NFL: Today’s previews: Romo’s back, but are Cowboys?
The party line in Dallas has been that once Tony Romo comes back, everything will be OK.
Romo will be back Sunday night when the Cowboys go to Washington. But everything might not be quite as OK as Jerry Jones and his team think.
The Cowboys’ quarterback began practicing this week, a month after breaking the pinkie on his throwing hand. And while he reported some pain, he is expected to be ready to try to help a team that lost two of three games without him.
It’s a big game for both teams, each chasing the Giants (8-1) in the NFC East or at least trying to solidify a wild-card playoff spot. For the Cowboys, the preseason favorite to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl, the line is that it’s a fresh start following a bye week that allowed Romo and some other injured starters to get healthy.
“You’ve got to get on a run in this league,” coach Wade Phillips says of his team, whose four losses in nine games are one more than the Cowboys had in the 2007 regular season.
“We were able to last year. This year, we started out on a run, then didn’t keep it going. But we’ve got a chance to come back.”
The Cowboys now say they hope to emulate the Giants, who lost to them twice last season, then won in Dallas in the playoffs and went on to win the Super Bowl.
The Redskins (6-3) are two games behind New York and also coming off a bye. Their 26-24 win in Dallas on Sept. 28 was the first loss by the Cowboys after a 3-0 start.
Dallas has a tough closing schedule: all three division opponents plus Baltimore and Pittsburgh.
“Three or four weeks from now, there will be big changes,” Phillips said. “So, we’ll see where we are.”
In today’s other games, it’s Denver at Atlanta, Oakland at Miami, Chicago at Green Bay, Baltimore at the New York Giants, Houston at Indianapolis, New Orleans at Kansas City, Philadelphia at Cincinnati, Minnesota at Tampa Bay, Arizona at Seattle, St. Louis at San Francisco, San Diego at Pittsburgh and Tennessee at Jacksonville.
Cleveland is at Buffalo on Monday night.
Baltimore (6-3) at NY Giants (8-1)
The league’s best rushing offense against the league’s best run defense ó the Giants being the former and the Ravens the latter.
San Diego (4-5) at Pittsburgh (6-3)
San Diego has been having trouble running ó 25th in the NFL at 95.5 yards per game and 22nd with a 3.9 per carry average despite the presence of LaDainian Tomlinson, now healthy after starting the season with a sore toe.
Tennessee (9-0) at Jacksonville (4-5)
Normally, this would be a tough spot for the NFL’s only unbeaten team. But the Jaguars, despite a 38-14 victory last week over winless Detroit, are struggling on the field and off. Coach Jack Del Rio deactivated defensive leader Mike Peterson last week after sending him home from practice earlier in the week.
Houston (3-6) at Indianapolis (5-4)
The Colts have beaten two good teams, the Patriots and Steelers, to secure a solid spot in the AFC wild-card chase, although catching the Titans in the AFC South seems too big a task. Peyton Manning did his usual in bringing Indy back from a 17-7 deficit in Pittsburgh last week, and the defensive star was 266-pound rookie defensive tackle Eric Foster, the kind of quick, undersized defender Tony Dungy has always prized.
Chicago (5-4) at Green Bay (4-5)
The Bears are hoping Kyle Orton can come back from his sprained ankle after Rex Grossman played QB last week against the Titans. But they have other problems ó their usually ferocious pass rush has produced just five sacks in the last four games.
Minnesota (5-4) at Tampa Bay (6-3)
Adrian Peterson now leads the NFL in rushing and his 192 yards were the primary reason the Vikings edged the Packers last week. But it’s unlikely Peterson will get 192 against Tampa Bay, which is allowing just 99 per game.
Denver (5-4) at Atlanta (6-3)
The Falcons, one of three teams in the NFC South at 6-3 or better, would probably love to be in the AFC West, where the struggling Broncos lead despite a leaky defense and a series of injuries to running backs.
Philadelphia (5-4) at Cincinnati (1-8)
The Bengals finally won against Jacksonville two weeks ago and then had a bye. So are they refreshed or have they lost momentum? Probably doesn’t matter.
Every game is a must win for the Eagles, who are three games behind in the NFC East. They are 0-3 against NFC East rivals.
Arizona (6-3) at Seattle (2-7)
The Cardinals haven’t had a home playoff game since 1947, when they were in Chicago. But they are likely to be the first NFL team to clinch a division this season and guarantee themselves a home game because they are four games ahead of all three NFC West opponents with seven games to go. Matt Hasselbeck will probably be back at quarterback for Seattle after missing five games with a back problem that caused weakening in his right knee.
Oakland (2-7) at Miami (5-4)
Imagine if Al Davis, who has been friendly with Bill Parcells since coaching him in a 1963 college all-star game, had hired Parcells to run his franchise. The way the Tuna has resurrected the Dolphins, the Raiders might be contenders in the weak AFC West.
New Orleans (4-5) at Kansas City (1-8)
Drew Brees has 2,985 yards and may be on course to break Dan Marino’s single-season record of 5.084 yards passing. But the Saints’ record shows how deceptive yards can be ó when you are behind, you throw a lot.
St. Louis (2-7) at San Francisco (2-7)
Mike Singletary got within 21/2 yards of his first coaching win in Arizona last Monday night. The Rams, energized for a while after Jim Haslett took over from Scott Linehan, are back to playing awful ball, which probably means the Singletary energy boost that was evident in Arizona will prevail here.
Cleveland (3-6) at Buffalo (5-4) (Monday night)
The banged-up Bills have now lost four of five, including three straight AFC East games, which puts them in poor position in a cramped division.