After preserving the Cowboys’ playoff hopes with one of the most clutch late-game moments of the season against the Redskins, news hit that Tony Romo would be unable to continue due to a herniated disk in his back. In his place, Kyle Orton will step in as the Cowboys’ starting quarterback, and he couldn’t have been put in a more difficult position.
Picking the Cowboys to beat the Eagles in the final week of the season was a longshot when Tony Romo was the team’s quarterback. The Cowboys have been inconsistent throughout the season. Aside from beating the Eagles in Philadelphia earlier in the season, the Cowboys have shown little playoff promise, but thanks to a weak division, they’re still in the mix. A win on Sunday Night Football would send them to the postseason while a loss sends them home to watch the playoffs.
With so much on the line, is it reasonable to expect Kyle Orton to play well enough for the Cowboys to move on into the playoffs?
For the Cowboys to stand a chance of beating the Eagles, either Nick Foles has to have a terrible game for the Eagles, or Orton has to play very well for the Cowboys. Because Orton is a season veteran, it’s unlikely he’ll be aiming to play above his own ability. He’s been in the NFL long enough to know what he can and can’t do, and knowing his own limitations can only benefit the Cowboys.
Although he’s been in the league since 2005, Kyle Orton has seen extensive action in just three of his seasons, all in the early portion of his career. Since 2010, the 31-year old veteran has played in just 12 games, accounting for less than 2,000 yards through the air.
Still, if there’s one thing Orton can do well, it’s the art of giving his own team a chance to succeed. He may not be a flashy passer, and he’s not exactly a new age, athletic quarterback, but he also doesn’t give the ball away all that often. Many backup quarterbacks struggle with poor decision making, but with 81 career touchdowns to only 57 career interceptions, Orton isn’t going to kill the Cowboys with poor decisions.
There’s no doubt that Orton has the skillset to keep the Cowboys in Sunday’s game against the Eagles, but he’ll also need help from the sidelines. Look for Dallas to try to get Orton comfortable early on by attempting to establish a running game complimented by short, high percentage passes that allow Orton to re-acclimate himself to the speed of a regular season NFL contest.
The Eagles will go into Sunday’s game as the favorite to win the NFC East, and rightly so. Nick Foles has been playing above and beyond any level anyone thought was reasonable for a guy that underwhelmed during preseason action, and the Eagles are healthy relatively speaking compared to the Dallas Cowboys. You can say what you want about Tony Romo, but there’s no denying the fact that he gives the Cowboys a better chance to win games, even late-season ones, than any other quarterback on the Cowboys roster. The loss of Romo hurts, but with some help, and maybe a little luck too, Kyle Orton has the ability to push the Cowboys past the Eagles and into the playoffs.