IRVING, Texas – The Cowboys and Eagles … winner takes it all.
That’s where we are once again. The Dallas Cowboys are no strangers to this game, having faced the Giants and Redskins the last two years in Week 17 finales with the NFC East title on the line. We know how the Cowboys fared in those games but even without Tony Romo and Sean Lee, can the Cowboys turn the tide this year?
Here are the gut feelings for insiders Nick Eatman, David Helman and Rowan Kavner.
Helman: The one thing I’ve learned about the Dallas Cowboys this season is to expect the unexpected. I’ve seen too many crazy things to write this game off just because Tony Romo is missing. In fact, I think the Dallas offense is going to be just fine with Kyle Orton in charge. Orton’s going to throw three touchdowns and an interception, and if the Cowboys are smart they’ll lean on DeMarco Murray – who certainly has another 90-yard game in him. Unfortunately, it’s going to be the defense that sinks the upset bid. The Cowboys might slow down LeSean McCoy, or they might make life difficult for Nick Foles, but I don’t think they can do both without Sean Lee. Philadelphia is going to have 500 yards before it’s over, and they’ll clinch the division in a 42-28 win.
Kavner: There’s never been more question marks about this team, and it just so happens that it’s in Week 17 of a third straight win-or-go-home season finale to decide the NFC East. For that reason, it’s difficult to pick the Dallas Cowboys in this one with any confidence. It’s a shame Tony Romo doesn’t even have the chance to reverse his legacy after getting the Cowboys in with a game-winning drive, but this will be Kyle Orton’s ship to sail the rest of the way. There are worse options around the league that a team would have to turn to. The loss of Sean Lee, who was instrumental in the teams’ first matchup, can’t be stressed enough. I don’t believe anyone saying the Cowboys just have no shot, but they’ll need to find a pass rush if they’re to survive. I think Orton looks to Jason Witten a ton, DeMarco Murray goes over the 100-yard mark for the third time in four games and a Dallas safety gets a pick, but the Cowboys fall by a touchdown late.
Eatman: Glad the Romo news came out when it did, because my gut would’ve said something about Romo finding a way to play. All week I had a hunch he would at least try to play. So right there, I’ve already admitted my gut is a little off. Or, maybe I’m due to even it out. So Romo is out, Sean Lee is out. Those are your offensive and defensive quarterbacks. Ware didn’t practice, Dez has a back issue, too. Kyle Orton hasn’t started in two years and the Eagles just scored over 50 points on a team that whipped the Cowboys two weeks ago. So … give me Dallas in a wild, crazy game that makes no sense. I don’t have great logic here. But personally, come Monday morning, I don’t think the season will be over. I think there is still stuff for this team to do. I think the defense gets turnovers and finds a way to slow down the train. Jason Witten will be Kyle Orton’s best friend and catch 10 passes and DeMarco Murray, who didn’t play the first game with the Eagles, has another big-time performance. The Cowboys will win this game 38-34 and will face … San Francisco in the playoffs next week.