Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Tony Romo has played as well as any
quarterback in the NFL over the past seven weeks, putting a flawed Dallas
Cowboys team in position to win the NFC East if it can pull off an upset
of Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins on Sunday.
Fair or not, the latest renewal of the storied Cowboys-Redskins rivalry also
will serve as a legacy game for Romo, one where 416 yards passing and two late
touchdown drives like he pulled off last week against New Orleans will mean
little if Dallas is on the wrong side of the scoreboard again.
In fact, the only metric which will matter in Landover Sunday night will be
the check mark next to the win or loss column.
Let's face it, there is something about playing quarterback for the Dallas
Cowboys. It's akin to being the center fielder for the New York Yankees, the
point guard of the Boston Celtics or the first-line center of the Montreal
The America's Team stuff might be a bit overblown these days but the Cowboys
remain the marquee team in the NFL and for whatever reason people expect Romo
Despite all the numbers he's put up since taking over in north Texas, Romo's
never been regarded as a "money" quarterback.
The facts show otherwise, of course.
Romo is 55-37 as the 'Boys starter and he ended the franchise's 14-year
postseason drought with a 34-14 win in a divisional round playoff game versus
Philadelphia back on Jan. 9. 2010.
"He makes a ton of plays," Dallas coach Jason Garrett, a former quarterback
himself, said when talking about his current signal-caller. "He's done a great
job with the football. His decision-making, his care of the football has been
Romo has thrown more touchdowns for the Cowboys than Troy Aikman, Roger
Staubach, Don Meredith or Danny White, and his 18 come-from-behind wins are a
franchise best. Heck, Romo has the best career fourth quarter passer rating of
any active quarterback.
"Sometimes, you call plays as a quarterback in the fourth quarter and you just
know what teams like to do, what they try to do against you," Romo said when
asked about his play in the final frame. "You gain that understanding. It's
been very beneficial for us."
But, that's never the narrative since Romo has never hoisted the Lombardi
Trophy or even come close for that matter.
And some of the franchise's most high-profile losses in recent years lead
directly to Romo, none more so than the wild card playoff loss to Seattle in
2007 when he botched the hold on a 19-yard gimmee field goal attempt which
would have sealed the victory for his team.
A year later Romo was unable to lead the Cowboys back from a 21-17 deficit
during the team's divisional playoff game against the New York Giants when he
misfired on a deep pass in the final minute, one which was eventually picked
off by R.W. McQuarters.
And there is always his three fumble performance against a strong Minnesota
team in the 2010 postseason in what turned out to be a 34-3 drubbing by the
A more nuanced observer might point out that Dallas typically goes farther
than it should since Jerry Jones is not exactly regarded as one of the NFL's
best when it comes to personnel, and the arrogant owner of the Cowboys is
never going to hand that aspect of his organization over, at least fully, to
a true football guy.
This season the Cowboys have no running game to speak of and the guts of a
good defense on paper has been decimated by injuries. Pro Bowl nose tackle Jay
Ratliff remains on the sidelines with a groin injury and star inside
linebacker Sean Lee is on injured reserve with a toe injury. Bruce Carter,
another inside 'backer who was really coming on, is also out with an elbow
Despite all that the Cowboys are still in the mix and Jason Witten has already
broken Tony Gonzalez's NFL record for receptions by a tight end with 103,
while the enigmatic Dez Bryant has turned into a superstar outside the
numbers, hauling in 88 balls for 1,311 yards and 12 touchdowns with a game to
The straw that stirs the drink in that high-octane passing game is obviously
To most NFL people, Romo will remain a very good quarterback whether he wins
or loses on Sunday.
To the casual observer and the average emotional Cowboys fan, however, he can
change how he's perceived.
Win and you're in -- a defining moment for any NFL quarterback.
"It's about winning and losing," Romo said. "You do everything in your power
to help your football team do the things that it takes to win. When you don't,
you'll use the experience to do better, but when you lose in the NFL,
especially when you play this position, it's just a very empty feeling."
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THE GAMES (All Times Eastern)
Tampa Bay (6-9) at Atlanta (13-2), Sunday, 1 p.m.
LINE: Falcons by 4
THE SKINNY: The road to the Super Bowl on the NFC side will go through Dixie
after the Falcons invaded the Motor City last Saturday and really showed the
difference between winning and losing organizations, topping an underachieving
Lions team content with celebrating Calvin Johnson's greatness. A Tampa club
in the midst of an ugly five-game losing streak will likely be the latest
speed bump in Atlanta's brilliant season.
PREDICTION: Falcons 33, Buccaneers 17
Houston (12-3) at Indianapolis (10-5), Sunday, 1 p.m.
LINE: Texans by 7
THE SKINNY: Both teams are in the postseason with the Texans having clinched
the AFC South and the Colts securing a wild card berth after topping
Kansas City in Week 16. Despite losing to Minnesota last Sunday Houston will
secure the No. 1 seed in the AFC with a win or if Denver and New England both
lose. Problem is the Texans have never won in Indy.
PREDICTION: Texans 23, Colts 17
Chicago (9-6) at Detroit (4-11), Sunday, 1 p.m.
LINE: Bears by 3
THE SKINNY: The Bears remain in the mix for a playoff berth but Chicago can
only advance to the postseason with a win on Sunday combined with a Minnesota
"All we can do is control what we can control," said Bears wide receiver
Brandon Marshall, who has set team records with 113 catches and 1,466 yards.
"We do need help. If we could get that help, that would be good."
PREDICTION: Bears 20, Lions 17
Philadelphia (4-11) at New York Giants (8-7), Sunday, 1 p.m.
LINE: Giants by 7 1/2
THE SKINNY: The defending Super Bowl champion Giants can still qualify for the
postseason but will also need plenty of help to get in. New York needs a win
against Philadelphia and losses by Dallas, Minnesota and Chicago. The Eagles,
meanwhile, will return to Michael Vick (rookie quarterback Nick Foles is out
with a broken hand) in what could be Andy Reid's finale as Philadelphia's
PREDICTION: Giants 24, Eagles 20
NY Jets (6-9) at Buffalo (5-10), Sunday, 1 p.m.
LINE: Bills by 3 1/2
THE SKINNY: Buffalo is 0-5 against Rex Ryan and the Jets in three seasons and
has lost by an average score of 36-17 in those games, including a 48-28
setback in the season opener. Things figure to be a little easier this time
around with Greg McElroy in for the Jets and Mark Sanchez and Tim Me-bow out.
PREDICTION: Bills 24, Jets 17
Baltimore (10-5) at Cincinnati (9-6), Sunday, 1 p.m.
LINE: Bengals by 3
THE SKINNY: The Ravens clinched their second-consecutive AFC North Division
title last week while Cincinnati wrapped up a wild card berth for a second-
straight time. Baltimore is the only NFL team to earn a playoff slot in each
of the last five seasons (2008-12), and still has eyes on the No. 3 seed if it
can get a win and the Patriots lose to the visiting Dolphins.
PREDICTION: Bengals 21, Ravens 20
Carolina (6-9) at New Orleans (7-8), Sunday, 1 p.m.
LINE: Saints by 4 1/2
THE SKINNY: Sunday's meeting between the Saints and Panthers will not
have any consequence in the postseason race but it will pit two clubs who have
been playing their best football of late. New Orleans got off to an 0-4 start,
but has gone 7-4 since while Carolina started its season 1-6 before
PREDICTION: Saints 31, Panthers 27
Cleveland (5-10) at Pittsburgh (7-8), Sunday, 1 p.m.
LINE: No Line
THE SKINNY: Browns coach Pat Shurmur could be coaching his final game in
Cleveland here and has a big QB problem. Rookie Brandon Weeden didn't practice
Wednesday because of the sprained right shoulder he suffered in last Sunday's
loss at Denver and Weeden's backup, Colt McCoy, also missed the session with a
shoulder injury. Pittsburgh, of course, is uncharacteristically out of the
playoff hunt and attempting to avoid a rare sweep at the hands of the Browns.
PREDICTION: Steelers 24, Browns 10
Jacksonville (2-13) at Tennessee (5-10), Sunday, 1 p.m.
LINE: Titans by 4
THE SKINNY: The Titans will be looking to avoid the ignominy of losing twice
to a three-win team when they host the Jags. In the first meeting between the
two teams, the Jaguars prevailed 24-19 as Chad Henne passed for 261 yards and
a pair of second-half touchdowns, and Jacksonville intercepted two Jake Locker
passes late in the fourth quarter to preserve the win.
PREDICTION: Titans 17, Jags 14
Oakland (4-11) at San Diego (6-9), Sunday, 4:25 p.m.
LINE: Chargers by 7
THE SKINNY: Norv Turner's likely farewell to San Diego could feature the
completion of a season sweep of the lowly Raiders, who will be without
quarterback Carson Palmer. Palmer suffered cracked ribs and a bruised lung
during last Sunday's 17-6 loss to Carolina and has been shut down leaving Matt
Leinart and Terrelle Pryor as Dennis Allen's options.
PREDICTION: Chargers 24, Raiders 7
Green Bay (11-4) at Minnesota (9-6), Sunday, 4:25 p.m.
LINE: Packers by 3
THE SKINNY: Green Bay has clinched the NFC North and is in line for the No. 2
seed and a first-round bye in the NFC playoffs. The Packers will lock up the
bye with a win or losses by both San Francisco and Seattle. The Vikings,
meanwhile, are in control for a playoff spot. With a victory, Minnesota will
advance to the postseason as a wild card.
PREDICTION: Vikings 21, Packers 17
Arizona (5-10) at San Francisco (10-4-1), Sunday, 4:25 p.m.
LINE: 49ers by 16 1/2
THE SKINNY: The 49ers, who have already secured a playoff berth, currently
lead the NFC West and can clinch the division with a victory or a Seattle
loss. San Francisco can also notch a first-round bye with a win over Arizona
and a Green Bay loss.
PREDICTION: 49ers 24, Cardinals 14
St. Louis (7-7-1) at Seattle (10-5), Sunday, 4:25 p.m.
LINE: Seahawks by 10 1/2
THE SKINNY: Seattle, which is 7-0 at home, has clinched a playoff berth but is
still in contention for the NFC West division title. The Seahawks can claim
the division with a victory and a San Francisco loss. Meanwhile, if Seattle
wins and both San Francisco and Green Bay lose, the Seahawks will clinch the
NFC West and secure a first-round bye.
"It's been coming together for us," said Seattle head coach Pete Carroll.
"We're getting better and you can just feel it and see it. It's coming to life
PREDICTION: Seahawks 31, Rams 17
Miami (7-8) at New England (11-4), Sunday, 4:25 p.m.
LINE: Patriots by 10 1/2
THE SKINNY: The Patriots have won the AFC East and are battling for a first-
round bye and home-field advantage. New England will gain the No. 1 seed in
the AFC with a win and losses by Houston and Denver. The Patriots can also
garner a first-round bye if they win on Sunday and either Houston or Denver
PREDICTION: Patriots 30, Dolphins 17
Kansas City (2-13) at Denver (12-3), Sunday, 4:25 p.m.
LINE: Broncos by 16
THE SKINNY: Denver has won the AFC West and is currently deadlocked with
Houston for the best record in the AFC. The Broncos are in control for a
first-round bye and will earn it with a victory or a New England loss. If
Denver wins and Houston loses, the Broncos will clinch home-field advantage
throughout the AFC playoffs.
"Our goal is just to keep winning," said Broncos wide receiver Demaryius
Thomas. "That's what we've done. We've won all 10 as a team. That's all that
PREDICTION: Broncos 27, Chiefs 10
Dallas (8-7) at Washington (9-6), Sunday, 8:20 p.m.
LINE: Redskins by 3
THE SKINNY: The NFC East title will be on the line on Sunday night in
The victor of the Dallas-Washington matchup will win the division title and
move into the playoffs.
"It will be pandemonium at FedExField," said Washington cornerback DeAngelo
Hall. "The way you like it. It's definitely going to be a playoff atmosphere.
We want to be the only show on TV. That's a good feeling. Primetime, baby."
The Cowboys can only advance to the postseason as the NFC East champion. The
Redskins can get in as either a division winner or wild card.
"We've got to move forward," said Cowboys tight end Jason Witten. "We have an
opportunity to go to the playoffs. Regardless, we've got to go play the
Redskins, play them tough and see where it falls."
PREDICTION: Seahawks 24, 49ers 20
The Sports Network