Face-Off: Cowboys vs. Redskins

Face-Off: Cowboys vs. Redskins

Credit: Getty Images

Miles Austin #19 of the Dallas Cowboys tries to catch a pass in the end zone against DeAngelo Hall #23 of the Washington Redskins at AT&T Stadium on October 13, 2013 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

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by EDDIE MIDDLEBROOK

WFAA Sports

Posted on December 20, 2013 at 7:00 AM

Updated Sunday, Dec 22 at 10:14 AM

DALLAS vs. WASHINGTON

Kickoff: Noon, FedEx Field

TV: Noon, FOX

Radio: 9 a.m., 105.3 The Fan

Records: Dallas 7-7, Washington 3-11

Series: Dallas leads, 63-42-2

Last meeting: Dallas, 31-16 (2013, in Dallas)

Betting line: Dallas -3

Weather: 70 degrees, 50% chance of rain

Last week’s game was as big of a gut punch as you will see in sports. How does this team bounce back? At 7-7, the Cowboys still have a chance to make the playoffs thanks to Minnesota’s win over Philly last week. Does this team have the mental fortitude to win a must-win game in December? Let’s see how these two teams match up:

Dallas offense vs. Washington defense

Last week’s game against the Packers was heavily criticized because of the lack of a running game, especially in the final five minutes. To the Packers credit, they stacked the box and dared Dallas to pass, which they did, and that led to two interceptions.

DeMarco Murray and the Cowboys’ offensive line were phenomenal last week. Murray rushed for 134 yards and a touchdown on ONLY 18 carries. Head Coach Jason Garrett and the coaching staff must be protecting Murray from injury, as he still hasn’t had more than 18 carries in a game since Week 3 against St. Louis. The staff must also not be comfortable with either Joseph Randle or Phillip Tanner getting any carries as both backs didn’t see any action against Green Bay.

Now that the season is in Week 16, it is time to say this Cowboys’ offense is mediocre at best. The passing game is now 16th in the league while the running game ranks 23rd. Also, all of us have been hit with the pro-Romo statistics in the fourth quarter and the anti-Romo stats, but at the end of the day we all recognize that Romo has to do a better job of decision-making in crunch time (something that has been said every year since 2006).

From a stats standpoint, Washington’s defense ranks 21st against the pass and 17th against the run yet has given up 434 points (31 per game) on the season. Against the Falcons last week, their defense only allowed 243 yards, but still gave up 27 points thanks to the offense/special teams giving away seven turnovers.

The Cowboys’ zone blocking scheme is one of the best in the NFL, but how many times will they give Murray the ball? On the road, Romo needs to drive the bus the speed limit. This isn’t the Autobahn.     

Edge: EVEN

Dallas defense vs. Washington offense

In Washington, it is the Griffins vs. the Shanahans with Dan Snyder as the referee. We won’t find out winner until the offseason, but the latest round went to the Shanahans as Kirk Cousins is the starting quarterback for the remainder of the season. Against Atlanta, Cousins threw for 383 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions.

This team relies on its power running game as it ranks third in the NFL, but the ‘Skins are also able to air it out to a certain degree, as they are ranked 15th. Last week, Santana Moss fumbled twice, Alfred Morris fumbled twice and Cousins once. No matter how good the offense is at moving the ball (476 total yards vs. Atlanta), you must protect the pigskin.

Will the Cowboys be able to create turnovers? They must if they want to win this game.         

Edge: WASHINGTON

Key matchup

Kirk Cousins vs. Dallas secondary: This will only be Cousins’s second start of the season, but the Dallas secondary has made plenty of quarterbacks look like Peyton Manning this season. Last week, Matt Flynn threw four second-half touchdowns to lead his team to the comeback victory. Cousins put up solid numbers against the Falcons on the road last Sunday, and now has the opportunity to play at home against an NFC East rival. The Cowboys’ secondary must create turnovers if they are going to compete.     

Edge: WASHINGTON

Special teams

Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley are not in the same class as Dwayne Harris when it comes to the return game. Harris’s injury has made this special teams unit mediocre at best. Kicker Dan Bailey has been money all season and last week was perfect on five attempts.

Washington doesn’t have a single kick returner averaging more than 20.6 yards per return and Moss is only averaging 7.2 yards per punt return on the season. Kicker Kai Forbath was perfect on two attempts last week, but has only made 13 of 17 on the season.      

Edge: DALLAS

Intangibles

Washington has lost six straight while the Cowboys have lost two consecutive games. Dallas is fighting for their playoff lives while Washington might be the only franchise in the league that has more drama surrounding it than Dallas.       

Edge: EVEN

Did You Know?

Washington lost five fumbles against Atlanta. No other team has lost more than three in a game this season. The last time the Redskins had seven turnovers in a game was Week 2, 2004 at the Giants.

Courtesy of ESPN Stats & Information

The more you know…

Prediction: Washington 24, Dallas 20

Eddie Middlebrook is the co-host of “Chin Music” and VP of Media for ShutDowninning. He can be reached at Eddie.Middlebrook@ShutDowninning.com or on Twitter @emiddlebrook   

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