Talking Points To Use This Weekend While Pretending You've Been Paying Attention To The Cowboys

Welcome to Ranked, our recurring column where we take long, hard looks at oddly specific things pertaining to Dallas and tell you the order in which you should care about them.

Last night, the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks officially kicked off the 2014-15 NFL season by trouncing the Green Bay Packers 36-16.

This weekend, after a preseason in which the team went 0-4, the Dallas Cowboys will kick off their own 2014-15 campaign by squaring off against the San Francisco 49ers this Sunday afternoon at the Death Star.

No matter how good or how bad the team is in any given year — and let's face it, in the past couple decades they've been mostly painfully mediocre — the Dallas Cowboys still manage to get most folks around these parts pretty excited.

Even at their worst, Sundays are something of a stop-down in North Texas. Really, the question is less about whether you'll be watching the game this Sunday, and more about what you'll talk about with your buddies at the bar or tailgate party to make it seem as if you've been paying attention to the team all summer long.

That's where we come in. Here are some surefire conversation starters you can feel free to use. We've listed seven of them — y'know, 'cause touchdowns.

7. The Michael Sam signing.
What you should know: After being drafted by the St. Louis Rams and then subsequently getting cut during the preseason, the league's first openly gay player landed a spot on the Cowboys' practice squad.
Key talking points to keep the conversation flowing…
• “Has a practice squad player ever caused such a stir?”
• “In what week will Sam finally see action?”
• “Is the Sam signing simply a case of wanting to sign the other most-talked-about guy from this year's draft after missing out on Manziel?”
Related topics:
• “Right-wing activists are planning on protesting this Sunday's season opener because Sam's signing is somehow detrimental to 'family values in this country,' although they're apparently totally cool with blatant alcoholism, possible infidelity, drug use, drunk driving or canoodling with strippers — all of which run rampant in the NFL.”
• “Was the team really so confident in its defense that the NFL's commissioner really had to strong-arm Jerry into signing Sam to the practice squad?”

6. The fact that Jason Garrett's coaching for his job this season.
What you should know: In each of his three full seasons as this team's head coach, Jason Garrett has lead the team to 8-8 records — and all of one playoff win.
Key talking points to keep the conversation flowing:
• “How many 8-8 seasons will that 1994 Thanksgiving Day win buy Garrett?”
• “How many games into the season will it be before Garrett suits up and tries to win one himself?”
Related topics:
• “How many phases of the game are the Cowboys actually good at?”
• “Isn't it weird to think that there are kids growing up today that only remember the Cowboys as the mess that they've now become?”
• “Do robots even have feelings?”

5. All those damn injuries.
What you should know: Like most teams in the NFL, the Cowboys will start the season with a handful of injuries to key starters. Hey, it is football. The Cowboys' roster, though, is laughably thin.
Key talking points to keep the conversation flowing:
• “How mad do you think Jerry is that he passed on Johnny Manziel to draft Zack Martin, who is starting the season with a foot injury?”
• “Who is No. 36? He's not listed in the program…”
Related topics:
• “Was bad guy in the movie Unbreakable based on Cowboys LB Sean Lee?”
• “Will the Cowboys end up signing more guys from Home Depot or Lowe's by the end of the season?”

4. The Josh Brent suspension.
What you should know: In December 2012, Brent was arrested and charged with intoxication manslaughter after he killed teammate Jerry Brown Jr. in a drunk driving accident. In Week 11 of this season, the NFL will reinstate Brent — and the Cowboys say they'll give the defensive tackle a shot.
Key talking points to keep the conversation flowing:
• “Was Josh Brent even that good before taking two years off from the game?”
• “How will Brent's ankle monitor effect his play?”
• “How many second chances is this now for Brent?”
Related topics:
• “So, Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon gets a 16-game suspension for smoking weed and Brent only gets 10 games for killing a guy?”
• “Cowboys corner Orlando Scandrick got a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's performance-enhancing drug policy for taking Molly? Because taking Molly in April enhances on-field performance in September… how?”

3. The abysmal state of the Cowboys' defense.
What you should know: Last year's defense ranked third-worst in NFL history, and, by all accounts, it looks like it's somehow going to be even worse this year. To wit: The season hasn't even started and, already, the team's lost its best players to injury (Sean Lee, DeMarcus Lawrence), free agency (DeMarcus Ware, Jason Hatcher) and suspension (Scandrick, Jakar Hamilton). Meanwhile, other key members of the defense (Henry Melton, Morris Claiborne, George Selvie) are starting the season banged up.
Key talking points to keep the conversation flowing:
• “Will the team set new futility records by giving up more than 6,645 yards and 436 points?”
• “This is Romo's fault, right?”
Related topics:
• “How many times will Rolando McClain retire this season?”
• “How much worse would this defense be if they weren't taking PEDs?”

2. Tony Romo's ailing back.
What you should know: In the offseason, the 34-year-old starting quarterback had his second back surgery in 18 months, this time to repair a herniated disc. While both Romo and the team claim the back is 100 percent fine, he's repeatedly been held out of the team's practices throughout training camp and saw extremely limited time on the field in the Cowboys' four preseason losses.
Key talking points to keep the conversation flowing:
• “Will Romo's back hold up once he finally has to take a hit?”
• “Can the team's young offensive line keep its QB upright?”
• “Is Romo's back strong enough for the QB to perform at a high level for 60 minutes?”
• “How will Romo's back troubles effect his ability to throw the deep ball?”
Related topics:
• “How do you think backup QB Brandon Weeden looked in the preseason?”
• “What's the over/under on Tony Romo starting 12 games this season?”

1. That in-depth Jerry Jones profile in ESPN The Magazine.
What you should know: ESPN's Don Van Natta Jr. spent months shadowing the controversial Cowboys owner and details every last drunken bit of that experience in this piece. Honestly, you should probably just go ahead and read it.
Key talking points to keep the conversation flowing:
• “Is it time for Jerry The Owner to fire Jerry The GM yet?”
• “Is it wrong that I kind of like Jerry more after reading that piece?”
• “Wouldn't it be nice if the Cowboys really could trade for Adrian Peterson?”
• “Would you put Jimmy Johnson in the Ring of Honor?”
Related topics:
• “Do you prefer Johnnie Walker Blue Label neat or on the rocks?”
• “Man, did you see those pictures of Jerry with the strippers?”
• “Who wins more Super Bowls: Tony Romo or Johnny Manziel?”

Cover photo by Doug Wertman, via WikiCommons.

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