Despite several embarrassing losses and a failed running game, the Dallas Cowboys are still alive in the NFC East division race as they host the Philadelphia Eagles Sunday night at Cowboys Stadium.
Currently 5-6, Dallas is two games behind the first place New York Giants, but only face two teams with winning records in their final five games.
And while Dallas continues to fight, 3-8 Philadelphia is opting to get their rookies some playing time with their stars hurt. The Eagles have lost eight of their last nine games, including seven straight, and a playoff berth is next to impossible.
The Cowboys nearly kept the Washington Redskins out of the division hunt in a 38-31 loss on Thanksgiving that saw Dallas almost erase a 25-point halftime deficit.
Forced to throw, quarterback Tony Romo dropped back 62 times and completed 37 passes for 441 yards, three touchdowns and two picks, while connecting with Dez Bryant eight times for 145 yards and two scores.
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Bryant’s 85 yard touchdown reception late in the third quarter set off three straight touchdown drives for the Cowboys and they were within 7, but Dallas couldn’t overcome Washington’s Robert Griffin III, who had four passing touchdowns and led a late field goal drive to keep the Cowboys at bay.
Dallas didn’t go to the run because they were down by so much, but they were also missing their best running back in DeMarco Murray.
However, Murray is expected to return for the first time since their Week 5 loss to the Baltimore Ravens, but Dallas reportedly will monitor his carries closely.
Murray suffered a sprained foot and Dallas went with a committee at running back with Felix Jones and Lance Dunbar, but neither proved effective as the Cowboys are dead last in rushing at 78.7 yards per game.
While Dallas gets back their best rusher, the Eagles will sit their two stars.
Quarterback Michael Vick will sit out due to concussion-like symptoms and running back LeSean McCoy also has a concussion and will not play Sunday.
Instead, head coach Andy Reid has handed the keys to rookies Nick Foles and Bryce Brown.
Brown gained 178 yards and scored two touchdowns on 19 carries last week, but his two fumbles, along with one by Foles, allowed the Carolina Panthers to slip away for a 30-22 win.
Foles went 16-for-21 for 119 yards in his second career start, and the Eagles defense couldn’t contain Carolina’s Cam Newton, who passed for two scores and rushed for two more.
Philadelphia will also be without leading receiver and their biggest deep threat Desean Jackson, who suffered broken ribs and is out for the rest of the year.
Brown has a strong chance to repeat his performance from last week, as Dallas may be without starting nose tackle Jay Ratliff, who is listed as questionable with a groin injury. Ratliff missed the Cowboys first four games of the season, and is in danger of missing his sixth overall.
Betting Odds: Dallas is favored by 10.5 points
Over/Under: 43 points
Prediction: Dallas’ playoffs hopes are on the line, but Philadelphia’s young players are working for contracts and more playing time. The Cowboys should roll to a late victory, but the Eagles will make this a close game.
Predicted Score: Dallas 27, Philadelphia 20