Kyle Orton will start in Tony Romo’s place as the Dallas Cowboys inhale their last playoff hopeful breath on Sunday night against the Philadelphia Eagles at AT&T Stadium.
The stakes couldn’t be more simple for either team. Win and take home the NFC East and a playoff spot. Unfortunately for Dallas, they’ll have to do that without Romo, whose season is over after undergoing back surgery on Friday.
Romo rescued Dallas from another second half collapse last week with a 10-yard pass to running back DeMarco Murray in the final of play of the 24-23 victory over Washington to stay alive. A loss would’ve ended the Cowboys season early once again, but Romo’s two touchdowns and 226 yards passing, along with Murray’s 96 rushing yards put the NFC East crown in sight.
Appearing in three games over the last two years, Orton’s last start came with Kansas City back in 2011, when he went 15-for-29 for 180 yards and a 71.0 passer rating. The 31-year-old’s completed 12 of his 15 pass attempts for 129 yards and one touchdown in three appearances for the Cowboys.
The Eagles have the chance to win their first division title in three years under first-year head coach Chip Kelly, and the skillful, patient play of quarterback Nick Foles, and a Pro Bowl year from running back LeSean McCoy. This time last season Philadelphia was 4-12, bound for a top five draft pick, and booting Andy Reid out the door.
Knowing full well a win wouldn’t matter after Dallas’s win, Foles and the Eagles lit up Chicago for 514 total yards and 54 points last week, looking like the juggernaut offense many expected when scheme guru Kelly took the job earlier this year.
McCoy and Bryce Brown combined for 248 of Philadelphia’s 289 rushing yards against the Bears, and Foles threw two touchdowns with zero picks for his 10th error-free start of the season. McCoy has blown away the league for 1,476 yards and nine touchdowns, while Foles has fired of 25 touchdown passes with two interceptions, and is the NFL’s best rated passer.
Philadelphia firing on all cylinders spells trouble for Dallas’s last ranked defense, especially with linebacker Sean Lee out once again with a neck injury. The Cowboys have let up 1,220 yards and 72 second half points in the last three games.
Still the Cowboys are loaded just as much on offense, with receiver Dez Bryant posting more than a 1,000 yards and 12 TDs for the second straight year. Tight end Jason Witten also made the most of fewer targets with eight receiving touchdowns, his most in three seasons.
The Eagles haven’t fared any better against the pass than Dallas, ranking 30th in the NFL, but the defense has allowed just 18.7 seven points a game in the last seven weeks. Philadelphia has gone 6-1 in that stretch.
Pressuring Orton early and often figures to be a staple of Philadelphia’s game plan this season. Though ranking 17th in the league with 37.0 team sacks, the Eagles will turn to the linebacker corps of Trent Cole, DeMeco Ryans, and Mychal Kendricks. Cole led the team with 8.0 sacks, and Ryans and Kendricks had 4.0 sacks apiece.
Betting Odds: Philadelphia -7
Over/Under: 52.5 points
Time: Sunday, 8:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: NBC
Online Stream Info: SNF All Access
Prediction: Dallas 27, Philadelphia 24