Two 7-6 teams trying to keep their playoff hopes alive collide as the Dallas Cowboys host the Pittsburgh Steelers. Here is a roundup of news of interest to Cowboys fans as they get ready for the game.
NFL.com's Ian Rapoport reported Friday that every Cowboys helmet will have a "53" decal on the back in memory of the practice-squad linebacker who was killed in a car accident last Saturday.
Andrea Bosquez was the final person to offer condolences during the service. She is scheduled to give birth to a daughter, already named Mya, in February.
"I love you," she said looking at the casket. "He was the love of my life. He was my fiancé. He was my best friend."
Forever a Cowboy.
And one story with a more uplifting message.
Neferterius McPherson is a Cowboys season ticket holder who will have somewhat mixed emotions about the matchup.
She is healthy after receiving the liver of 12-year-old Taitlyn Hughes of West Virginia, who was a big Steelers fan. And at the game, she'll hold a sign that says, "A 12-year-old Steelers fan donated her organs and gave me the gift of life."
I cried. In a good way.
The weather looks to be great for mid-December, one of the good things about living in Texas. The temperature is forecast to be in the lower to mid seventies at kickoff under mostly sunny skies, and the roof is expected to be open. If you are lucky enough to be at the game, enjoy!
One of the more bizarre moments in the Bengals game was the penalty flag drawn by the Cowboys defensive coordinator.
Tie the death of Brown to the Cowboys battling for a playoff berth as why there was tension on the sidelines.
"I get into the game. I was ready to play that game," Ryan said. "I think we all wanted to fight, even though you're a coach, I think the whole situation made everybody a little on edge and unfortunately I was a little on too much edge probably."
It has been the big story for the Cowboys all week.
"The position that we are in, that makes me want to be out there," Bryant said, via ESPN.com. "If there was anything less than what we got a chance of, I would have went ahead and got surgery."
Anyone who doubts Dez Bryant's dedication to helping his team can leave now.
They have had the Jerry Brown - Josh Brent trauma. Twelve players are on IR or otherwise out for the game on Sunday. Five more, including DeMarcus Ware, Morris Claiborne, and Bryant, are questionable. There are thirteen players with the team who weren't on the roster at the beginning of the season. So what can you say about this team since it is still alive in the playoff hunt?
You know, most everyone has wanted to know just who are these Dallas Cowboys? What is their overriding characteristic?
Well, let me help you out. One word: Resilient.
Curtis Brown and Josh Victorian are both expected to see time opposite Keenan Lewis, and according to Ralph Paulk of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, we could see rookie undrafted safety Robert Golden line up as the nickel this week with Allen out as he reportedly has taken reps there this week in practice.
"Rookie undrafted safety." Tony Romo must be smiling.
Bryan Broaddus eats a little bit of crow.
To Bryant's credit, he has put the team before himself, and for someone that has been called immature and problematic, he is making us all look foolish. Bryant is going to play with a custom-molded hard splint and tape to see if that can do the job.
One stat in particular that is being overlooked in a lot of places.
The Cowboys' playoff hopes have been boosted as they have won four of their last five games following a 3-5 start.
For some reason, all three of the writers saw fit to mention Dez's digit.
Rowan Kavner: The Steelers defense is still among the strongest in the league, and the Cowboys' defense is getting further and further decimated, but the Cowboys should be able to outscore the Steelers in a close one if Bryant can continue to fight through the pain and extend his scoring streak.
Smith has generally held his own and adequately protected quarterback Tony Romo's blindside.
This season, he has allowed three sacks - less than half the total that maligned right tackle Doug Free has surrendered. And Smith seems to have overcome the penalty problem that afflicted him earlier this season. In fact, Smith hasn't been flagged in the last four games.
The Steelers defense is going to be a challenge despite the injuries.
The Steelers have yielded 169.2 passing yards per game - the lowest average in the NFL. They have also allowed 54.2 percent of the pass attempts against them to be completed.
As of the time I am writing this, he still had not been cleared, due to not passing all the concussion tests.
"He's hanging in there," defensive coordinator Rob Ryan said. "He got a little dizzy yesterday so I'm not sure about his availability for this game, but I know he's doing everything he can and he's got to pass these tests."
A little perspective on the fact that there is no corner on injuries in the NFL.
Everyone is beat up. Players know it. So do the coaches. Heck, Lovie Smith and the Bears didn't even practice on Wednesday of this week. Why? Too many injuries.
As a player at this point of the season you are just trying to get to Sunday. Training rooms are at capacity and even the toughest guys in the locker room are looking to grab a table for some stim and ice, extra stretching, etc. Hey, do whatever it takes so you can get on that field come game day.
Jermey Parnell and starter Doug Free will alternate.
"We had a lot of success that way," offensive line coach Bill Callahan said. "I think competition is good."
And methinks that competition will continue into the offseason.
And I hope the season for the Cowboys continues well into January.