Week 16 provided an opportunity for the Cowboys to win their fourth straight game and possibly position themselves for a wild card spot in case they fail to win the division. Unfortunately, a desperate fourth quarter rally fell short in overtime which killed any hope for that. Now, the Cowboys face their second straight, season-ending, win or go home scenario in order to make the playoffs. Here are the four keys to the game as I see it for Dallas to prevail over the upstart Washington Redskins. Here are the Four Quarters.
- The Tao of Garrett…
At first glance, it may seem counterproductive to beat your head into the wall that is the Redskins rush defense. Washington has a top five rush defense while the Cowboys are a lowly 31st in rush offense. Dallas also has a prolific quarterback/receiver combination with Romo in the top seven in every passing category and Dez Bryant in the top eight in every receiving category. Add in the fact that Washington has trouble defending the pass (30th in pass defense) and it would seem that throwing the ball is the way to win. This is where yin needs yang. DeMarco Murray MUST have 20+ rushes. Dallas is 8-0 when this happens. Not only would this open up the passing game, it may also be necessary since there is a chance for snow at game time.
- Do not fear the phenom…
- For all the celebration of Robert Griffin, III, I feel people need to realize that the other quarterback in this game is just as flashy and just as good, if not better. Let’s go to the tale of the tape. Romo has 26 completions over 25 yards with nine of those resulting in a touchdown. Griffin has 24 such completions, eight of which produced a touchdown. They also are almost exactly equal in completion percentage. Tony Romo can and will win this game if he is afforded the necessary time to scan the Washington secondary. The only difference between the two is Griffin’s ability to run with the ball. Dallas must decide which facet of Griffin’s game they want to take away and commit to that philosophy.
- Earn Your Star…
- If Dallas to win this game, I believe they have to put their faith in their two biggest off-season acquisitions; Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne. The Redskins do not have a receiver in the top 70 in the league in receptions or yards and only one in the top 50 in touchdowns (Santana Moss is ranked 11th). I feel very strongly that you allow Carr and Claiborne to cover them up one-on-one on the outside and play 2-deep safety coverage all game to take away the big play ball. If the Redskins go to three or four receiver sets, then play zone and blitz up the middle while holding the edges to make Griffin make quick decisions in the pocket. Essentially, play to eliminate the big play that doomed Dallas in Big D on Thanksgiving Day.
- PROTECT THE BALL!!!
Simple concept. The biggest difference between the Redskins and Cowboys is not about any one player or any specific unit. It’s turnovers. Washington is +14 in turnover differential, good for third best in the NFL. Dallas is -10 which is the eighth worst in the NFL and third worst in the NFC. The Thanksgiving day was gone before halftime, due almost exclusively to turnovers. With the Redskins leading 7-3 and Dallas in possession, an interception throw lead to a touchdown drive from the Redskins. The following Cowboys possession was a three and out. The Redskins scored again making the game 21-3. Another Cowboys possession, another turnover and another touchdown drive from Washington… 28-3. Game over. Dallas is statistically better than Washington in almost every category so protecting the football should result in victory, as well as a playoff berth.
The prediction: Even though the Cowboys are 2-10 in their last 12 season-ending games, something about this team and this game specifically has me believing in them. My call is Cowboys 31, Redskins 20.
Last week was a fairly solid effort as far as picks were concerned. Barring an epic meltdown, I should finish the regular season above 50%. For this year specifically, that feels like a major accomplishment.
LAST WEEK: 10-6 (.625)
SEASON TOTAL: 122-118 (.508)
N.Y.Jets at BUFFALO -3.5
Miami at NEW ENGLAND -10
+2.5 BALTIMORE at Cincinnati
-7 HOUSTON at Indianapolis
+4.5 JACKSONVILLE at Tennessee
+7.5 PHILADELPHIA at N.Y. Giants
-3 CHICAGO at Detroit
-3 GREEN BAY at Minnesota
Carolina at NEW ORLEANS -5.5
Kansas City at DENVER -16
Arizona at SAN FRANCISCO -16.5
St. Louis at SEATTLE -10.5
+3 DALLAS at Washington
* At the time of this article, Cleveland at Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay at Atlanta and Oakland at San Diego had no line, therefore no pick was made.