Cowboys vs. Lions 2013 game preview: Playoff implications abound

In a contest of two NFC playoff contenders, somebody will be feeling good about themselves following this Week 8 showdown.

On Sunday afternoon, the Dallas Cowboys will make a visit to the Detroit Lions for a highly-anticipated NFC matchup at Ford Field.

Dallas comes in at 4-3 after beating its hated NFC East rival, the Philadelphia Eagles. The Cowboys have the benefit of playing in a really bad division and have taken advantage of it to their credit, sporting a 3-0 record thus far in it. However, that also means Dallas is horrible outside the NFC East, sporting a 1-3 mark, including 0-3 against the AFC West.

Detroit on the other hand was leading its division before losing a heartbreaker last week to the Cincinnati Bengals on a last-second Mike Nugent field goal. with a 4-3 mark, the Lions sit tied with the Chicago Bears for second place in the NFC North and a half-game behind the Green Bay Packers.

Meet the Cowboys

Dallas has been very explosive offensively, despite basically having an allergic reaction to running the football. The Cowboys only average 83.3 rushing yards per game, good for 24th in the league. However, Tony Romo is having a tremendous campaign, tossing 15 touchdowns and throwing for 2,010 yards in only seven games.

Dez Bryant has been the main target, leading the team with 569 receiving yards on 42 catches. Of course, there is old reliable, Jason Witten, who has 35 receptions for 388 yards. The unsung hero of this group is Terrance Williams, who has gone from nobody to very productive, hauling in 24 catches for 380 yards.

Defensively, the Cowboys are getting a really nice boost from George Selvie, who has 4.5 sacks already. Selvie, a journeyman who has played with the Jacksonville Jaguars and St. Louis Rams, has become a solid defensive lineman who needs to be accounted for. Jason Hatcher leads the team with six sacks.

Meet the Lions

Detroit is also a very pass-first team, but this season has a running back who is really shining when given the chance. Reggie Bush has proven to be one of the best free-agent pickups of the offseason. Bush has 426 rushing yards and 305 receiving yards on 23 catches, showing off his entire skill set.

Of course, the main man is Calvin Johnson, who continues to show on a weekly basis why he is arguably the best player in the NFL. Johnson has 492 yards receiving and six touchdowns, despite missing a game. After almost reaching the 2,000-yard milestone last season, Johnson is well on his way to another All-Pro campaign.

On defense, there have been some problems and none bigger than the lack of a pass rush. Detroit only has 13 sacks on the season, with no player having more than Ndamukong Suh, who has 3.5. The unit has been a mess in general, ranking 23rd and 28th against the run and pass respectively.

Local take: Dallas

Tom Ryle of Blogging The Boys writes about how many games the Cowboys should win based on the Pythagorean calculator:

Dallas has 9 games left, and the percentage says that they should win 5.8 of them (or 5.8194, to be precise). Or, since the NFL seldom awards .8194 of a game, the Cowboys should win 5 or 6, with 6 more likely.

Added to the current win/loss totals, it puts Dallas at either 9-7 or 10-6, leaning toward the higher win total. Given that the NFC East is not exactly overflowing with powerhouses to challenge for the division crown, a 9 win season would most likely win the division and get a playoff home game. 10 wins would just about be a lock.

Local take: Detroit

Over at Pride Of Detroit, Sean Yuille discusses the release of tight end Tony Scheffler:

This year, with the emergence of Joseph Fauria and Scheffler having problems with drops, it was becoming clear that he wasn't going to factor into the Lions' future plans. Scheffler was in the final year of his contract anyway, and after suffering another concussion earlier in the season, it wasn't even clear if he was going to return at all. Dave Birkett reports that Scheffler was cleared to return from his latest concussion, but the Lions have decided to move on anyway.

Follow the fun

Be sure to check out SB Nation's team blogs, Blogging The Boys and Pride Of Detroit, for more analysis and highlights from the game.

Add these fine follows to your Twitter timeline:

@PrideOfDetroit

@BloggingTheBoys

Prediction

These two teams are very similar and very evenly matched. Normally, I would side with the home team in a situation like this but the Cowboys are just playing better football at the moment. After being humiliated on defense by the Denver Broncos, Dallas has stiffened considerably under Monte Kiffin. This would be a huge win for the Cowboys on the road.

Pick: Dallas 28, Detroit 27

Odds

Detroit is favored by three points at home over Dallas, according to Oddsshark.com.

Next week

The Cowboys play host to the Minnesota Vikings while the Lions rest on a bye.

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