The Cowboys have already locked up all they can for this regular season: With the loss by the Giants on Thursday, the Cowboys have captured the NFC East crown, have locked up the #1 seed for the NFC playoffs, and have clinched home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
Does that mean they are going to take it easy against the Lions on Monday? Jerry Jones hinted strongly the Cowboys won't rest any starters against Detroit.
"It's an age-old question and certainly deserves to be a question how much do you want to be playing well, how much edge do you want to have," Jones said on 105.3 The Fan's G-Bag Nation show [KRLD-FM]. "I know that in our season here with Wade Phillips, we had a great season and then we turned around and got into the playoffs and rested pretty good the last ballgame. And we ended up losing the first playoff game that we had with home-field bye all the way through.
"That's going to bear heavily our experience there with Wade in '07 will weigh heavily on any thoughts I have about who plays."
Even if they don't rest their starters, can the Cowboys remain focused enough and determined enough to beat the Lions? Our panel of national sportswriters (plus Mike Florio) seems to think so, though most of these predictions were published before the Giants' loss that clinched the #1 seed for the Cowboys.
David Steele, Sporting News (12-2)
||27-25||The Cowboys apparently dry up and turn to ashes in sunlight; they hardly ever play anywhere but prime-time anymore. Here’s the trick, though: They’re far from invincible in prime-time or at home. The Lions’ schedule down the stretch is their biggest obstacle in holding off the Packers. The Giants' defense was too much for Matthew Stafford and Co. The Cowboys’ defense won’t be.|
Sam Farmer, LA Times (11-3)
||28-24||This isn’t a good matchup for the Lions. With the offensive line and running back Dallas has, the Cowboys can control the clock and keep Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford on the sideline.|
Elliot Harrison, NFL.com (11-3)
||28-24||There are matchups to exploit in the Cowboys' secondary, with Morris Claiborne still out. Whether Detroit can do so is the key to this game. And if Lions right tackle Riley Reiff can slow David Irving, who literally was the king of the last two Bucs drives last Sunday night. Randy Gregory is eligible to return for this contest, but I wouldn't expect too much. I would, however, expect this to be a heckuva football game.|
Michael Smith, Pro Football Talk (9-5)
||27-17||Dallas clinches home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs with a win, while the Lions will have to move on to a Week 17 NFC North title game with a loss.|
Pete Prisco, CBS Sports (9-5)
||27-21||This is a tough turnaround for the Lions. They lost on the road to the Giants and now must go play the NFC’s top team in their place. That’s brutal. They will keep it close, but Dallas is too good. In the end, Ezekiel Elliott is the difference.|
Peter Schrager, Foxsports (8-6)
||34-23||Matthew Stafford is 1-22 in his career in road games against teams that finished the season with a winning record (29 passing TDs, 29 turnovers) and 3-11 in primetime and playoff games (19 passing TDs, 19 turnovers). These numbers — and his hand injury — do not bode well for Detroit. Lions fans would love nothing more than to avoid a Week 17 win-and-in scenario with the Packers coming to town. Alas, I think that will be the case.|
Greg Cote, Miami Herald (8-6)
||24-20||Traditional Thanksgiving Day hosts meet in our Game of the Week second-alternate on the Monday stage. Dallas clinches NFC East and home-field throughout with a win here — or if Giants lost Thursday night. Detroit clinches NFC North title with a win here or a loss by Packers. And Lions clinch playoff spot with a win or loss by Bucs. The better team is home, but bet-line disrespects Motown and the Pro Bowl-snubbed Matthew Stafford.|
Chris Simms, Bleacher Report (7-7)
||19-16||"Slowly" is the key word there. We know Ezekiel Elliott and Co. will seek to sit on the football and limit Matt Stafford’s appearances. Detroit needs to give it right back on 10-, 11-, 12-play drives that keep Dallas’ offense on ice too.
Stafford has shown the ability to do that. His defense has shown the ability to keep games close. Can it stay within one score of the 'Boys?
That depends on Darius Slay’s availability. Without its top corner, Detroit will roll coverage on Dez Bryant, leaving Elliott to…do Elliott things.
Mike Florio, Pro Football Talk (5-9)
||27-17||The last Monday night game of the year could be one of the best, with plenty of playoff implications and a Texas native trying to avenge a playoff loss in Dallas from two years ago. For the Lions to earn a rematch in January, they’ll need to beat Green Bay six days later.|
On paper, the game looks like a no-brainer. The Cowboys are 6-1 at home, the Lions are 3-5 on the road. But NFL games are not played on paper, and can often go in an entirely different direction than one would have expected. And with the very real possibility of the Cowboys resting some starters (despite the Cowboys' protestations), or perhaps playing at a little less than 100%, almost anything is possible in this game.
What's your expectation for the game?