The Washington Redskins at Dallas Cowboys game on the surface looks like a battle between two average teams. Instead the stakes couldn’t be higher.
The winner of this game in all likelihood seizes firm control of the NFC East. Both haven’t always played pretty in recent weeks but they don’t have to be perfect. They just need to win. This has been a fun rivalry for a lot of years and this is the first time in a long time where their second matchup actually means something.
So examining the landscape, who has the advantage and who gets the critical win?
Colt McCoy hopes for lightning to strike twice – Life has a funny way of working itself out. The last time Redskins backup was elevated to the starting job due to injury was back in 2014. His first start? In Dallas against the Cowboys. He went 25-of-30 for 299 yards and interception with a rushing TD. Washington prevailed 20-17.
Jason Garrett coaching for the division and job – It’s a very weird situation right now for the Cowboys head coach. This game could swing wildly in two directions. A win likely put his team in position to take the division. At the same time, a loss could cripple their season and potentially put him back on the path to being fired.
Alex Smith (QB) – The loss of Smith is so big. He’s been such a steadying presence for the Redskins offense and a key part of helping Adrian Peterson discover a second wind in his career. With him out, it’s difficult to know whether the offense will be able to generate anything against what has been a top quality defense in Dallas.
Tyron Smith (OT) – In the win last week, the Cowboys left tackle was rendered down on the turf for several minutes with what turned out to be a neck injury. He’s questionable for this game but even if he plays it’s fair to wonder if he’ll be at 100%. That’s something the Redskins defensive front will have to work hard to test.
Morgan Moses vs. Demarcus Lawrence – The Cowboys pass rusher has been wrecking offenses all year long. Stopping him is a chore most right tackles haven’t been up to. Moses does have the advantage of playing against him before, so he’s not in awe like others might be. Still, the big lineman needs to have a good day if the Redskins want to have a chance.
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Amari Cooper vs. Josh Norman – Cooper has been a big benefit to the Cowboys offense since his arrival, providing a much-needed boost to their passing game. That must continue in this game and veteran corner Norman must try to shut him down. Norman hasn’t been his usual self this year but he has to snap out of his funk for this one.
Ezekiel Elliott (RB) – As if this is any surprise. As Elliott goes, the Cowboys offense goes. He’s carrying the load this year and that’s unlikely to change. His first encounter with Washington’s defense did not go well with just 33 yards on 15 carries. It’s hoped that home field and the return of Zack Martin will help get him going this time around.
Jordan Reed (TE) – The former Pro Bowl tight end has struggled to get on track all year. His connection with Smith was never that strong. That could change with McCoy who hit him for a touchdown last week. He’ll be needed against a Cowboys linebacker group that is one of the best in the NFL. Especially with the thin wide receiver situation they have.
Prediction: Cowboys win 26-17
The fact is Dallas is not only the home team but also the hotter team. They’re on a roll and the Redskins are reeling from the loss of Smith last week. McCoy is an efficient player but he’s not equipped to attack that Cowboys defense with any sort of consistency. It should be a close affair for the first three quarters but expect the Cowboys to put it out of reach in the 4th.