The short version of this column is very short and it goes: the Cowboys should beat the ‘Skins pretty easily and keep their shot at the playoffs, but it’s obvious that they can lose to anybody, at any time, so who knows.
There’s some long version stuff to talk about. The major thing is that last weeks’ game against the Packers felt like the final confirmation of something that has been more or less obvious since the Broncos game, pretty obvious since the Saints and Lions games, and so obvious after allowing four Matt Flynn TDs in one half to lose this one:
It probably doesn’t actually matter if the Cowboys make the playoffs. What playoff teams can anyone imagine them beating?
And it’s 100% because of the defense, and it’s 100% a shame.
If this is indeed what happens, the Cowboys will have wasted a fine year from Tony Romo, a finer year from Dez Bryant and the finest year of DeMarco Murray’ career. DeMarco had his second straight 130+ rushing game last week and is averaging a ridiculous 5.5 yards per attempt, in which category he trails only Andre Ellington, with half as many attempts. His eight TDs are three behind the league leaders, Marshawn Lynch and Jamaal Charles, and only Fred Jackson has been as productive in the red zone with nearly as few carries. The offense is good. It just doesn’t matter that much.
Because of a defense that couldn’t cover the tip on a dinner bill.
If the Cowboys have any hope of that not being the case, it starts with this game.
The Redskins are a team in turmoil. They’ve lost 6 straight, won one in OT before that, and lost another before that. So Oct. 20 was their last win in regulation. Gotta make you feel good. Also, they’ve shut down RGIII, a peculiar though understandable event.
The problem for the Cowboys is that, for all that, the ‘Skins are actually not all that bad. The ‘Skins 3rd ranked rushing attack is going to be a huge handful for the Boys. And while Kirk Cousins isn’t great, he did throw for almost 400 yards against the Falcons last week, with three TDs and two INTs. And the Falcons, as bad as they are, are still better at pass defense than the Cowboys. And as for backup QBs in general, well, if Matt Flynn can do it in one half, anyone can do it with a whole game to play with.
The good news for the Cowboys is twofold, the first being that their playoff hopes, as mentioned above, are as of right now very much alive. The second is probably the fact that the ‘Boys were unusually bad in field goal range against the Pack. Bailey’s 5 FG night was his first game with more than one attempt since Minnesota on November 3rd. The Cowboys usually convert when they get close, they didn’t, and while it seems like no one could have choked away the game like that besides them, a little more success in an area where they usually succeed would have put it beyond reach of even a Cowboys choke job. Presumably.
And, yes, the Redskins have more than a few weaknesses. Their defense isn’t good. Before the Falcons game, the last time they’d broken 20 points was in a Nov. 7 loss to Minny. But, whatever you might think of the season so far, this Sunday is the very first actual must win of the season. Because if they lose and the Eagles win, then the Eagles are the ones who clinch before the end of the season after all.
The Cowboys can do this if they put a lot of points on the board and there’s no good reason they shouldn’t be able to. But who could say anything with confidence, right now?
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