'Boys - Skins Preview & Prediction

Cowboys QB Tony Romo will play for the first time since Oct. 12 as the Dallas Cowboys look to get back to their winning ways Sunday night against the dreaded Washington Redskins.

KICKOFF: Sunday, 8:15 ET

GAMEDATE: 11/16/08


TV: NBC (Al Michaels, John Madden, Andrea Kremer)

SERIES: 96th regular-season meeting. Dallas leads the series 56-37-2. Washington won the last meeting 26-24 on Sept. 28 in Dallas. Washington has won three of the past four and five the past seven games.

KEYS TO THE GAME: Cowboys QB Tony Romo will play for the first time since Oct. 12 with a small splint to protect his right pinky. He is still experiencing some pain when he takes a direct snap from center and won't be 100 percent, but he will have WR Roy Williams in the starting lineup opposite Owens to attack Washington's secondary, which is still thinned by some injuries. With Romo's ability to really stretch the field still in question, expect Dallas to give RB Marion Barber plenty of touches early on. ... This is the week the Redskins need QB Jason Campbell to do more than play off of the team's strong running game. With RB Clinton Portis expected to be a game-day decision, Washington can't count on the league's No. 4 ground game to control the clock and move the chains. The Cowboys have just three interceptions on the season, but are expected to get CB Terence Newman back. Dallas rushes the passer well and Campbell will rely on TE Chris Cooley and WR Antwaan Randle El underneath to set up occasional deep shots.

KEY INJURIES: Cowboys: RB Felix Jones (hamstring) is unlikely to play; Newman (sports hernia) will play. Redskins: Portis (knee) is 50-50; CB Shawn Springs (calf) appears to be a long shot; DE Jason Taylor (calf) and LB Marcus Washington (shoulder) are uncertain.

FAST FACTS: Cowboys TE Jason Witten leads the NFC with 20 receptions on third down. ... WR Santana Moss has at least eight catches and 115 receiving yards in each of the past three meetings.

COWBOYS PERSONNEL NEWS: CB Adam Jones will be welcomed back to the Cowboys if he gets reinstated from suspension by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, owner Jerry Jones said. Jones is expected to be reevaluated by Goodell next week. He will complete his stint at an alcohol rehab facility in Boston this weekend and return to Dallas to continue his suspension and adhere to whatever stipulations the league puts forth until he gets reinstated.

--QB Brad Johnson will be the backup quarterback against the Redskins even though he was demoted to third string because the Cowboys need him to be the holder on kickoffs and extra points.

--RB Felix Jones missed practice again on Thursday with a torn hamstring. The Cowboys are being cautious about bringing him back because they don't want it to be a season-ending injury. He is doubtful for the Redskins game, marking likely his fourth straight missed game.

--LB Bobby Carpenter missed a second straight practice because of a strained groin. He is questionable for the Redskins game on Sunday.

--WR Isaiah Stanback missed practice Thursday because of a sublexed shoulder. He is questionable for the Redskins game on Sunday.

--WR Roy Williams has been promoted to the starting lineup.

SKINS PERSONNEL NEWS: CB Shawn Springs remained sidelined on Thursday with the calf he reinjured in practice on Oct. 16.

--LB Marcus Washington didn't practice again on Thursday because of the shoulder he sprained on Nov. 3 against Pittsburgh. He'll be a game-time decision for Dallas.

--DT Anthony Montgomery didn't practice again on Thursday because of the Achilles he strained against Pittsburgh. He's unlikely to play on Sunday.

--G Pete Kendall (knees) practiced on Thursday after sitting out on Wednesday and is expected to start on Sunday.

--DE Jason Taylor, who missed the Pittsburgh game following an Oct. 27 minor procedure on his left calf practiced the last two days and is expected to play against the Cowboys.

--WR Santana Moss (hamstring) practiced for the second straight day on Thursday and is expected to start against Dallas.

--RB Clinton Portis didn't practice on Wednesday or Thursday because of the sprained knee he suffered against the Steelers. He likely won't play against the Cowboys.

--RB Ladell Betts took full practice on Thursday, his first since he sprained a knee on Oct. 12 against Cleveland. Betts will likely start for Portis on Sunday.

INSIDE THE DALLAS CAMP: Cowboys owner Jerry Jones all but guaranteed a playoff run for his struggling football team.

He said he doesn't foresee Wade Phillips not being the team's coach next year.

The Cowboys (5-4) need to win at least five of their last seven to reach 10-6 and be in playoff contention. Jones said his team will be there when the season ends.

"Yes, absolutely," Jones said. "That's not optimism. I just see that we were going to have to be a team that is playing well and won a lot of ballgames at the end of the year to be what we want to be anyway and this is as good a time to start as next week. I certainly do feel we're going to be a team that plays well enough to be thinking about the playoffs."

Regarding Phillips, Jones said part of the team's struggles can be blamed on injuries, namely a broken finger that kept quarterback Tony Romo on the sideline the last three games. Romo is expected back for Sunday's game against the Redskins and Jones expects a playoff push. In that event, he said he hasn't given any thoughts to Phillips not returning as head coach, no matter the local speculation that he is in his final days as Cowboys coach, a playoff run or not.

"Again, I haven't given it any consideration at all, and his contract is his contract and when I look at what we've got a chance to do this year, we're all disappointed that we're not farther down the road," Jones said. "But I just want to simply say, I have not given it any consideration."

When pressed about the nuances of saying he hasn't given it a thought as opposed to saying he will certainly be back, Jones added: "I can't, I don't want to go there. I hate that I think that's kind of that double-edged deal, when you're asked that question; the answer is and should be from my perspective, are you considering in any way making a coaching change, and I'm absolutely not."

INSIDE THE WASHINGTON CAMP: Washington's Clinton Portis, the NFL's second-leading rusher with 995 yards, didn't practice again on Thursday because of a sprained left knee, and is unlikely to play in Sunday's NFC East showdown with archrival Dallas.

"We'll see how it goes on a daily basis, but I know it's going to be a game-time decision," said coach Jim Zorn, who welcomed backup Ladell Betts back to practice the past two days from a month out with his own sprained left knee. "(Betts') burst wasn't there yet, but the fact he was pushing off and making cuts was encouraging. I was impressed."

Portis wasn't available to the media either Wednesday or Thursday, but Betts was fairly encouraged after Wednesday's practice and said he felt even better on Thursday.

"I'm not 100 percent, but I'm getting there," Betts said. "There's nothing I'm really limited in. It's a matter of can I go full speed on game day and take the hits and take the pounding?"

It's similar for Portis, who was injured in Washington's last game Nov. 3 against Pittsburgh.

"If he doesn't go until Sunday and that's the first time he sees anything, I think that's very difficult," said Zorn, who added that Portis could play with a brace as Betts will. "The key thing is to get where he can really burst and right now we haven't even tried it. We want to make sure that if he goes, he can go hard. It would be foolish for us to put him out there if he's 60 to 70 percent."

Even if Betts plays, former MVP Shaun Alexander, who had just 10 carries in his first three games as a Redskin, figures to get plenty of work.

"It does feel like I have played a preseason," Alexander said. "In Seattle, I would play a little bit in the first game, a little in the second, a little less in the third and none in the fourth. And then we would play."

PREDICTION: Cowboys 24-20

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