescott are both impressive young quarterbacks. Elliott, behind a huge offensive line, is having the season that Doug Martin had a year ago. Both Mike Evans and Dez Bryant can take over games at receiver.

But where the Bucs seem to avoid as much of the spotlight with a go-about-their-business mantra, the Cowboys gravitate toward the brightest lights. Jones loves microphones.

Can Tampa Bay win this game? Sure, but it will take takeaways. The defense has to stand up. The offense has to strike early.

Do that, and the stars might fade.

Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit garysheltonsports@gmail.com.

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