KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:15 p.m. ET
SURFACE: Field Turf
TV: FOX, Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Pam Oliver
PREDICTION: Colts 31-24
KEYS TO THE GAME: The slew of injuries to his supporting cast is finally taking its toll on Colts QB Peyton Manning. With the league's third-worst running game, Manning has thrown seven interceptions the past two weeks while shouldering even more of the offensive load than normal. With RB Joseph Addai likely out at least another week, Manning has to be accurate because Dallas will send the house when the down and distance dictates. The Cowboys' offense can't get away without a strong ground game — Colts DEs Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis will chew up QB Jon Kitna. And with RB Marion Barber (calf) unlikely to play, Tashard Choice will share carries with Felix Jones.
FAST FACTS: Kitna has a 110.4 passer rating the past three weeks. ... The Colts have scored on 37 of their 38 red-zone opportunities (26 touchdowns).
INSIDE THE CAMPS
Jason Garrett has given the Cowboys a clear message as they prepare the final month of the season with nothing to play for: Live in the moment, be professionals and let's go to work.
These are tough times for Cowboys. The team has to go back to 2002 to find a time they hit the month of December with nothing to play for.
But at 3-8, the playoffs are not an option for this year's Cowboys. They are essentially playing out the string over the last five weeks.
Garrett said that is no excuse for not playing hard and giving it your best. The way the interim head coach sees it — and of course, he has something to gain by the team playing well this month — 16 games is what every last one of the players and coaches signed up for at the beginning of the season.
And even with a losing record they earned and a playoff-free outlook, the focus is to take it one game at a time.
"That's the message in training camp," Garrett said. "Don't worry about the end of the season. Worry about today and be the best you can be. That's always the message.
"Certainly when you are winning and rolling it's easier to get everyone's attention. At the same time, it's the same message. The best teams and the best players do that. They come to work every day regardless of who the opponent is going to be, where you are going to play and what's at stake. They are coming to work. Our team has done that."
The Indianapolis Colts are not used to having a 6-5 record heading into the first game in December.
You have to go all the way back to the 2002 season when the Colts were 7-4 as the final month of the regular season began. Indianapolis posted 12 or more victories in each of the last seven years.
If there has been anything positive coming out of the team's current struggles, it's the way that the Colts have responded to tough times.
"I think [the Colts players have] certainly displayed, despite some adversity, that they are able to fight and hang in there and play together. I think that's been something we've really been proud of. They've given great effort," coach Jim Caldwell said, adding that he's pleased with the way his team has responded to their on-field struggles.
"Happy wouldn't be the word that I would utilize to describe it because we want to win. That's the most important thing. That's when you're happy. You're happy when you are winning. We still have some things to get straightened out, but I think our guys have the right attitude. I think they have the right determination. They have been able to turn disappointment into determination anytime that we have had a setback."
No back-biting comments from one player to another. No finger pointing from players or coaches. And no excuses from either group.
"I think it's a great example of guys that band together instead as opposed to separating. Having tough times like this often times brings out the worst in individuals and players and coaches alike. It's not just limited to players," Caldwell said.
"But our guys have been able to hang in there, fight together and really get determined and focused on what we are trying to accomplish. We have been able to practice well. Our meetings have been solid. We haven't had a real dip, in terms of discipline, in that area. I think that's commendable, but like I said, we've got to win."
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