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One Preview: Passing and rushing yardage leaders meet in Big D

One reliable preview. One key factor to decide the game. It's that simple.

Air & Ground matchup of Week 16

Indianapolis Colts at Dallas Cowboys (Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET, CBS) -- This is one of two games this weekend featuring division leaders (the other is the Denver Broncos at Cincinnati Bengals showdown on "Monday Night Football"). While the Colts have already locked up their division title, the Cowboys are still in must-win mode to keep their slim edge in the NFC East.

This is a matchup of two of the NFL's most potent offenses. The Colts come into Week 16 with the NFL's top passing offense, while the Cowboys own the league's No. 3-rated rushing offense.

Quarterback Andrew Luck guides the Colts' passing attack, and is having a career year. His 38 touchdown passes is already a career-high, and he's becomed the first quarterback since Peyton Manning in 2000 to attain 4,000-plus yards passing in his first three NFL seasons. Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo has thrown 28 touchdown passes and eight interceptions, and his 110.4 passer rating would be a career high if the season ended today.

One key development

Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray had surgery on a broken bone on his left hand, and his status for Sunday's showdown will be of great interest. If Murray isn't a go, backup Joseph Randle will likely get the start and attempt to adequately fill the shoes of one of the NFL's most productive players this season. Randle is averaging 7.0 yards a carry this season, so there's hope he'll be up to the task. Lance Dunbar also receives carries out of the Cowboys' backfield and should see an increased workload against the Colts.

It's worth noting that this is the 23rd game since 1970 that pits the league's passing and rushing yardage leaders. In those games, the quarterbacks' teams have won 12 times.

Matchups between leaders in passing and rushing yards
Year Passing leader Rushing leader Winner
2013 Peyton Manning LeSean McCoy Manning
2011 Tom Brady Darren McFadden Brady
2011 Tom Brady Fred Jackson Jackson
2009 Peyton Manning Chris Johnson Manning
2009 Ben Roethlisberger Adrian Peterson Roethlisberger
2009 Peyton Manning Chris Johnson Manning
2002 Rich Gannon Ricky Williams Williams
2001 Kurt Warner Curtis Martin Warner
1997 Jeff George Terrell Davis Davis
1996 Mark Brunell Jerome Bettis Bettis
1994 Warren Moon Barry Sanders Sanders
1992 Warren Moon Barry Foster Foster
1990 Warren Moon Thurman Thomas Moon
1989 Don Majkowski Christian Okoye Okoye
1989 Joe Montana Greg Bell Bell
1988 Dan Marino Eric Dickerson Dickerson
1986 Dan Marino Eric Dickerson Marino
1978 Roger Staubach Delvin Williams Williams
1978 Roger Staubach Wilbert Montgomery Staubach
1976 Roger Staubach Walter Payton Staubach
1975 Ken Anderson O.J. Simpson Anderson
1972 Joe Namath Larry Brown Brown
1970 Daryle Lamonica Larry Brown Lamonica

Great Moments in Air & Ground History

Dallas Cowboys 30, Baltimore Colts 27 (Week 3 of 1976 season) -- In the mid-1970s, both the Colts -- then of Baltimore -- and Cowboys were playoff contenders, and this early season clash during our nation's bicentennial would have been one of the season's most-anticipated matchups. While the Colts were coming off a divisional playoff loss against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Cowboys were coming off a defeat at the hands of the Steelers in Super Bowl X. Entering 1976, each team had visions of Super Bowl glory dancing in their heads. In the Cowboys' win, quarterback Roger Staubach was stellar, completing 22 of 28 passes for 339 yards and a touchdown. Colts quarterback Bert Jones -- who went on to be league MVP in 1976 -- was a pedestrian 13 of 31 for 237 yards, but rushed for a touchdown. Colts running back Lydell Mitchell went for 115 yards rushing. Each teams' dreams of Super Bowl glory were crushed during the divisional playoffs, with the Cowboys losing to the Los Angeles Rams and the Colts falling (again) to the Steelers.

Follow Jim Reineking on Twitter @jimreineking.


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