The Indianapolis Colts (10-4) and Dallas Cowboys (10-4) have had similar seasons in 2014, looking like legitimate Super Bowl contenders. However, the stakes will be very different for the two teams, when they face each other in Week 16.
With two games remaining on the schedule, Indianapolis doesn’t have much left to play for. They clinched the AFC South title with a Week 15 victory over the Houston Texans, but they aren’t likely to improve their standing in the playoffs. The Colts trail the New England Patriots and Denver Broncos by one game, and a head-to-head loss to each club means a bye might be out of the question. The No.3 or No.4 seed in the conference appears to be where Indianapolis will finish the regular season.
Even with 10 wins, the Cowboys are far from guaranteed a playoff berth in the NFC. Their crucial Week 15 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles gave them a one-game lead in the NFC East, but a lot can change in the final two games. The No.1 overall seed is still in play for Dallas, and having beaten the Seattle Seahawks could be a key component in a tiebreaker scenario. The Cowboys could also miss the playoffs, since two straight wins for the Eagles would give Chip Kelly’s team the tiebreaker in the division.
Indianapolis needs a win in Week 16 a lot less than Dallas, and they haven’t proven themselves against top competition. The Colts have beat up on poor teams, going undefeated against teams with a record of .500 or worse. They’ve struggled against opponents that have winning records, going 2-4 against potential playoff teams.
The Colts will visit Dallas, who is just 3-4 at home, but Indianapolis has especially struggled when having to play good teams on the road. They were defeated by Denver in the season opener and gave up 51 points in a loss at Pittsburgh.
It’s not likely that either team will score 50 points on Sunday, but it could turn out to be one of the highest-scoring contests in recent weeks. The over/under is 55 points, and the contest features two of the NFL’s best quarterbacks.
Andrew Luck is having the best season of his three-year career, and he’s at the top of the league in multiple categories, including passing yards (4,492) and passing touchdowns (38). He’s thrown for over 300 yards in 10 games, though he hasn’t surpassed the 294-yard mark in three of his last four contests.
While Luck has put up flashier numbers, Tony Romo is having the better season. He’s been much more efficient, completing 69.3 percent of his passess, compared to Luck’s 61.4 percent, and his 28 touchdowns and eight interceptions have him ranked second with a 110.4 passer rating. Luck has thrown 14 picks and has a 97.5 passer rating, good for seventh in the league.
Romo has come up big when Dallas has needed it, as he tries to dispel the notion that he can’t get the job done in important moments. He threw three touchdowns and no interceptions at Philadelphia, stepping up in just the third game all season that DeMarco Murray didn’t rush for at least 100 yards.
Murray could be forced to sit against the Colts, after undergoing surgery to repair a bone in his hand on Monday. Cowboys vice president Stephen Jones told 105.3 The Fan in Dallas that the running back hasn't been ruled out of the game, but it's a "tough expectation" to think he will play.
Dallas is favored by three points at home, according to Las Vegas betting odds. It’s just the third time all year that Indianapolis is the underdog.
Prediction: Dallas over Indianapolis, 34-24