They appear on television so often that their faces are as familiar to the public as presidents and movie stars. They are the Dallas Cowboys, “America’s Team.”

That’s what NFL Films said about the Cowboys way back in 1978, and the title of “America’s Team” has stuck ever since. However, as the Cowboys prepare to face the New England Patriots on Sunday, it’s worth wondering whether the torch has been passed to the Patriots.

The distinction itself is relatively stupid, because honestly, who really cares who’s viewed as America’s Team? There’s no trophy, no prize, nothing. It’s purely subjective. You want to call your team America’s Team? Go for it. Won’t find much objection here.

However, if we’re going off the simple, declarative description from that 1978 highlight film, it’s hard to argue any team in the NFL — or any other sport, for that matter — fits the description better than the Patriots.

Seriously, listen to what’s said at the start of the video below and try to say the exact same thing couldn’t be said about the Patriots.

You no longer can avoid the Patriots. Not even counting Sunday’s game, which will be billed as the game of the week and likely will be seen in the majority of homes across the country, the Patriots have five national TV games this season. The Patriots have played in 36 prime-time games since 2006, which admittedly, is a few shy of the Cowboys. Dallas still draws ratings, which has more to do with the glory years — and the bandwagon jumpers from coast to coast — than anything else.

What’s even more telling, though, is the Patriots have the faces — the faces “as familiar to the public as presidents and movie stars.” The quarterback is Tom freaking Brady, who might be the best-known American athlete there is, a man whose worldwide exposure is surpassed by a small group — a group that includes his wife. He has the looks of a movie star. He has the bankroll of a movie star. He has been in movies. He’s an entity.

Brady’s star shines on its own, but much of the reason he has been able to become so big is in large part to the team for which he plays. Thanks to the Patriots’ unprecedented success since the turn of the century, they’ve become one of the biggest sports franchises in the world, let alone America. Winning is the biggest reason for all of this. But even if the Patriots hadn’t won the Super Bowl last season, they’d still be larger than life. Owner Robert Kraft is one of the NFL’s premier figureheads.

Meanwhile, the Cowboys’ biggest stake to the claim is that they’ve always been America’s Team, so they always should be America’s Team. Sure, owner Jerry Jones admittedly is one of the league’s most captivating figures, but at this point, a large majority of that curiosity is stemmed in the fact we’re just waiting for him to do or say something stupid.

Jones is a loud-mouthed, headline-seeking showman, which is a good thing. It’s good because it distracts you from the fact the Cowboys haven’t been, well, the Cowboys in quite some time. They haven’t won a playoff game since 1995 — the Patriots won three playoff games last season. Not only have the Cowboys sucked for two decades, they’ve also lacked the sizzle that defined their run in the 1990s. Other than a salacious scandal or two involving Jones, as well as Romo dating Jessica Simpson, the Cowboys have been relatively boring for quite some time.

The Cowboys still do incredible TV numbers, but their popularity alone doesn’t make them America’s Team.

America loves winners. America loves scandal. America loves celebrities. The Patriots have provided all of that and more in recent years. The Cowboys? Not so much.

FOURTH AND SHORT
1. Hey, NFL kickers: What gives, guys? While field-goal percentage across the league technically is only down a hair, it felt like kickers connected on no better than half of their kicks Sunday. Former NFL kicker Jay Feely had some interesting thoughts on the matter, saying the league’s decision to push back the PAT attempt is messing with kickers’ heads. If that’s truly the case, there are more headcase kickers than we ever could have imagined.

2. Gotta love the Seattle Seahawks benefiting from another garbage call in a Monday night game. A lot swung on that call. The Detroit Lions’ season is over, if it wasn’t already. The Seahawks, meanwhile, are at 2-2 and just one game back in the NFC West. But yeah. Other than that, no big deal, NFL. This is the kind of stuff you’d expect out of replacement referees, but how this happens with the supposed top guys is ridiculous.

3. In retrospect, how bad was the Miami Dolphins’ hiring of Joe Philbin? The ‘Fins put the former Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator out of his misery Monday after his team was blown out in London. Just from what we’ve heard over the duration of Philbin’s Miami tenure, it wasn’t hard to see this coming. Go back and watch some episodes of “Hard Knocks” from 2012 or this painfully awkward video, and yeah, maybe Philbin’s not the greatest of leaders. Replacing him with a terrifying human being can’t hurt.

4. New York Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. was accused of throwing punches at Buffalo Bills players Sunday. If we’re being honest, the Bills are the NFL’s equivalent of a punchable face. They’re also one of the most undisciplined teams in the entire league. But when you consider Rex Ryan is their coach, all of this makes sense.

Thumbnail photo via Stew Milne/USA TODAY Sports Images