The Dallas Cowboys (8-7) are hosting the Philadelphia Eagles (9-6) in Week 17 in the final Sunday Night Football game on the 2013 regular-season NFL schedule.
It's a do-or-die scenario for the two NFC East rivals.
The winner of the game will claim the divisional crown, earning a home playoff game in the Wild Card Round. The loser will finish the season with unfulfilled dreams and will watch the postseason on television like the rest of the world.
NBC originally had Green Bay and Chicago on the slate for this final spot but flexed the Eagles and Cowboys into the prime-time slot. However, in the wake of Tony Romo's season-ending back surgery, Mike Vandermause of the Green Bay Press-Gazette believes it was the wrong choice:
In retrospect, big-time screw-up by NBC to flex Romo-less Cowboys vs. Eagles to night game instead of Aaron Rodgers and #Packers vs. Bears.— Mike Vandermause (@MikeVandermause) December 26, 2013
Veteran backup Kyle Orton will take Romo's place in this pivotal game, with a 41-year-old Jon Kitna as the team's fallback plan.
Philadelphia has all the momentum in its favor, having won six of its last seven games. Dallas, on the other hand, has limped into the final weekend of the regular season, having lost two of its last three games—the lone win coming against pathetic Washington.
Here's a look at when and where you can catch the upcoming game, along with betting information and injury reports for both teams:
When: Sunday, Dec. 29, at 8:30 p.m. ET
Where: AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas
Live Stream: NFL Sunday Ticket
Betting Lines (via Covers)
- Over/Under: 52.5 points
- Spread: Dallas (+7)
What Dallas Must Do to Win Without Romo
Kyle Orton is a veteran quarterback and a leader who has the skills to keep Dallas' offense moving, as detailed by former Bears quarterback and current analyst Jim Miller, via USA Today:
Yeah, this puts Kyle in a tough spot. But guys love playing with him whether it was in Chicago, Denver or Kansas City. They respect his leadership. He knows he has to score a lot of points with that defense. He'll get you in the right play pre-snap and he's accurate as all can be.
That's all true, but there's no doubt DeMarco Murray must be the focal point of the team's offensive attack in Week 17.
Philadelphia's No. 2-ranked scoring offense is going to have a field day against Dallas' league-worst defense, as Miller alluded to, and the best way to defend against such an attack is to keep it off the field. Bleacher Report's NFC East Lead Writer Brad Gagnon points out:
Plus, the more you run, the more the clock runs. The more you control the ball on offense, the less your bottom-ranked defense has to be on the field. The Cowboys have to shorten games with Murray and hope to hang on with efficient play from everyone else.
The Cowboys haven't been eager to lean on the running game this season, however. Dallas has thrown the ball 540 times in 2013 while running it only 318 times.
This means offensive coordinator Bill Callahan and head coach Jason Garrett must force themselves to make a philosophical change to the game plan against Philly.
Oh, and an improved effort by the team's horrific defense would certainly be of assistance.
In addition to Romo's injury, Dallas comes into the game with Dez Bryant and DeMarcus Ware having spent more time on the trainer's table recently than on the practice field.
On the other side, Philadelphia is as healthy as anyone could hope for at this point in the season, and the Eagles are also one of the hottest teams in the league entering the final game of the regular season.
Quarterback Nick Foles had the worst game of his 2013 campaign back in Week 7, a 17-3 loss to the Cowboys. But he's been practically unstoppable for most of the second half.
He's also extremely confident in his team's ability to conquer the upcoming challenge, via Dave Spadaro of PhiladelphiaEagles.com: "We feel like we're confident and ready for this spot. Now we have to go out and do it, and play Eagles football, play for each other. That's what we intend to do."
Foles isn't the only Eagles player who should be confident about the upcoming game, either. Running back LeSean McCoy, who leads the NFL with 1,476 rushing yards, should have a huge game against Dallas' tackle-allergic defense.
Who you got?
The Cowboys are simply overmatched from top to bottom. Chip Kelly's staff has done a masterful job taking advantage of the mismatches on offense, and Billy Davis' defense has stepped up in a big way during the team's second-half surge.
Dallas will likely score enough points to make it interesting, but in the end the Eagles will win by at least 10 points.
Eagles win, 38-27
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