FRISCO, Texas – The most challenging week has come to an end.
It's always difficult getting ready for this game. It's obviously a challenge for NFL players to get their minds and bodies right for a Thursday game, but it's also a lot of work to do the same amount of game prep on a short week. Turning around the tape on a short week is a tall task.
Anyway, the hard part is over. All that's left is to settle in, eat some turkey and see if the Cowboys can take the lead in this division and build themselves a three-game win streak.
Happy Thanksgiving, and here's what I'm looking for in Thursday's matchup:
· After playing short-handed last week against the Falcons, look for the defensive line to get some good news with the return of Autwan Woods, Daniel Ross and Taco Charlton to the lineup. With the way the Redskins like to run the ball with Adrian Peterson, having all those guys back will help the Cowboys keep their rotation fresh.
· Tyron Smith and Zack Martin both missed some practice time this week, but they should be good to go for the game -- and that's great news for the team. The strength of this Redskins team is their front seven, which includes Ryan Kerrigan and Preston Smith. Tyron Smith has generally played his best when facing those two, while Martin was more than able to hold his own against Jonathan Allen and Da'Ron Payne. How well this Cowboys offensive line handles the Redskins' front will likely decide the outcome of the game.
· Connor Williams is ready to go and has been practicing well these past few days. With that being said, I expect that Xavier Su'a-Filo will once again start this week. With the team riding some offensive success and the short week it only makes sense to continue to roll with him.
· I don't expect the offensive game plan to change at all for the Redskins. Colt McCoy is very capable of doing everything that Alex Smith does. The only difference is that we might not see those big shots down the field. McCoy doesn't have the same arm strength as Smith, which was evident when the Redskins tried to rally last week in the final minutes against the Texans. Where Rod Marinelli and Kris Richard do have to worry is with McCoy using his legs to convert third downs. He is more likely to take off when the pocket breaks down.
· Big game for Jeff Heath this week in having to deal with Jordan Reed. The last time these two teams met, I thought it would have been Xavier Woods on that coverage -- but it was Heath that was the primary guy. Alex Smith didn't use Reed like I thought he would have this season, but when Colt McCoy came into the game for Smith, he was targeting Reed in order to bring the team back. Reed is the surest receiver that McCoy has on that field, so Heath had better get ready for a high target game for Reed.
· After a tough few days for Michael Gallup he was back at work and was able to practice, which means he will play Thursday afternoon. The coaching staff has primarily been using Gallup as the "X" receiver, just keeping him at one spot -- which is the perfect situation for a rookie receiver. By not having him learn a bunch of different positions, it has allowed him to grow and develop. I expect that Michael Gallup will be just fine this week. He's already played a ton of snaps this season and the workload has come with minimal mistakes.
· We need to keep an eye on this backup center situation. Adam Redmond was listed with a concussion this week, and he has been ruled out of the game. With that in mind, Zack Martin will likely be the backup to Joe Looney, and then Connor Williams would play for Martin at guard. I believe that Cam Fleming at some point in his career got some work at center and could be an emergency guy as well if needed, but hopefully it won't come to that.
· My weekly guess at the Cowboys inactives: QB Mike White, WR Tavon Austin, LB Sean Lee, LB Chris Covington, C Adam Redmond, TE Geoff Swain, DT David Irving.