If you’re going to watch only one game on Sunday, make it this one. With playoff implications on the line, both teams need this win to make it into the postseason. The Redskins can still squeak in if they lose and other games go their way, but for the Cowboys, this is it. Win and their in, lose and the offseason starts right after the game is finished. The Cowboys looked all but dead in the water earlier in the season, it seemed as if the New York Giants were going to run away with this division, but here we are in week 17 and two different teams are battling for a spot. The Cowboys won five of their last seven games to get in this position. Thanks to Tony Romo and Dez Bryant finally getting on the same page, they made this playoff push possible. The Redskins are even hotter than the Cowboys, winning their last five games to get to 9-6, many of them in dominating fashion. All of this will come to apex on SNF in Washington at FedEx Field.
The Cowboys have been winning games lately because of their offense is on track. Earlier in the season they have had to rely on a stout defense to win games, but injuries to their defense has given way to the offense having to step it up. They most certainly have, as Romo and company are getting hot at the right time. Since week 10 against the Eagles, the Cowboys have posted over 30 points four times, including week 12 against the Redskins. Their lowest total in that span came in week 14 against a very good Bengals defense. A big reason why Romo and Bryant have gotten back on page is due to the fact that talented running back DeMarco Murray has returned. The presence of Murray has opened up big plays down the field for the Cowboys, where they have accumulated over 400 yards in three of the four games he has started in. The offense has taken great strides forward, now ranked 6th in the NFL with 379.9 yards per game. The passing offense has also jumped up immensely, now 3rd in the NFL.
The offense has had to pick it up, because the defense has taken a backseat since starting the year off on fire. All of their wins in this stretch to get to this point is a result of their offense, the defense has been getting gashed. In the last meeting between these two squads, the Redskins managed to score 38 points on the Cowboys. They also allowed 34 points last week to the Saints, 27 to the Steelers the week before, and 38 to the Eagles in week 13. They used to be a top-5 unit, but are currently sitting in 19th, quite the dip in production. Injuries to the defensive line up front have decimated their pass rush and run stopping abilities. Once nose tackle Jay Ratliff went down, things have made a turn for the worst.
The Cowboys had major difficulties slowing the potent offense of the Redskins down the first time, allowing RG3 to pass for 311 yards and 4 touchdowns. He also rushed for 29 yards on the ground. Fellow rookie, Alfred Morris, gashed the Cowboys on the ground, totalling 113 yards and a touchdown. RG3 and the Redskins’ offense has given teams fits all season long, it isn’t just a Cowboys’ problem. The Redskins’ offense is 5th in the NFL, averaging 384.7 yards a game and 27.2 points. They are getting solid production through the air and on the ground. The presence of RG3 makes things impossible for defenses to read and stop. Griffin is showing that an option offense can become a dominant entity in the NFL.
If the Redskins had just an average defense there would be talk of them making a big, deep run in the playoffs. As it has it, the Redskins’ defense is one of the worst in the NFL. They are particularly bad against the pass, which may spell trouble against the surging Cowboys’ passing game. Overall they are 30th in the league. The Redskins’ defense will need a big effort from their home crowd to try and slow down the Cowboys’ attack. The crowd may actually be the biggest weapon they have on tonight.
Cowboys vs. Redskins Spread and Betting Odds:
Dallas Cowboys +3.5 (-125)
@ Washington Redskins -3.5 (+100)
Over 49 (-110)
Under 49 (-110)
Betting odds provided by Bovada.lv
Cowboys vs. Redskins Pick:
At the beginning of the year many pictured the Cowboys and Giants to be battling it out for the final spot in week 17, rightfully so, who expected this kind of season from the rookie RG3. Not to mention the effort from the 6th rounder out of Florida Atlantic, Alfred Morris. As I alluded to earlier, if the ‘Skins had some resemblance of a defense they would be a favorite to go far in the playoffs. Who knows, if they knock off the Cowboys here anything can happen in the playoffs. I think, however, that their bad defense is going to be on display against the dangerous Cowboys and even if they make it in, will hold them back without a doubt at the next level.
Not to be out done, the Cowboys’ defense is currently in shambles. Earlier in the year I proclaimed how they are one of the most underrated groups in the NFL, and while it was true then, injuries have held them back late in the season. The defense depends on solid nose tackle play and without Jay Ratliff, there has been no push up the middle. Both defenses could have a hard time containing one another in this pivotal week 17 showdown. Take the over and enjoy the fireworks.
PICK = OVER 49