GAME SETWHAT: Washington Redskins (2-0) at Dallas Cowboys (1-1)
WHEN: Monday, 7:30 p.m. (CT)
WHERE: Cowboys Stadium, Arlington, Texas
TELEVISION: ESPN (Mike Tirico, Jon Gruden and Ron Jaworski
Josh: I'll take a healthy Terence Newman against Cowboys-killer Santana Moss, even if there's no way to know they'll be matched up throughout the game like the Cowboys have chosen to do with Newman in the past. With so many guys hurt on offense, the Cowboys defense is going to have to stand up in this one, and can't afford to give up big plays.
Nick: While Redskins CB DeAngelo Hall has made sure he's in the news this week by his comments of targeting Tony Romo's ribs, it's likely he'll be more worried about Dez Bryant, who has battled a deep thigh bruise injury for two weeks. Though listed as questionable, Bryant is expected to play and it's likely that Hall will be matched up on him for most of the game. The winner of that big-on-big matchup should play a huge role in the final outcome.
Rob: If Tony Romo's indeed under center Monday night – and he has made clear he'll play with pain if that's his only health issue – protecting his bad rib is paramount. Offensive tackles Doug Free and Tyron Smith must handle the Redskins' outside linebackers: Pro Bowler Brian Orakpo and first-round draft pick Ryan Kerrigan. Both have a sack in two games, and Kerrigan returned an interception for a touchdown in their opener. Same priority for any Cowboys quarterback in the game.
- Don't Forget...
Rob: Rob Ryan and Mike Shanahan squared off twice a year in the AFC West (2004-08) when Shanahan coached the Broncos and Ryan ran the Raiders' defense. Shanahan's Broncos went 7-3, but keep in mind Ryan had four different head coaches and some struggling Raiders teams. He has done an excellent job with the Cowboys' defense so far, so it'll be an interesting chess match with the offensive-minded Shanahan and his son Kyle, the Redskins offensive coordinator.
Josh: I fully expect Tony Romo to play, but if not, Jon Kitna can be successful against Washington. In the game against them last December, he was 25-of-37 and threw for 305 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
Nick: David Buehler's availability for Monday night has been in question because of a groin injury. Whether or not he plays, there's a chance the kickoffs won't be as deep, considering he is injured and/or Dan Bailey doesn't have the same leg strength on kickoffs. Washington's Brandon Banks is a dangerous return specialist so the Cowboys will need to be steady in their coverage units if the touchbacks are limited.
- Cowboys Win If:
Nick: Defense and special teams will be needed for the Cowboys in this one. I'm not saying Tony Romo or even Jon Kitna won't be able to score some points, but setting the tone defensively and with field position will be crucial. If they can get after Rex Grossman like they've done with Mark Sanchez and Alex Smith the last two weeks, it should be enough to lift this team, despite its offensive injuries.
Rob: Rex Grossman doesn't throw four touchdown passes like he did last December at Cowboys Stadium. The defense must contain receiver Santana Moss (as always) and tight end Fred Davis downfield and prevent an early deficit. They've got to pick up the Cowboys' ailing offense.
Josh: They make the clock strike midnight on Rex Grossman's little Cinderella story. Few people believe the former Bears quarterback is for real in this resurgence in Washington, but he had a whale of a game against the Cowboys last year. They can't allow that, and need to force him into some mistakes to help prop up what could be a limited offense.
- Redskins Win If:
Josh: The goal for Washington will be just what DeAngelo Hall says, to go at Tony Romo's ribs. They may not knock him out of the game, but if they can put a lot of pressure on him and hit him a lot, he won't be at his best, and that could give the Redskins the edge the need. If Kitna has to play, I think it'll be much the same plan.
Nick: If the Cowboys simply can't move the ball or turn it over consistently, then even Grossman's bunch can win this game. Every NFL team likes gifts and if the injuries on the offensive line lead to consistent problems, then it might be too much to overcome.
Rob: Their offense scores touchdowns on more than two of seven red zone trips – their ratio in last week's narrow win over Arizona. This team is quietly averaging 25.0 points per game, and they should have had more in the first two. Grossman can't make any impulse throws that lead to turnovers.
- Gut Feeling
Rob: Really like the way Jason Garrett has approached this week with his players. They haven't made their injuries into excuses, because no one will care at the end of the season – it'll simply be marked as a win or a loss. My hunch is the Cowboys, relieved to be playing at home for the first time in a month, rally around their defense and win this thing fairly ugly.
Josh: We know now that the Cowboys only play close games, since that's all they've had in the Jason Garrett era, basically. And it's an NFC East game – the Cowboys and Redskins always play each other tough. With that in mind, I think the fact the Cowboys are so beaten up on offense tips things in Washington's direction. The Cowboys' defense could have a razor thin margin for error.
Nick: What's more believable – the Cowboys winning this game with seven offensive starters banged up, or the Redskins actually being 3-0? Something tells me the energy at Cowboys Stadium will be a huge boost for the home team and maybe even for some of those injured guys, especially the one throwing the ball. I see a close one because . . . it's Cowboys and Redskins. But the last two weeks, the better football team has found a way to win and I don't think that will change Monday night. Give me Cowboys, close . . . maybe even 27-24 once again!