Can the Cowboys contain Nick Foles and the Philly offense?
Week 17 is the only week on the NFL schedule with 16 games in one day. With 13 of those 16 games holding playoff implications, Sunday should be a thrilling do-or-die feast of football, apart from those unfortunate enough to receive Texans-Titans.
Below are all the TV times and info you will need, as well as predictions and analysis for three of the most intriguing contests:
|Ravens at Bengals||1 p.m.||CBS||CIN 24-14|
|Steelers at Browns||1 p.m.||CBS||PIT 33-14|
|Jaguars at Colts||1 p.m.||CBS||IND 24-10|
|Jets at Dolphins||1 p.m.||CBS||MIA 20-17|
|Texans at Titans||1 p.m.||CBS||TEN 21-14|
|Panthers at Falcons||1 p.m.||Fox||CAR 31-16|
|Lions at Vikings||1 p.m.||Fox||MIN 28-27|
|Redskins at Giants||1 p.m.||Fox||NYG 20-7|
|Packers at Bears||4:25 p.m.||Fox||CHI 27-24|
|49ers at Cardinals||4:25 p.m.||Fox||ARZ 17-13|
|Rams at Seahawks||4:25 p.m.||Fox||SEA 37-17|
|Broncos at Raiders||4:25 p.m.||CBS||DEN 41-14|
|Chiefs at Chargers||4:25 p.m.||CBS||SD 31-24|
|Bills at Patriots||4:25 p.m.||CBS||NE 28-24|
|Bucs at Saints||4:25 p.m.||Fox||NO 38-14|
|Eagles at Cowboys||8:30 p.m.||NBC||PHI 45-27|
TV info via NFL.com
Baltimore at Cincinnati
The Bengals have been juggernauts at home all season, with a 7-0 record and four consecutive games of scoring at least 40 points. Cincinnati's "Broncosian" production at home is fueled by Andy Dalton, whose home-road splits roughly equate to the difference between Philip Rivers and Kellen Clemens:
Baltimore, meanwhile, is reeling after the Patriots physically overwhelmed a Ravens team that has typically done most of the hard hitting in the recent renditions of that rivalry. New England rushed for 142 yards on 34 carries, choosing to attack a Ravens run defense that ranks ninth in the league. Though it may seem counterintuitive, it may be wiser for Baltimore to focus on shutting down Gio Bernard instead of A.J. Green and the passing game.
Even if the Ravens are able to limit the Cincy offense, however, Joe Flacco's hobbled knee may prove fatal to Baltimore's chances. Flacco was clearly hobbled against New England, failing to step into his throws throughout the day. The Bengals have a tough front seven that should be able to take down Baltimore's hobbled quarterback multiple times, as well as force a couple timely turnovers to make the difference.
Green Bay at Chicago
The Bears and the Packers both have dinged-up starting quarterbacks, but that might not matter against two scuffling defenses. The Bears in particular are reeling after a 54-point outburst from the Philadelphia Eagles, and they will need to be better up front.
Still, the Bears' one saving grace is their ability to force turnovers, and only six teams have coughed up the ball more frequently than Green Bay since Aaron Rodgers' injury, per Pro-Football-Reference. Indeed, Chicago's renowned ability to score on special teams and defense may once again come into play:
Packers QB have thrown 3 INT returned for TD since Aaron Rodgers' injury in Week 9. Rodgers has 1 "Pick Six" in 86 starts— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) December 23, 2013
The Bears are far from a complete team, and their defensive shortcomings might spell doom in the Wild Card Round. But if they get the opportunity to face Matt Flynn, look for Chicago to come out on top.
Philadelphia at Dallas
Speaking of backup quarterbacks, the Eagles may have received the biggest break of the week, with Tony Romo ostensibly out due to a back injury.
However, per the Associated Press via USA Today, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones speculated Tuesday that Romo should not be ruled out, with medical clearance possible after Dallas team trainers treat Romo's back:
Jones said he had lengthy discussions with Romo and his doctors Monday about getting the 33-year-old ready to play. The owner wouldn't discuss the details of Romo's injury.
"If you know Tony, you can't imagine what a competitor he is, and he doesn't want to miss a snap," Jones said. "He was very disappointed, particularly disappointed for his team, repeated over and over again, 'Jerry, I can't tell you how badly I feel relative to you and relative to my teammates.'"
"Tony will play with all the pain," Jones said. "But his doctor has to clear him."
Romo's possible return would be a dramatic storyline (and a godsend for NBC executives), but Dallas is still the inferior team, especially with an ailing quarterback. The Cowboys simply do almost nothing well on defense—Dallas owns the 27th-ranked run defense and the 31st-ranked pass defense, which should be death against a hyper-efficient Eagles offense.
Jones' proclamation might just be posturing, an attempt to keep Philly game-planning for two quarterbacks. Regardless of who plays, however, the Eagles are prohibitive favorites to win the NFC East crown.