On Sunday, the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles will meet with the NFC East title on the line. Tony Romo, however, isn’t likely to suit up for the contest.
As first reported by Adam Schefter on ESPN, the quarterback is done for the remainder of the season with a back injury. Romo was administered with an epidural after the team’s Week 16, and owner Jerry Jones isn’t ready to rule him out. However, Kyle Orton is expected to get the start in his place.
Romo has been the subject of much criticism lately. He threw two fourth-quarter interceptions in the Cowboys’ Week 15 loss to the Packers. The prior game, he threw for just 104 yards in a loss to the Chicago Bears.
Despite his mistakes, Romo is a major reason why the Cowboys even have a chance to reach the postseason. He’s in the top 10 in passing yards, completion percentage and quarterback rating. His 31 touchdowns are good for second in the league. With the Cowboys needing a win in Week 16, Romo led his team on an 87-yard touchdown drive that culminated with a 10-yard reception by DeMarco Murray. Considering that Philadelphia won later that night, a loss would have ended Dallas’s playoff chances.
The Cowboys might be forced to pin their hopes on a quarterback who hasn’t started a game since 2011. Orton has attempted five passes in 2013, completing two for 40 yards. Now, he’s all but set to get the start in the final game of the regular season, which will act as an unofficial NFC East title game.
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The winner of the Week 17 matchup between Dallas and Philadelphia will finish the year in first place and win the division. The Eagles currently have a one-game lead at 9-6, but the Cowboys have the tiebreaker if they can emerge victorious. The Cowboys won when the two teams met in Week Seven. Because of the game’s significance, it was flexed and scheduled for Sunday night.
The Cowboys may have won the first-head-to-head contest between the rivals, but this is a much different Eagles team. Since then, Nick Foles has emerged as one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL. He’s thrown 25 touchdowns and just two interceptions. His 118.8 passer rating ranks No.1 among all quarterbacks.
Even without Romo, the Dallas offense might not be their biggest concern. The Cowboys have allowed more yards than any team in the league, and they’ve been especially vulnerable through the air. Before holding Kirk Cousins to just one touchdown pass, they gave up eight total in the previous two weeks.
While the Cowboys weak secondary has gotten most of the attention, their rushing defense has also been subpar, ranking 27th overall. Since the two teams met over two months ago, the Cowboys have held only one team to less than 100 yards rushing.
It’s not likely that the Cowboys will be able to contain the Eagles rushing attack. They have the NFL’s No.1 ground game and are coming off a 289-yard performance against the Bears. LeSean McCoy ranks first among all rushers with 1,476 yards on the season, though he did struggle against Dallas in Week Seven, registering just 55 yards. Linebacker Sean Lee had 10 combined tackles in that game, but it appears a neck injury will keep him out of this contest.
Dallas opened up the week as 2.5-point favorites. After the news of Romo’s injury struck, the line was taken off the board at Las Vegas casinos. Now, many sportsbooks have the Eagles favored by 6.5 points.
Betting Odds: Philadelphia -6.5, 52.5
Prediction: Philadelphia 37, Dallas 23