IT'S HARD for either side to claim the moral high ground in the dispute between the NFL and the country's leading cable operators, a yearlong spat between billion-dollar behemoths that has kept 53 million of America's 96.5 million cable households from seeing the NFL Network. (In a nutshell: The league wants to charge cable companies 70 cents per subscriber to carry the network, a fee big cable says would lead to rate hikes. Time Warner Cable, which like SI is owned by Time Warner, is one of the companies refusing to carry the NFL Network.) Last Thursday most NFL fans missed Tony Romo (above) leading the Cowboys to a 37--27 victory over the Packers in a battle of 10--1 teams and, barring a sudden settlement of the standoff, which is unlikely, those same millions also won't see the Dec. 29 season-ending Patriots-Giants showdown (among other games). Cowboys-Packers drew 6.3 million viewers, a figure that pales beside the number that watched the Nov. 26 Monday-night game between the Steelers and the Dolphins (12.5 million) but represents a stunning 14.6% of the households the NFL Network reaches. By contrast, the MNF game reached 10.4% of ESPN's total audience.