The Cowboys had a chance to grab a commanding lead in the NFC East, and they didn’t do it. Two weeks and two losses later, they’re below .500 and are now faced with what looks like a must-win game against a division rival.
A loss to the Redskins, who downed the Cowboys in Arlington, Texas, on Thanksgiving last year, would drop Dallas to 2-4 on the year and 1-1 in the division with a two-game roadswing coming up on the schedule.
The script seems to have flipped quite a bit from the first few games of this season, as well. The Cowboys defense, which for a minute looked like the strength of the team, has been humiliated for more than 1,000 total yards in the past two weeks. Meanwhile, the offense, which drew criticism for its conservative playcalling, exploded for nearly 600 yards in the loss to the Broncos.
The Broncos and Chargers and ranked No. 1 and No. 4, respectively, in the league through five weeks. So it’s reasonable to expect the defensive performance to improve against a less explosive opponent. Unfortunately, the Redskins are averaging 390 yards of offense per game despite their 1-3 record, and they had a Week 4 bye week to prepare for the trip to Dallas.
It’s also worth noting that Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III is among the least-sacked quarterbacks in the league, going down just seven times in four games. That isn’t encouraging news for a Cowboys’ pass rush that has struggled in the past two games.
Washington is allowing the fourth-most passing yards in the league, and their rushing defense is giving up 142 yards a game. The Cowboys should be able to score points, but it remains to be seen if they can prevent points from being scored.
One week can make all the difference in the NFL, let alone two. The last time the Redskins played a game, they were happy just to avoid a 0-4 hole and get out of Oakland with a workmanlike 24-14 win.
When they the field at AT&T Stadium, they’ll be playing for a chance to insert themselves into the NFC East race once again. The team that looked left for dead during September still has plenty to play for – especially considering how mediocre the division has been this point in the year.
A win would push Washington to 2-3 and drop Dallas two games below .500. Depending on what happens Sunday when Philadelphia plays Tampa Bay, it might even be enough to give the Redskins the lead in the division.
Of course, this is all assuming Washington can pick up where it left off two weeks ago in Oakland. Griffin had his most effective performance of the young season against the Raiders, as he completed 58 percent for 227 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions. Alfred Morris only managed 71 yards, but he combined with Roy Helu Jr. to help Washington to 122 rushing yards on the day.
Griffin has not been the runner he was in 2012 during his trip back from his torn ACL. He has just 72 rushing yards after a quarter of the season, which has to make Dallas coaches happy. Griffin ran for 63 yards and a touchdown in last season’s playoff clinching win against the Cowboys. The lack of a second option to run the ball should make Morris slightly easier to contain.
Of course, the bye week will give Griffin 13 days of rest between live games – not to mention an extra week to prepare the gameplan. Here’s guessing the Redskins will have some extra wrinkles in store, especially considering the Cowboys’ recent struggles to contain tight ends and running backs.