IRVING, Texas*– *A look at my two biggest keys heading into this weekend's regular season finale against Washington.
Cowboys Win If:
As much as we all want to talk about the five sacks the Redskins had the last time these two teams met, it was actually the two lost fumbles that the Cowboys had which was the difference in the game.
I am not saying the sacks didn't hurt, but they were more mental mistakes than they were physical ones -- and those can always be corrected. When, as an offense, you put the ball on the ground going in for a score and then later lose another ball coming out of your own end of the field, there are bigger problems. Even with Dez Bryant having an off night, they were able to run the ball with DeMarco Murray and Joseph Randle and also find some openings with Terrance Williams and Jason Witten in the secondary.
The Redskins' only chance defensively in that game was if this Cowboys offense helped them, and that is exactly what they did. I have no idea how long we will see Tony Romo or other starters play in this game, but no matter -- as Jason Garrett likes to say, "Line One" will be their ability to protect the football. I expect that the pass protection will be better and so will limiting those turnovers. The Redskins are not good enough defensively to stop the Cowboys and they will lose this game to them without those turnovers.
Redskins Win If:
Colt McCoy was near-perfect in his first start of the season against the Cowboys. His accuracy and clutch performance at key moments in the game played a large factor in their victory. McCoy will not get an opportunity for a repeat performance due to an injury, which puts the game in the hands of Robert Griffin III.
It has been a difficult season for Griffin, and with so many questions looming about his future with the Redskins, this start against the Cowboys can either quiet the critics or further cloud those thoughts of his ability. Defensively, the Cowboys have done a much better job these last three weeks in playing pass defense, which has generated more pressure and created turnovers.
The plan for the Cowboys will be to control the front and not allow the Redskins to have balance -- thus putting the game in Griffin's hands. If that is in fact the case, they will make him have to make some accurate throws, which has been a struggle for him in the games in which he has played. Look for Jay Gruden to put Griffin in situations where he can make simple throws by moving the pocket and hitting receivers underneath then allowing them to finish the play with a run after the catch.
I also feel as if the Redskins will take a shot or two down the field with DeSean Jackson to test this secondary. The Redskins win this game if they get Griffin to play a very similar game to what they got from McCoy -- make accurate throws and protect the ball will be their ticket for success.