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Cowboys face Titans, still in chase for NFC East title

DALLAS (11-4) at TENNESSEE (7-8)

Thursday, 8:15 p.m. EST, Amazon Prime


AGAINST THE SPREAD: Cowboys 9-6, Titans 8-6-1.

SERIES RECORD: Cowboys lead 8-7.

LAST MEETING: Titans beat Cowboys 28-14 Nov. 5, 2018, at Dallas.

LAST WEEK: Cowboys beat Eagles 40-34; Titans lost 19-14 to Texans.





TURNOVER DIFFERENTIAL: Cowboys plus-12; Titans minus-3.

COWBOYS PLAYER TO WATCH: WR T.Y. Hilton is set for his second game with Dallas. His only catch in the 33-year-old’s debut was a 52-yarder on third-and-30. It sparked a fourth-quarter rally in the victory over the Eagles. Hilton signed with the Cowboys after sitting out all season following a 10-year career with Indianapolis. While CeeDee Lamb is asserting himself as the No. 1 receiver with four 100-yard games in the past seven, the addition of Hilton could be a boost for the receiving group.

TITANS PLAYER TO WATCH: QB Malik Willis. With veteran Ryan Tannehill out a second straight game, the rookie will make his fourth start this season with a chance to build on his biggest outing. Willis threw his most passes and was 14 of 23 for 99 yards. Willis also ran for the first touchdown of his career. But Willis was intercepted twice in the final 93 seconds, the second on the final play of the game.

KEY MATCHUP: QB Dak Prescott has the Cowboys’ offense clicking, averaging an NFL-best 36 points per game over the past 10 weeks. He’s two TD passes shy of tying Troy Aikman for second in franchise history with 165 for his career, and the Titans rank 31st in giving up 279.6 yards passing a game.

KEY INJURIES: Dallas sacks leader Micah Parsons has been limited this week by an injury to his left hand. He had it wrapped in practice, but says nothing is broken. He is expected to play along with RB Tony Pollard (thigh injury). LB Leighton Vander Esch is likely to be sidelined for a second consecutive week by a neck injury. … Tannehill is among 10 of the 12 starters on the injury report, which is down from 18 last week thanks to two starting offensive linemen being placed on injured reserve. This game can only act as a tiebreaker if the Titans wind up tying Jacksonville in the regular-season finale, so a healthier roster could benefit Tennessee. Derrick Henry, the NFL’s second-leading rusher with 1,429 yards was limited Tuesday with a hip injury.

SERIES NOTES: The Cowboys have won their past two games in Nashville, both by double digits. Their only loss at Tennessee was 31-0 in 2000.

STATS AND STUFF: The Cowboys are going for consecutive 12-win seasons for the first time since 1994-95, the latter of which ended with the most recent of the franchise’s five Super Bowl titles. That’s also the previous time the Cowboys reached the NFC championship game. … Dallas forced four turnovers, two in the fourth quarter, against Philadelphia and has a league-leading 30. Combined with 34 in 2021, Dallas’ 64 takeaways in two seasons under defensive coordinator Dan Quinn are the most for the Cowboys since they had 74 in 1986-87. … The Cowboys led the league in sacks most of the season, but have just one in the past three games to drop to third in the NFL. … Prescott and Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow are tied for the league lead with five games with a completion rate of at least 75%. … Prescott has 10 TD passes in the past four games, but has interceptions in five consecutive games in the same season for the first time. Prescott has an NFL-high 11 picks since Week 7, when he returned from a five-game absence with a broken thumb on his throwing hand. … Ezekiel Elliott has at least one rushing touchdown in eight straight games, a career best and the longest active streak in the NFL. … Just selected to his first Pro Bowl, Pollard is poised to become the first Cowboys’ single-season rushing leader not named Elliott since Elliott joined Dallas in 2016. Pollard needs 12 yards rushing for his first 1,000-yard season. … Lamb is eighth in the NFL and third in the NFC with a career-high 1,207 yards receiving. Lamb is nine catches from being Dallas’ first with 100 in a season since TE Jason Witten had 110 in 2012. … CB DaRon Bland is second among rookies with five interceptions (Seattle’s Tariq Woolen has six). … Two-time NFL rushing leader Henry has run for at least 100 yards and a TD in each of his past three games. He can become the first NFL player to do that in four straight games since he did it in 2019. Henry is tied for second in the NFL with 13 rushing TDs and is second with 1,808 yards from scrimmage. He needs 71 yards and two more rushing TDs to become the first player in NFL history to run for at least 1,500 yards and 15 TDs in three seasons in his career. Henry also did it in 2019 and 2020. … Titans DL Denico Autry had a sack and a season-high seven tackles in his return last week after missing four games with an injured knee. He has a team-high eight sacks, his third season in his career with at least eight sacks. … Titans rookie LB Jack Gibbens had his first career interception last week.

FANTASY TIP: Henry. Whether or not Henry plays is the biggest question for fantasy owners. Titans coach Mike Vrabel held Henry out with a hamstring in December 2019 in the next to last game of the regular season. Henry then literally ran the franchise to the AFC championship game. Tennessee will need the three-time Pro Bowler at his healthiest with the division title on the line in Week 18.


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The Associated Press