Last week took the entire Cowboys organization and its fan base on a roller coaster ride of epic proportions. With the undefeated and red hot Broncos in town, Dallas jumped on them early, taking a 14-0 lead. From there, Dallas fell down as much as 15 points before once again taking the lead, before finally losing 51-48. The game brought hope and despair. Excelerating highs and crippling lows. Are the Cowboys a team that can go toe to toe with the league’s best? I think last week showed this is certainly the case, however a loss is a loss and while there is still a lot of season left, the time to turn things around is here.
Fresh off their bye week with two weeks to prepare for the Cowboys, the hated Washington Redskins come to town. After two straight weeks of seeing upper echelon quarterbacking, next up is Robert Griffin, III. Last year, RG3′s first game versus Dallas could emulate what we have seen recently. Going 19/27 for 304 yards with 4 TDs and only 1 pick, Griffin ruined Thanksgiving for the Cowboys. Griffin did not need to show off his legs because his arm beat Dallas that day. In their second shot at Griffin, Dallas shut down the arm (9/18, 100 yds, 0 TDs, 0 INTs) but the legs of RG3 beat the Cowboys as he rushed six times for 63 yards and a TD. Will the third time be the charm? Here are the Four Quarters for Week 6 that will break down how Dallas can end their losing streaks both currently and to Griffin personally.
In both of the Cowboys victories this year, the defense has been amazing. Even though the Giants racked up almost 500 yards against this defense, they were able to force six turnovers and score two touchdowns. Against the Rams, Dallas held them to seven points and barely over 200 total yards. They also sacked Sam Bradford six times. In the last two losses, none of that defensive prowess has been on display. The Cowboys are getting torched in the air and getting no pressure on the quarterback. For the Cowboys to be successful against Washington, the Jekyll and Hyde defense needs to be active and force some turnovers, get after RG3 and keep the Redskins offense quiet.
Give and take…
If the season’s outliers are any sort of measure, Dallas could be victorious by performing two tasks. Give Tony Romo time to throw the ball and not allow the Redskins to take the ball away from them. In both of the Cowboys victories this year, Romo has only been sacked two or less times. In the three losses, he’s been sacked 10 times. This may be easier said than done however as Washington is currently tied for 7th in sacks with 15. The Cowboys offensive line will need to worry mostly about two guys, Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan, as they have accounted for over half of the teams sack total. As for turnovers, Washington’s only win of the year saw them turn over the Raiders three times. One was returned for a touchdown, another led to a Redskins field goal and the third occured with the Raiders in the red zone. Washington won that game by 10 points. If Dallas can protect both Romo and the ball, their chances of winning are extremely high.
What about Bob?…
As we eluded to earlier, Griffin created problems for the Cowboys last year, however he is not the same player he was last year and neither is his offense. Not only has his numbers been affected by his knee injury, so to has running back Alfred Morris. Griffin’s completion percentage is down 3% and he currently projects to have two less touchdowns and more than double his interceptions from last year. He is also seemingly disinterested in running as well as he projects to have half the carries he did last season and is averaging two yards less per carry and almost 35 less yards per game. Morris’s yards per game have also dropped by over 25 and he projects to finish the season with half the amount of touchdowns he had last year. So while he is still to be respected, Griffin’s inability to pressure teams as a dual threat has made the Washington offense easier to keep in check. For Dallas to win, they must keep Griffin one dimensional, preferrably as a pocket passer.
Some like it hot…
In all three home games so far, the Cowboys have played their best football. Against the Giants on opening night, Dallas allowed one yard and turned the Giants over three times. When the Rams came to town, the Cowboys led after one quarter 10-0 and forced the Rams into punting four times. Like we discussed earlier, Dallas jumped all over the Broncos early as well scoring 14 first quarter points. This must continue as the Redskins are one of the league’s worst teams early in games. Washington ranks 30th in offensive DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) in the first half of games while Dallas is 12th defensively in the same time span. If Dallas can jump on the Redskins early and get a sizeable advantage, this will go a long way towards limiting how they can be attacked and may help reverse the course of this season.
The prediction: Redskins 20, Cowboys 34
Last week was my worst week of the year so far. Had it not been for the 49ers and Jets both covering in late game action, it would have been one of the worst week’s I have had since Week 6 of last year. No other choice though to get back on the horse and keep at it. This week brings one of the most talked about spreads in quite some time. The largest point spread in thirty years appears as Denver is expected to win by FOUR touchdowns against lowly Jacksonville. You should always take those points, but in this case, that’s a lot harder to do than you might think. As always the home team is in caps.
LAST WEEK: 6-8 (.563)
SEASON RECORD: 42-37 (.532)
WEEK SIX: 0-1 (.000)
-8 KANSAS CITY over Oakland
+2.5 TAMPA BAY over Philadelphia
-3 Green Bay over BALTIMORE
-3 Detroit over CLEVELAND
-2 MINNESOTA over Carolina
-7.5 HOUSTON over St. Louis
+1 Pittsburgh over N.Y. JETS
-6.5 Cincinnati over BUFFALO
-13 SEATTLE over Tennessee
+27 Jacksonville over DENVER
+10 Arizona over SAN FRANCISCO
+2 New Orleans over NEW ENGLAND
-5 DALLAS over Washington
-1.5 Indianapolis over SAN DIEGO