National Football League
Colts-Cowboys Preview
National Football League

Colts-Cowboys Preview

Published Dec. 17, 2014 6:21 p.m. ET

DeMarco Murray's broken left hand could be the most scrutinized body part in the NFL this week.

It's unclear if the league's leading rusher will play Sunday as the Dallas Cowboys look to clinch their first NFC East title in five years as they host the playoff-bound Indianapolis Colts.

Murray underwent surgery Monday for the injury and was on the field at Wednesday's practice in limited fashion. He has 1,687 yards and needs 87 to break all-time NFL rushing leader Emmitt Smith's single-season franchise record.

If Murray is healthy, the Cowboys (10-4) would have to like his chances of breaking the mark, though the three games in which he was held below 87 came in the last six. As it stands, they will be happy if can suit up Sunday.


"As we go, we'll just see how functional he is - how he can hold the ball, hold it under duress, catch the ball, block, do all the things necessary to be ready to play," coach Jason Garrett said. "We'll try to ease him into drills and practice as the week goes on and just see where he is."

Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said on his radio show Monday that it was ''probably a tough expectation'' that Murray would play.

The Cowboys grabbed sole possession of first place in the NFC East with last Sunday's 38-27 win at Philadelphia. With the Eagles' loss in Washington on Saturday, Dallas would clinch its first division title since 2009 with a victory in this game.

Dallas also practiced Wednesday without right tackle Doug Free and right guard Zack Martin, who have ankle injuries. Neither is expected to miss this contest, though any limitations for either would hurt an offensive line that has helped the Cowboys average 146.6 rushing yards to rank third in the NFL.

"(They're) the best offensive line that we will have faced to date, got three No. 1 picks on that line, the left tackle (Tyron Smith) is as good as they get in the league," Colts coach Chuck Pagano said.

Lance Dunbar and Joseph Randle will likely split carries if Murray can't play.

"It's not as different as you might think and even if it is different, it doesn't change our jobs very much," center Travis Frederick said.

The stakes are not nearly as high for Indianapolis (10-4), which clinched the AFC South by beating second-place Houston 17-10 last Sunday for its fourth straight win.

The Colts trail New England and Denver by one game and would need to win their final two and have one of those teams lose its last two in order to gain a bye.

With that in mind, there is plenty of talk about Indianapolis resting injured players or veterans such as wide receiver Reggie Wayne.

"We've talked about a lot of guys," Pagano said. "He's one of the guys that you could consider but we'll look at him, we'll look at guys that are on the injury list that are dealing with nagging injuries and if it's best for them and best for the team then we'll do obviously what's right in all those cases."

The coach is hopeful that T.Y. Hilton will be available despite a hamstring injury. Hilton is fourth in the NFL with a career-high 1,345 yards and has seven touchdown catches from Andrew Luck.

"I'm still dealing with some stuff but I'll know more by the end of the week," Hilton said.

Luck leads the NFL with 4,492 yards and 38 TDs entering his first matchup with the Cowboys. The Colts have taken advantage of his strong arm to rank first in the league with 2,445 air yards, the total distance that the ball is thrown beyond the line of scrimmage to the point of reception, as well as 1,052 on balls thrown at least 21 yards in the air.

"He's a very mature guy and he's very talented but he has all the right intangibles and he's done an outstanding job up to this point in his career," Garrett said.

The Colts have thrown more passes than any team (582), and their gaudy numbers have come despite ranking last in catchable balls dropped at 8.9 percent.

Luck may be envious that he doesn't have Dez Bryant at his disposal. Bryant leads the NFL with 13 TD receptions after he caught a career-best three from Tony Romo last Sunday.

Romo is second in the league with a 110.4 passer rating with 28 TDs to eight interceptions, though he has a ratio of 10 to seven while going 3-3 at home.

The Cowboys, 3-4 at home overall, are seeking to avoid their first four-game slide there since losing their first four in 2010 - the season in which Garrett took over after a 1-7 start.

Dallas is 9-5 in this series, going 5-2 at home.


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