|NFL Football Week 14: Cowboys at Lions Preview, Matchup, Picks & Odds|
|Written by Anthony Rome|
|Wednesday, 05 December 2007 15:45|
The Dallas Cowboys franchise has won five Super Bowls, made eight Super Bowl appearances, captured 19 division titles and advanced to the playoffs 28 times since it was founded in 1960.
This year's team has gotten off to a better start than any of those other clubs.
After becoming the first NFC team to secure a playoff berth, the Cowboys look to clinch their first NFC East title since 1998 and improve their chances for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs when they visit the reeling Detroit Lions on Sunday.
Oddsmakers from Bodog have made Dallas –10.5 point spread favorites (View NFL Football odds) for Sunday's game, the over/under has been set at 51.5 total points (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 80% of bets for this game have been placed on Dallas –10.5 (View NFL Football bet percentages).
Dallas has won 11 of its first 12 games for the first time in franchise history, giving the Cowboys the best record in the NFC. They trail only undefeated New England in the league-wide standings and are also second behind the Patriots in total offense, averaging 390.9 yards per game.
Dallas' success so far bodes well for the final four weeks of the regular season and beyond. The Cowboys, though, will judge their season on what happens between now and Feb. 3, 2008, when Super Bowl XLII will be played in Arizona.
"What have we really accomplished at 11-1? We've got off to a great start, but 11-1 doesn't crown a champion," center Andre Gurode said.
While the Cowboys' goals extend far beyond the first 12 games of the season, they won't deny that they've looked good so far. In the highly anticipated matchup between the top teams in the NFC last Thursday, Tony Romo threw for 309 yards, four touchdowns and one interception to lead Dallas to a 37-27 victory over Green Bay.
"This win doesn't put us in the Super Bowl, and a loss wouldn't have knocked us out of it," said Romo, who has set a franchise record with 33 touchdown passes. "I don't think this does anything else except say, 'You know what? We're a pretty good football team and we're playing pretty good football right now.'"
With its sixth straight win, Dallas clinched a postseason berth and moved a game ahead of Green Bay for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
"We've got ourselves in the driver's seat," said wide receiver Terrell Owens, who had seven catches for 156 yards and a touchdown. "Now we've got to stay there."
Owens' touchdown catch was his 14th of the season, matching the team record set by Frank Clarke in 1962. Owens also tied Bob Hayes and Clarke as the only Dallas receivers with scoring catches in seven straight games.
"It's a continuation of the way he's been playing," Cowboys coach Wade Phillips said. "He continues to get open, he continues to make plays."
Owens will try to break both records as the Cowboys go for their first seven-game win streak since 1993. They had two runs of at least seven games that season, including an eight-game streak capped by a win over Buffalo in Super Bowl XXVII.
Like Dallas, Detroit (6-6) opened this season strong. After improving to 6-2 for the first time in nine years with a win over Denver on Nov. 4, however, the Lions have been outscored 126-67 in losing four straight.
"We just have to start playing better in every facet of the game," defensive tackle Cory Redding said. "It is as simple as that."
While they've depended on their passing game all season, the Lions had a reliable running attack during their strong start, averaging 95.3 rushing yards in the first eight games. They've been held under 30 rushing yards three times and are averaging 41.0 during the four-game skid.
Opponents, meanwhile, have run for 115.3 yards against them over that span, including a season-high 216 last Sunday as the Lions lost 42-10 at Minnesota.
"On defense, it is an issue of playing our gaps and making tackles," said Lions coach Rod Marinelli, whose team has dropped into a tie with Minnesota and Arizona for the final NFC wild-card spot. "On offense, we're missing too many opportunities."
With playoff hopes in Detroit already fading, the team's outlook doesn't get much brighter with three of the Lions' final four games against current division leaders Dallas, San Diego and Green Bay.
"There's an easy way out and a hard way out," said Detroit quarterback Jon Kitna, who's 13-25 lifetime in games played in December and January. "We have to choose the hard way if we want to do it. But we have to choose it - all 53 guys. We can't have some and not the others."
Adding to the Lions' list of challenges is the possibility that wide receiver Roy Williams could miss the last four weeks of the regular season with an injured posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. Williams - leading the team in receptions (63), receiving yards (836) and touchdown catches (5) - was injured on a 43-yard catch that set up the Lions' only touchdown last week.
Williams had six catches for 104 yards and two touchdowns in Detroit's 39-31 win in Dallas last season that snapped the Cowboys' three-game win streak in the series.
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