When the season first started, it’s doubtful that anyone thought the Washington Redskins (2-5) would be performing as poorly as they are and the Dallas Cowboys (6-1) would be doing so well. But that’s the way of the NFL, where unpredictability seems to be the norm.
The Cowboys, who are at home, started the week as 7-point favorites; they are now at 10 ½! Dallas is sitting on top of the NFC East, while division opponent Washington is in the cellar with no hope of making the playoffs. Still, this will be a game worth watching, as it looks like a recent QB change by Washington will create plenty of drama and the opportunity for a close contest.
Keys for Washington
The Redskins have problems in various areas with the primary one being at quarterback. Inexperience has been a major challenge in this position, as have injuries. Colt McCoy, who was so extraordinary in college, is now in his fifth NFL season. He’s gone from team to team and started the season as the third QB for the Skins.
Now, on Monday Night Football, McCoy gets the start against the Dallas Cowboys in his home state of Texas. He performed well last week against Tennessee, replacing Kirk Cousins and rallying the team to a 19-17 win. McCoy will have some solid assets with which to work. He’s got two fine receivers to toss to and a good running game, which is headed by Alfred Morris (440 YDS, 3.8 YPC, 3 TDs).
However, a major concern for the Skins is the area of fumbles. Morris has fumbled twice and, as a team, the Skins have lost 6 of 7 forced fumbles. The Dallas defense has forced 5 and recovered everyone. The basics of ball handling will be key for Washington.
On defense, the Redskins have limited total yards well, but they are ineffective in the red zone and in stopping the big scoring play in the air. Opponents have tossed 16 TDs against them. That’s puts the team next to last in the NFL in that category. The club’s rush defense has been solid, allowing very few scores and the average number of yards.
Individuals to key on for this game include placekicker Kai Forbath who hit a field goal in the last game for the win and who is 11 of 12. On defense, LB Ryan Kerrigan, who leads the team with 6.5 sacks and 2 forced fumbles, needs to have a big game against Romo, while LB Keenan Robinson must continue to be the club’s tackle machine. McCoy will have to connect consistently with DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon in order for the Redskin defense to score. The two wide receivers each have 3 touchdowns.
Keys for Dallas
Dallas has come up with a scheme where aging quarterback Tony Romo has to do less than he used but still just enough to win. They have done so by fielding a very effective running attack, which allows them to utilize their pass attack when it’s effective to do so.
RB DeMarco Murray, who is listed as probable due to an illness, is key in any Cowboy win. Murray is the NFL’s leading ground gainer with close to 1,000 yards and leading rushing scorer with 7 TDs. He also leads all running backs in fumbles lost with three. That’s something to consider in this game
Romo has been sacked 12 times and has tossed 6 interceptions to 14 TDs. He has a sound completion rate of 69.2% and is fourth in QB rating at 104.7. For Romo this games is about making every pass count, while allowing the running game to do its thing.
The Dallas defense is average at best in terms of containment. They will need to keep McCoy on his heels, which may not be an easy thing to do. If the D can put pressure on him, then the Cowboy LBs and secondary may be able to use their decent INT chops to get a pick or two to add to their total of 7 interceptions.
Key players for Dallas, along with Murray and Romo, are wide receivers Dez Bryant and Terrance Williams who have a total of 10 TDs. The big question is can the Skins shut both of these guys down? Placekicker Dan Baily is very solid, having missed just one field goal this season. If it’s close, he may make the difference.
How This Game Looks
Everything points to a Dallas rout. The Cowboys are riding the crest of a wave, while the Redskins have seen their season evaporate in less than eight weeks. What is there to motivate Washington? Besides basic professional pride, there’s the new energy of quarterback Colt McCoy. He is a major wild card in this game and the Cowboys should be concerned about him. If anything, McCoy may help beat the spread, and he could certainly be the major factor in an upset. Finally, ask yourself this, is Dallas really a 7-1 team?