Big Matchup in Big D
Dallas, TX - Big games have been commonplace through the years at Texas Stadium, where the Dallas Cowboys have clinched five of their record eight NFC championships.
If they have any intention of making yet another trip to the Super Bowl this season, they'll almost certainly need to close their historic 38-year-old venue with a victory.
Oddsmakers from Online Sportsbook Sportsbook.com have made the Cowboys –4 point spread favorites for Saturday’s game against the Ravens. Current NFL Public Betting Information shows that 61% of more than 9,098 bets for this game have been placed on the Cowboys -4.
The Cowboys will say goodbye to their longtime home Saturday night against the Baltimore Ravens, whose first and last trip to Texas Stadium will feature a pair of teams desperate for a win to boost their playoff chances.
One of the NFL's most glamorous franchises continues to spend plenty of time in the limelight, with its performance on the field grabbing as many headlines as topics like the injury to star quarterback Tony Romo, another suspension to cornerback Adam Jones and a perceived feud between Romo, Jason Witten and the petulant Terrell Owens.
Somewhat under the radar has been the closing of Texas Stadium, which on Saturday will host its final game before Dallas (9-5) moves into a $1.3 billion facility in Arlington next season. The only way another game would be played there is if the Cowboys got the No. 5 seed in the playoffs and were to play the No. 6 seed in the NFC championship game.
If nothing else, the Cowboys haven't let their old venue go out quietly. After blowing a 10-point fourth-quarter lead in Pittsburgh on Dec. 7 that put the NFC East title out of reach, Dallas came home Sunday night and kept its wild card hopes very much alive, dominating the division champion New York Giants in a 20-8 victory.
Romo threw for 244 yards and two touchdowns, capping a tumultuous week in which Owens insinuated his quarterback was freezing him out of the offense and looking primarily for Witten.
"It's just part of playing football," Romo said after bouncing back from a four-turnover performance in Pittsburgh. "We have a lot of highly competitive individuals who want to win. I give a lot of credit to T.O. and Jason for drumming this whole thing up to take attention away."
Owens denied having a reported verbal confrontation with Witten in the days leading up to the game, but was all smiles after the win - despite being heavily booed by Dallas fans before and during the victory.
"It was just something we had to deal with," said Owens, who has totaled six catches the past two weeks. "We just stuck together. We knew what was important and that was the game today.
"Winning cures everything."
With two more, Dallas can ensure it will be in the postseason, but a loss Saturday may cripple its chances. Philadelphia, Tampa Bay and Atlanta also are in the hunt for one of the NFC's two wild card spots, and a road game against the Eagles looms in Week 17.
The Cowboys have had to face two of the NFL's top six defenses in their past two games, and it's not about to get any easier. Baltimore (9-5) has the league's second-ranked total defense (257.5 yards per game) and third-ranked scoring defense (15.2 ppg).
The Ravens spent most of last Sunday afternoon shutting down the Steelers offense, but on the drive that mattered most, they couldn't. Pittsburgh drove 92 yards in 13 plays for a touchdown with 43 seconds left to win 13-9 and wrap up the AFC North.
"All game they didn't make plays," Pro Bowl linebacker Ray Lewis said. "One drive they did."
The bigger concern aside from one bad series for Baltimore's defense was the disappearance of its offense all afternoon. While the Ravens were winning seven of eight games from Oct. 19-Dec. 7, they led the league with 29.8 points per game and topped 350 total yards four times.
On Sunday, though, they mustered a season-low 202 and got a rare poor performance from rookie Joe Flacco. The Delaware product was the AFC's second-highest rated passer during Baltimore's hot streak, but he had his worst game as a pro on Sunday, going 11-of-28 for 115 yards and two interceptions.
"We'll be fine," Flacco said. "We've got two games left to get some wins and prove that we're a playoff team, and that's exactly what we're going to do."
Like Dallas, if Baltimore wins out it will be guaranteed one of its conference's two wild card spots.
Bouncing back against the Cowboys will be quite a challenge for Flacco and the Ravens, however. Dallas has a league-high 53 sacks, led by 19 from Pro Bowl linebacker DeMarcus Ware, who is 3 1/2 shy of tying Michael Strahan's single-season record.
Ware tormented Giants quarterback Eli Manning all night on Sunday, sacking him three times.
"He's going to draw a lot of double teams, a lot of chips and all that stuff," Dallas coach Wade Phillips said. "But he continues to come through. ... I think it's outstanding that he's gotten to this point even threatening the record."
Dallas has had 20 sacks over its past three games and forced nine turnovers.
The Cowboys will certainly have a challenge running against a Baltimore defense that's only let one opponent run for more than 100 yards. Marion Barber missed the Pittsburgh game with a dislocated toe, then totaled two yards on eight carries against the Giants.
Fortunately for Dallas, rookie Tashard Choice has looked great filling in. Choice had 166 all-purpose yards against the Steelers and followed with 143 and a touchdown versus the Giants.
"Tashard coming in really picked us up again," Phillips said. "He's a really valuable player for us and he's done that the last couple games."
The Cowboys and Ravens have played twice previously, each in Baltimore. The Ravens won both meetings, most recently a 30-10 victory in 2004.
Public Betting Trends:
All games in this series since 1992
BALTIMORE is 2-0 against the spread versus DALLAS since 1992
BALTIMORE is 2-0 straight up against DALLAS since 1992
1 of 2 games in this series have gone OVER THE TOTAL since 1992
Key Player Injuries:
[DT] Dwan Edwards IR - Back - 08/26/08
[WR] Demetrius Williams IR - Achilles - 10/29/08
[NT] Kelly Talavou IR. - Shoulder - 08/26/08
[LB] Prescott Burgess IR - Wrist - 08/12/08
[OG] Marshal Yanda IR - Knee - 10/14/08
[WR] Terrence Copper missed last game, "?" - Shoulder - 12/14/08
[WR] Marcus Maxwell missed last game, "?" - Hip - 12/14/08
[CB] Derrick Martin IR - Shoulder - 10/31/08
[TE] Quinn Sypniewski IR - Knee - 07/25/08
[QB] Kyle Boller IR - Shoulder - 09/03/08
[DT] Kelly Gregg IR - Knee - 10/07/08
[CB] Chris McAlister IR - Knee - 11/07/08
[SS] Dawan Landry IR - Neck - 09/22/08
[RB] P.J. Daniels IR - Shoulder - 08/12/08
[DT] Lamar Divens IR - Shoulder - 12/10/08
[RB] Ray Rice missed last game, "?" - Calf - 12/14/08
[CB] Adam Jones missed last game, doubtful - Neck - 12/15/08
[WR] Sam Hurd IR - Ankle - 10/16/08
[S] Roy L Williams IR - Forearm - 10/19/08
(!) [RB] Marion Barber III is probable - Toe - 12/15/08
[OL] Kyle Kosier IR - Foot - 11/29/08
[S] Pat Watkins IR - Neck - 12/05/08
[P] Mat McBriar IR - Foot - 10/13/08
[OG] Montrae Holland missed last game, "?" - Ankle - 12/15/08
(!) [QB] Tony Romo injured last game, probable - Back - 12/15/08
[RB] Felix Jones IR - Toe - 11/20/08
Posted: 12/17/08 4:28PM ET