TV: 3 p.m., WTTG-5, WBFF-45

Records: Dallas 7-7; New Orleans 2-12. Line: Cowboys by 9.


Dallas's playoff hopes took a beating last week in its 22-21 home loss to the N.Y. Jets. The Cowboys must win their final two games and get help in order to gain a wild-card berth or the NFC East title. The Cowboys' offense still revolves around the running of RB Emmitt Smith and the passing of QB Troy Aikman. Smith has 1,165 yards to lead a rushing attack that is second in the NFC at 127.1 yards per game. Aikman has thrown for 2,430 yards and 13 touchdowns. With WR Michael Irvin out for the season, most of the passes have gone to Raghib Ismail, who has 1,007 yards receiving. Still, Dallas's offense has struggled at times, which is why CB Deion Sanders has lined up as a wide receiver in each of the past two games. Defensively, the Cowboys have played well, allowing an average of 14 points per game over their past seven games. The defense has given up six points on just 10 of 33 trips by opponents inside the Dallas 20.


It has not been the best of seasons for New Orleans. Coach Mike Ditka's job is on the line, and Ditka's gamble of the Saints' entire 1999 draft for RB Ricky Williams hasn't turned out as well as he hoped. Williams has been bothered by injuries and has rushed for just 816 yards and two touchdowns. New Orleans ranks 20th in the NFL in offense, and the Saints have tried two Billy Joes (Tolliver and Hobert) and Danny Wuerffel at quarterback, with little success. A fourth QB, Lafayette, La., native Jake Delhomme, will start today because of rib cartilage damage suffered by Tolliver. The Saints' defense ranks 21st in the league, giving up 113.2 yards rushing and 215 yards passing per game. It gives up 4.0 yards per rush and has allowed 27 TD passes. New Orleans will need another big game from DT La'Roi Glover, who had 11 tackles and three sacks in a 31-8 loss at Baltimore last Sunday. Glover had two sacks in the Saints' 22-3 victory over the Cowboys on Dec. 6, 1998.