Dec 23, 2012; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo (9) talks with head coach Jason Garrett during a time out in the fourth quarter of the game against the New Orleans Saints at Cowboys Stadium. The Saints beat the Cowboys 34-31 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

If The Cowboys Win, They're In.

Well, Cowboys fans, here it is.  Here is all that you could ask for, the way this season has gone.  No Sean Lee.  No Bruce Carter.  DeMarco Murray out for a good chunk of the season.  No Jay Ratliff.  DeMarcus Ware is a shadow of his normal self due to injury.  The Cowboys front 7 has been absolutely destroyed, but yet here we are.

Win and they’re in.  Against the Redskins.  In Primetime.  If you’re not excited about this game, I’m not sure you have a pulse.  The Cowboys are playing for something in Week 17 and against their most hated rival.

I’m just going to throw this out there.  Last year, an NFC East team went (3-1) in their last 4 games to win the division at 9-7, in the last game of the season against their division rival.  That team went on to win the Super Bowl.  Let’s just hope that the Cowboys are on the right side of history this year.

 

 

2012 Washington Redskins

After a rough first 9 games (3-6), the Redskins hit their stride with 3 straight division wins on their way to 6 straight victories overall.  While their defense hasn’t been remarkable as a whole, their Run Defense is ranked 5th overall, allowing 95.5 yards rushing per game.  Many have argued that their impressive run defense statistics are a byproduct of their abysmal defense of the pass – teams just decide to throw against the Redskins because they can, with ease.

The Redskins also have a prolific offense lead by wunderkind RGIII and late-round-steal rookie Alfred Morris, ranking 1st in the NFL for rushing and 4th overall for Points Per Game.  Against the Ravens, RGIII suffered a scary looking knee sprain, missing the Redskins’ next game against the Browns.  Fortunately for the Redskins playoff hopes, rookie backup Kirk Cousins picked up where Griffin III left off, putting up 38 points against the Browns.

RGIII returned to the field last week against the Eagles, and though the Redskins won the game, Griffin III was clearly slowed by his knee injury.

Redskins vs. Average Opponent:

  • The average Redskins opponent scores 23.3 points and allows 22.7, meaning that the Redskins offense produces 4.5 points per game more than their opponents’ defense normally allows, and yields 1.7 more points than their opponents normally score.
  • During their 6 game win streak, their offense is a plus 6.1 points on offense and -9 points on defense, which is a pretty significant improvement, especially one defense.

Comparison of Shared Opponents

  • When looking at a comparison of shared opponents, the Cowboys have a surprising advantage in record, Points Scored, and Points allowed – though most of those advantages are by a slight margin.
  • These teams are really, really close.  They both can score a lot of points, and they both give up a lot of points.

Random Observations:

  • The Redskins have rushed for over 100 yards 14 times this season, being limited to less than 100 yards rushing only once.  The Cowboys have rushed for over 100 yards 4 times this season.  The Redskins have rushed for over 200 yards 3 times.
  • In games where the Redskins pass for over 240 yards, they are 5-0.  When they rush for over 200 yards, they are 1-2.
  • In games where the Redskins have held a team to less than 77 yards rushing (the Cowboys’ season average) the Redskins are (3-1).

 

Forgetting Thanksgiving

 

It was just a little over a month ago, but it seems like a lifetime ago to me.  As I listlessly shoveled turkey into my mouth, looking at the halftime score of Washington 28, Dallas 3 – I let my mind wander to 2013.  Would Jason Garrett still be coach?  What draft pick would the Cowboys have?  At that point in the season, looking down the barrel of a 5-6 record with some tough teams ahead, the playoffs seemed like an impossibility.  Since then, the Cowboys have won 3 of 4 and taking their only loss to the Saints to overtime.

 

Of course the Redskins have gone 4-0 during that same stretch, but their shaky performance against the Eagles last week shows that there are some cracks in their foundation.  The Cowboys are by no means without flaws, but they always have a puncher’s chance with Tony Romo behind center… then again, so do the Redskins with RGIII.

 

Keys To The Game

  • Turnovers.  This game is going to come down to turnovers, and the Cowboys have to find a way to be on the right side of this statistic.  DeMarco Murray had his first two career fumbles in the past two games – the one against the Saints very well could have led to what we later found to be an irrelevant win.  Speaking of Murray…
  • DeMarco Murray.  Turnovers aside, the Cowboys just flat out need to produce at least the threat of a run game to set up the play action.  The Redskins are also (3-1) in games where the opposing team rushes for less than the Cowboys’ average yards rushing per game.  An effective running game will also prolong drives and limit the number of possessions that RGIII gets.
  • Prevent the big play.  The Cowboys have generally been pretty strong in preventing big plays, except against the Redskins on Thanksgiving.  When RGIII has a strong throwing day, the Redskins put up points in bunches.  The Cowboys are going to get scored against, but making them beat you running the ball is the way to go, even though they extremely potent in that phase of the game.  The thing that scares me the most about this offense is RGIII making the Cowboys’ safety bite on the play action and throwing down the field.
  • Tony Romo.  I’ve said it before and I will say it again – This team goes as far as Tony Romo takes them.  If you write off the game against the Bears and the 2nd Giants game, Romo has thrown 24 touchdowns to 7 Interceptions.  If he throws for over 300 yards, he will pass 5,000 yards passing this season.  With 3 touchdown passes, he will have thrown over 30 TD’s for the third time in his career.  What I’m getting at, is that he’s pretty good, and in my opinion, has everything it takes to win a Super Bowl if he had an average offensive line and defense.

Prediction:

The Cowboys won 5 of their last 7 since the mid-point of the season, their only two losses coming by a single score.  Unfortunately one of those losses came against their upcoming opponent Washington Redskins.  I think the two differences from that Thanksgiving game are going to ultimately decide the game – DeMarco Murray is healthy and RGIII isn’t.  While RGIII is still dangerous, even if his legs aren’t 100% healthy, his effectiveness will be reduced just enough to give the Cowboys the win and the NFC East division title.

Cowboys 31, Redskins 27

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