Scouting the cowboys

1 Finale flops » Sunday will be the third time in five years the Cowboys have faced a win-or-go-home scenario in Week 17, so they have a lot of experience in that type of situation. Unfortunately, it's all bad. In 2008, Dallas lay down against D.C.-area favorite Donovan McNabb and the Eagles, turning it over five times in a 44-6 loss to give Philadelphia the wild-card spot. And last season the Giants won the battle with Dallas for the NFC's final playoff spot with a 31-14 victory. Uh oh.

2 Romo's hot » Surely the ladies love Tony Romo, but we're talking about his play since Week 9. He has thrown 17 touchdown passes and only three interceptions as the Cowboys have gone 5-3 in their last eight games. Romo already has set a career high with 4,685 yards, but that is a bit misleading. Three of his four career 400-plus yard games have come this season, and Dallas has lost every one of them, including the Thanksgiving affair with the Redskins. The Cowboys could have three players with more than 1,000 yards receiving after this week and rank third in the NFL in passing at 302.2 yards a game, but they have to air it out because ...

3 The running game stinks » Dallas ranks next to last in the NFL in rushing at 77.7 yards a game. Part of that resulted from starter DeMarco Murray missing six games in the middle of the season with a sprained left foot, including the first game against the Redskins. But the Cowboys also have fallen behind early or wound up in shootouts that have limited their chances on the ground. Dallas attempted only 11 runs in Sunday's overtime loss to the Saints. First, the Cowboys scored twice on long passes, limiting their number of plays. And then they fell behind by two touchdowns and had to abandon the run late.

4 Everybody hurts » Sometimes everything is wrong. That's sort of the way the Cowboys' defense feels these days. Dallas is missing five starters and its nickel cornerback. Defensive monster DeMarcus Ware missed much of the second half against the Saints with a right shoulder injury and has been hindered by groin and elbow injuries this season, but he promises to play against the Redskins. No wonder the Cowboys allowed a season-high 562 yards against New Orleans.