Cowboys - Lions Preview & Prediction

Bill Parcells said the Cowboys are not in crisis mode following blowout losses in two of the past three games and cornerback Terence Newman's criticism of teammates for talking the talk and not walking the walk.

KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET

GAMEDATE: 1/21/06

SURFACE: Sportfield Realgrass

TV: FOX, Kenny Albert, Brian Baldinger, Jay Glazer

2006 RANKINGS: Lions: offense 24th (32nd rush, 6th pass); defense 26th (23rd rush, 21st pass). Cowboys: offense 5th (11th rush, 7th pass); defense 12th (9th rush, 22nd pass).

PREDICTION: Cowboys 34-21

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Lions will struggle to get off the field defensively. They don't stop the run or rush the passer well, and the Cowboys simply have too many playmakers for Detroit to account for. That means Lions QB Jon Kitna can't afford to let the offense go three-and-out. RBs Arlen Harris and Aveion Cason received carries last weekend, and Detroit needs to stay balanced with Dallas having problems in defending the run the past month. But to pull the upset, Kitna will have to come up with several big plays and avoid the interceptions that have plagued so many of his starts. But the Cowboys are athletic along their front seven and should have little trouble routinely getting in Kitna's face.

FAST FACTS: Lions: Kitna needs 98 yards for the second 4,000-yard passing season in franchise history (Scott Mitchell, 4,388 in 1995). ... WR Mike Furrey needs 16 yards for his first 1,000-yard receiving season. Cowboys: Win NFC East with a win combined with a loss by Philadelphia. ... Coach Bill Parcells is 8-3 against Detroit.

PERSONNEL NEWS: Lions: --OG Ross Verba has been listed as out for the Lions' season finale Sunday at Dallas. It will be the 10th game he has missed with injuries this season. This time he is out with a groin injury.

--TE Casey FitzSimmons will not play in the Lions' final game of the season Sunday at Dallas, the result of a shoulder separation he suffered in the 26-21 loss to Chicago last Sunday. With FitzSimmons out and Marcus Pollard nursing a hamstring injury, Dan Campbell is the only relatively healthy tight end available.

--WR Eddie Drummond was limited in what he was able to do in practice Thursday because of an ankle injury and was listed as questionable for the Lions' game Sunday at Dallas. If Drummond is unable to play, the Lions probably would take advantage of the opportunity to get another look at rookie Devale Ellis on punt returns and kickoff returns, where he impressed last Sunday against Chicago.

--LB Teddy Lehman is listed as questionable for the Lions' season finale Sunday at Dallas. He worked in individual drills and with the scout team Thursday, but it appears unlikely he will play against the Cowboys because of a hamstring injury. It would be the 12th game he has missed this season because of injuries.

--LT Jeff Backus (foot) was taken off the Lions' injury list Thursday and is expected to make his 96th consecutive start. He has started every game since being taken with the No. 18 pick in the first round of the 2001 draft.

Cowboys: --WR Terrell Owens said he has no problems with CB Terence Newman, who said the Cowboys have too many talkers and not enough players. TE Jason Witten said Newman was talking about Owens, but Newman came to Owens at practice Thursday and said he was not talking about him.

--FS Tony Parrish could see action this week for the first time since being claimed off waivers last month from the 49ers. He has been inactive for the past three games.

--DT Jay Ratliff missed practiced Wednesday and Thursday, as he remains hobbled by a separated shoulder. He is questionable for the Lions game.

--RB Julius Jones is starting to complain about his reduced role in the offense. After carrying the ball 17 or more times in eight of the team's first 10 games, he has no more than 13 in the past five, including no more than 11 in three of them.

Cowboys coach Bill Parcells said Jones' carries has been reduced on purpose. He doesn't see him as a 350-carry-a-year player and says what he's getting is about right for him.

--DE Marcus Spears could be on bench for Sunday's game against the Lions. Cowboys coach Bill Parcells remains dissatisfied with Spears' play. Jason Hatcher could time at Spears' left end position.

INSIDE THE CAMPS: Lions: Wide receiver Mike Furrey already has had the season of a lifetime, but, as unlikely as it might seem, even to him, it could get even better in the last few days of the year.

Furrey, who didn't even play on the offensive side of the ball at St. Louis last year, is third in the NFC with 87 receptions (two behind conference leader Donald Driver of Green Bay and one behind Steven Jackson of St. Louis).

He needs only another 16 receiving yards in the Lions' season finale Sunday at Dallas to hit the 1,000-yard mark that is generally considered the milestone for NFL receivers.

"It's huge," Furrey said. "It's something you always think about when you're a little kid. Especially being a receiver, that's a big plateau to hit. To do it at the highest level, it obviously would be pretty cool."

And then there's the matter of being rewarded for having the kind of season the Lions could never have anticipated in their wildest dreams after signing Furrey to a one-year contract last spring.

Furrey said he and the Lions are in the process of negotiating a contract extension that could be in place before the game Sunday against the Cowboys.

"I know it's in talks right now," Furrey said. "I know they're going to try to get something wrapped up here hopefully by the end of this week."

Furrey has developed under offensive coordinator Mike Martz into what the Lions feel is a solid No. 2 receiver and a complementary receiver to Roy Williams, who has fewer catches (76) but more yards (1,206).

"He's everything that I'm looking for," coach Rod Marinelli said. "He's a highly productive guy. He does a lot of really good things for us. I just love his attitude and what he brings to our team. It's special."

Despite the possibility of a 1,000-yard season and a new contract, Furrey said he will have only one thing on his mind Sunday -- a win in the final game of the season.

"If we can go down there and get a win, and pick up where we left off last week offensively, eliminate those penalties and the turnovers we didn't have to do ...," Furrey said, wishfully. "Coming off last week, the way we played against Chicago, that's the way we should be playing every week. The New England game, the Chicago game, the Atlanta game, those games where we're controlling everything we're doing."

Although the Lions lost both the Chicago and New England games, they moved the ball relatively well and actually led going into the fourth quarter. They beat Atlanta 30-14 for one of their two wins of the season.

Cowboys: Bill Parcells said the Cowboys are not in crisis mode following blowout losses in two of the past three games and cornerback Terence Newman's criticism of teammates for talking the talk and not walking the walk.

Parcells said the Cowboys not going through anything different than what other teams experience. The NFC playoff chase is filled with teams with problems, he said, adding that there is no clear-cut favorite and there is no reason the Cowboys can't make a run if they get things together, starting in Sunday's season final against the Lions.

"I don't know exactly what's going to happen, and neither do you or anybody else in this business right now, in the NFC," Parcells said. "No one knows. I'm looking at the opportunity. I think we have it. That's what you start out doing this for, to get the opportunity, and we have it.

"Are we going in with everything perfect? No. Is Seattle going in with everything going on? With everything perfect? No. How about the Giants if they're in there? Is everything going perfect for them? The team that's doing pretty good right now is Philadelphia, but they had them in the mortuary a month ago, but they got it together. So there's no rule saying you can't get it together."

Parcells said he no problem with what Newman said because it's similar to a speech he's given to the team several times. He brought it back out Thursday.

"You know I tell the players all the time, it's a show-me game," Parcells said. "I gave them that speech in minicamp. I gave them that speech in Oxnard. I gave them the speech this morning. The same one. That's what it is."

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