Week 12's top game: America's Team vs. the Evil Empire

Yahoo Sports NFL senior writers Kimberley A. Martin, Charles Robinson and Terez Paylor select games this week that will leave us buzzing heading into Monday.

Paylor’s must-watch
Dallas Cowboys at New England Patriots


Here's a game that means a lot more to the Cowboys than it does to the Patriots.

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At 6-4, Dallas needs to keep piling the victories to secure a playoff spot, while the Patriots seem to be a lock to secure either the first or second seed in the AFC. Nonetheless, this should be a revealing game for the Cowboys because there's little doubt they'll throw the kitchen sink at the Patriots to try to get a statement win that can boost spirits in the building and show they're indeed a playoff team.

The problem for Dallas: this is a strength-on-strength matchup, as the Cowboys' top-ranked offense (in DVOA) faces the Patriots' top-ranked defense (in DVOA).

It's difficult to bank on the Cowboys, because the Patriots' defense is helmed by the greatest coach of all time, but if they can find a way to win, it will go a long way toward showing that America's Team is rounding into form at the perfect time.


Robinson’s must-watch
Cowboys at Patriots

The late-game slate is packed with meaningful games this weekend, so you can’t go wrong. But after racking up six wins against teams that are a collective 15-44-1 (none currently over .500), it’s time for Dallas to make some noise against a top-tier playoff team.

A win on the road against the Patriots would speak volumes about whether the Cowboys are capable of making a playoff run, or whether their record is a mid-level mirage. At the very least, the Cowboys better put up a good fight in this one, or the doubters will come out of the woodwork next week.

Martin’s must-watch
Cowboys at Patriots

Jerry Jones thinks he has a Super Bowl contender, and now the Cowboys have a chance to prove it.

The Patriots have the best defense in the league and are armed with, arguably, the best quarterback of all time. But Tom Brady’s production has waned this season and New England’s offense has appeared out of sync against quality opponents.

Against losing teams, the defending champions average better than 30 points per game. Against teams with a .500 or better record? Only 17 points.

Making matters worse, Brady is questionable for the game with an elbow injury.

Meanwhile, the Cowboys’ offense is clicking on all cylinders behind their young quarterback, Dak Prescott. He currently leads the league with 322.1 passing yards per contest and over his past three games has thrown for 1,098 yards. Another big-time performance from Prescott — on the road, no less, at hostile Gillette Stadium — could go a long way in bolstering his case to be among the highest-paid quarterbacks in the league.

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