NFL Picks Week 17: Healthy Tony Romo Ensures NFC East Title for Dallas Cowboys

Bryan KalbroskyCorrespondent IDecember 30, 2011

ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 24:  Tony Romo #9 of the Dallas Cowboys sits on the sidelines with an injured hand against the Philadelphia Eagles at Cowboys Stadium on December 24, 2011 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

The Dallas Cowboys face the biggest game of their season this weekend, but the presence of Tony Romo guarantees a better performance for the football team.

While the Cowboys were unable to play up to standards against the Philadelphia Eagles last week, their loss came at the fault of injuries, injuries and more injuries, as their starting roster didn’t contain a healthy QB or RB, and both Felix Jones and DeMarco Murray were out with injuries.

Tony Romo also missed the remainder of the game following two early incomplete passes, leaving the quarterback responsibilities up to Stephen McGee.

When the Dallas Cowboys fly up to New York to take on the football Giants on January 1st, the matchup is significantly more favorable to Dallas than the Eagles matchup was.

Dallas is a team that relies heavily on their passing offense; their 263.3 yards per game is the eighth-highest in the NFL.

The majority of their offensive production comes from Tony Romo finding an open Bryant, Austin, Witten or Robinson, as he stretches the field to utilize his multiple offensive weapons.

McGee, less experienced as the field general, was entirely unaccustomed and unprepared for duties against the Eagles last week.

This season, the Cowboys have converted passing yards over rushing yards at an impressive 9:4 ratio.

ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 24:  Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan on the sidelines as the Dallas Cowboys take on the Philadelphia Eagles at Cowboys Stadium on December 24, 2011 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

While McGee was forced into responsibility against the Eagles, Romo says that he is healthy and ready to play this weekend for a chance at the NFC East title and a spot in the 2012 NFL playoffs.

On defense, the Cowboys also look to match up more favorably.

The Cowboys generate most of their defensive presence by stopping the run, as Rob Ryan and his defensive scheme has allowed fewer than 100 yards per game since the season began.

Against the Eagles, however, that was a significantly harder task as LeSean McCoy is one of the best running backs in the league.

The New York Giants have a far from impressive running game, as their 88.1 yards per game is good for the absolute worst in the NFL. The Eagles, at 146.7 yards per game, were the fifth-best in the NFL at the time.

The Eagles rushing offense was far too strong for the Cowboys to stop, but against the Giants, that will not be the case.

Rob Ryan, who has been working on his plan for the Giants, will not allow the Giants rushing game to open up when the two teams face each other this weekend.

When the Giants become forced into a corner and are forced to pass on every play, the Cowboys will then be able to shift to a more pass-friendly defense that will be more properly suited to stop Eli Manning’s offensive attack.

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 24:  Eli Manning #!0 of the New York Giants looks to throw a pass against the New York Jets during the first quarter of a game at MetLife Stadium on December 24, 2011 in East Rutherford. New Jersey. (Photo by Rich Schultz /G
Rich Schultz/Getty Images

On the other end of the ball, Tony Romo enters the game with a comprehensive understanding of what this game means to his own legacy as an NFL quarterback.

For his entire career, Romo has heard criticism of his play in December. Since then, many of those same myths have been debunked and his play has greatly improved.

Fortunately for both the Cowboys and the Giants, both teams control their own destiny this weekend.

Manning, who already has an NFL Super Bowl Ring, has less to play for than Romo does.

If the Cowboys win this weekend, it will be because of Tony Romo and his own unique ability to find the open man within his multidimensional and layered offensive scheme.

His own play will be under scrutiny on Jan. 1st, and this game will be one of the biggest tests of his career.

While many doubt his talents, those same critics need look no further than his stellar passer rating.

At 102.2, his actual production is ahead of every quarterback in the NFL except for Rodgers (122.5), Brees (108.4) and Tom Brady (105.1). His 29 touchdowns are top-five in the NFL, and his accuracy (65.4%) is top-four and comparable to Brady (65.6%).

It should be no surprise that the Eagles demolished the Cowboys once Romo went down last weekend; Dallas' entire offensive production relies on their star quarterback.

With a healthy Romo ready to play this weekend, however, the entire nature of the game will have shifted.

The Cowboys, who control their own destiny, are a lock to beat the Giants when the two teams face each other for the division on New Year’s Day.

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