When the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys meet in Week 17 for the final Sunday Night Football game of the year, everything will be on the line. It's simple for both teams: The NFC East crown and a trip to the playoffs belongs to the squad that emerges victorious.
Each of these teams have had roller-coaster seasons.
The Eagles got off to a slow start, winning just three of their first eight games. However, they were able to right the ship, as they have now won six of their last seven.
The Cowboys, on the other hand, have been up and down all season, hovering right around the .500 mark for most of the year.
The last time these two teams met—a Week 7 contest in Philadelphia—the Cowboys lackluster defense somehow rendered an explosive Eagles offense ineffective, allowing just three points.
It can be easily speculated that the outcome will be far different this time around, as Philadelphia is coming off of a 54-point offensive performance in Week 16 against the Chicago Bears. Now the Eagles look to do some damage against the Cowboys 32nd-ranked defense.
Making matters worse for Dallas, quarterback Tony Romo will not be available for this week's game after suffering a back injury in Week 16 against the Washington Redskins. Dallas, however, does have a capable backup in Kyle Orton, who will find room to maneuver against the Eagles 30th-ranked defense.
This game has all of the makings of a shootout. So, without further ado, let's take a look at what some standout players figure to accomplish during Sunday's contest.
Kyle Orton may be a nice surprise for Dallas on Sunday. He is now in his second year with the team and is familiar with the offensive scheme. In 2012, Orton played briefly in one game and flourished. He completed nine of 10 passes for 89 yards and one touchdown for a passer rating of 137.1.
Kyle Orton: "It's not like I just walked in the door" http://t.co/SyAN8zrqMR— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) December 26, 2013
Now, Orton faces off against Philadelphia's 30th-ranked pass defense with a healthy amount of weapons at his disposal. The Cowboys don't shy away from throwing the football and could lean heavily on the veteran signal-caller.
Projection: 267 passing yards, two passing touchdowns, one interception
Nick Foles has been absolutely stellar for Philadelphia this season. He was ineffective the last time these teams met, recording a passer rating of just 46.2. However, against Dallas' 31st-ranked pass defense, it's hard to think that he won't find more success this time around.
Nick Foles: 0-8 passing on throws 15+ yards downfield in Week 7 vs Cowboys; has league-best 54.7 completion pct since— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) December 26, 2013
Foles has been able to develop nice chemistry with wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Riley Cooper throughout the season, and he should be able to take advantage of a plethora of viable targets against a shaky secondary.
Projection: 322 passing yards, three passing touchdowns, zero interceptions
DeMarco Murray is quietly having a very nice season. Heading into Week 17, he has already rushed for 1,073 yards and nine touchdowns. Most of his production has come later in the season, as Dallas has begun to run the ball more effectively.
The Eagles do have a decent 12th-ranked run defense and are giving up an average of 107.5 yards per game on the ground. However, Murray's carries continue to increase, and Sunday should be no different. Expect a productive day from this running back.
Projection: 97 rushing yards, 28 receiving yards, two total touchdowns
LeSean McCoy—the NFL's current rushing leader—has been tremendous this season. He currently tops the league with 1,476 rushing yards and nine rushing touchdowns. He has also been effective as a receiver out of the backfield, recording 536 receiving yards and another touchdown.
Now, McCoy is set to face Dallas' 27th-ranked run defense on Sunday. It can be easily expected for Philadelphia to rely heavily on the five-year veteran throughout the contest. McCoy will finish off the season with a bang to claim the NFL's rushing title.
Projection: 124 rushing yards, 38 receiving yards, two total touchdowns
Dez Bryant has been dealing with back issues all week and has been limited in practice. However, according to a tweet from Charean Williams of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Bryant says his playing status is not in doubt:
Dez Bryant: I’m good. I’m playing. Don’t worry about it.— Charean Williams (@NFLCharean) December 26, 2013
This is good news for the Cowboys, as Bryant has the size and skill set to wreak havoc on the Eagles secondary. He easily creates mismatches and is no stranger to beating double coverage. Orton knows who his most prolific target is, so a healthy dose of Bryant should be expected on Sunday.
Projection: 142 receiving yards, one touchdown
DeSean Jackson is having another great season. He has already racked up 1,304 yards and nine touchdowns on the year. Foles and Jackson have developed quite a rapport, as Jackson continues to be the team's deep threat.
If Jackson is ever going to take the top off of a defense, it will certainly be this week against the Cowboys. He doesn't need a great amount of receptions to be successful, as Jackson can break a big play just about any time he touches the ball.
Projection: 94 receiving yards, one touchdown
Jason Witten continues to be one of the NFL's best security blankets. He could take on that role in a big way on Sunday with Orton under center. While Orton gets back up to speed with the pace of the first-string offense, Witten will provide a nice, big target for the backup quarterback.
Dez Bryant: Dallas Cowboys trying to win for Tony Romo; Jason Witten: You’d give anything to have him play: IR... http://t.co/heSmAIGSuS— Dallas Cowboys news (@dmn_cowboys) December 27, 2013
Projection: 76 receiving yards
The Eagles have used a committee-style approach to the tight end position this season. Although rookie Zach Ertz has emerged at times, it is Brent Celek who is still the go-to guy here. Celek may not be used often, but he remains a serviceable target for Foles.
Projection: 58 receiving yards