The Cowboys will be looking to avenge their last-minute collapse against Washington earlier this season on Monday Night Football, as the two rivals once again lock up on Sunday at FedEx Field in the nation's capital. This time, though, the Cowboys' playoff aspirations are at stake, the 8-5 Cowboys not only eyeing a potential wild-card bid, but also the division title.
The Cowboys (8-5) are only one game behind the division-leading New York Giants, but almost equally important would be the Washington Redskins (7-6) only trailing the Cowboys by one game. With the New York Giants playing a tough home game against the Kansas City Chiefs, beaten this past Sunday by the Cowboys, 31-28, the Cowboys might have a chance of jumping back into a first-place tie in the NFC East if they can beat Washington.
Washington appeared to be fading out of the playoff picture during its three-game skid in late-November, but a two-game winning streak to start December has put the Redskins right back into the playoff hunt. Washington's 17-13 victory over Arizona on Sunday wasn't pretty, but it was effective, getting the Redskins back above .500 and only two games out of the division lead.
- Receiver Santana Moss hasn't recorded a 100-yard game in the last seven, but the first-year Redskin still ranks second in the league with 1,167 yards.
- Running back Clinton Portis, held to 52 yards and a 3.1-yard average by the Cowboys earlier this season, has reeled off five 100-yard performances in the Redskins' last 10 games. Portis, with 1,184 yards, has surpassed the 1,000-yard mark in each of his four seasons.
- Redskins quarterback Mark Brunell is recovering from his worst performance of the season, throwing for only 122 yards and tossing three picks in the Redskins' 17-13 victory over Arizona. Brunell has compiled an 83.7 passer rating and a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 16-to-8.
- Marcus Washington leads the Redskins with only 4.5 sacks. Washington is also led in interceptions by four players (safety Ryan Clark, linebacker Lemar Marshall, safety Sean Taylor and rookie corner Carlos Rogers) with two picks each.
Washington's defense enters Sunday's showdown the ninth ranked offense - one slot higher than the Cowboys defense -allowing 298.8 yards per game. But the Redskins defense is 27th in sacks (23), which is a number to keep an eye on as Washington undoubtedly will attempt to pressure Cowboys quarterback Drew Bledsoe into making poor decisions. Washington also is ranked 23rd in interceptions with 10, although six of those have come in the last four games.
The Cowboys defense pitched a shutout for 56 minutes the last time these two teams played, but allowed two deep touchdown strikes from Brunell to Moss to let the game slip away in the closing moments. The Brunell-Moss combination is one the Cowboys must better cover this time, especially when Brunell eyes Moss deep downfield. Moss has caught at least one pass of 25 or-more-yards in nine of the Redskins' 13 games.
- Cowboys linebacker Michael Barrow - Signed by the Redskins in the 2004 off-season to help bolster their linebacking corps, Barrow spent the entire year on injured reserve. Barrow never played a down for Washington and was released during training camp on July 31.
- Cowboys secondary coach Todd Bowles - Prior to teaching defensive backs how to play the position, Bowles was doing the job himself on the field for Washington for seven years (1986-90, 1992-93). Bowles, a member of the Redskins' team that won Super Bowl XXII, started at safety for Washington, and at one time started 65 consecutive games.
- Redskins safety Omar Stoutmire - A former seventh-round pick of the Cowboys in 1997, Stoutmire signed with Washington as an unrestricted free agent this off-season to provide depth at safety. Stoutmire started 14 games at free safety in his two seasons with the Cowboys before being waived in the final cutdown in 1999.
- Redskins defensive tackle Brandon Noble - Spent four seasons with the Cowboys, playing in 64 games with the team. Noble was expected bring toughness to Washington's defensive line when he signed with the Redskins in 2003, but the defensive tackle missed the entire season after tearing knee ligaments in their preseason home opener. Noble, a backup with the Redskins, is once again on injured reserve.
- Redskins defensive end Demetric Evans - Signed as an undrafted free agent in 2001, Evans spent two seasons with the Cowboys until being released on Sept. 1, 2003. Evans is in his second season with Washington, starting eight games last season when defensive end Phillip Daniels was sidelined with an injury for parts of the season.
- Redskins linebacker Khary Campbell- Spent part of the 2002 season on the Cowboys' practice squad before signing with the New York Jets later that season. Campbell was among the Redskins' leaders in special teams tackles last year before tearing his ACL nine games into this season.
- Redskins offensive assistant/quarterbacks coach Bill Musgrave - Selected in the fourth-round by the Cowboys in the 1991 draft, the former Oregon quarterback never actually played for the Cowboys. Musgrave, in his first season with Washington, began his coaching career with Oakland after a six-year playing career with San Francisco and Denver.
The Redskins' secondary is banged up. Backup and nine-game starter Walt Harris missed the Arizona game with a calf injury, though team officials said on Monday that the rest improved his injury. Rookie Carlos Rogers is day-to-day with a biceps injury, although his arm has been placed in a sling. And Shawn Springs sustained back and groin injuries in Sunday's game and is also considered day-to-day . . . Kickoff for Sunday's game has been rescheduled from the initial noon kickoff to a 3:15 (CST) start.