December 30, 2012; Landover, MD, USA; Dallas Cowboys cornerback Brandon Carr (39) reacts to a penalty call against the Cowboys in the final minute of the fourth quarter against the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field. The Redskins won 28-18. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Dallas Cowboys: The Four Quarters (Week 16 Edition)


Oct 13, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III (10) is sacked by Dallas Cowboys defensive end Kyle Wilber (51) and defensive end George Selvie (99) at AT

Two weeks are left in the 2013 season and the Cowboys have two options.  Win out or watch the playoffs from home.  Thanks to easily the worst loss of the year (and that’s saying something) last week to Green Bay, at home, when they were up by 23 points, this is the corner Dallas has painted itself into.  Win or else.  Not exactly the best scenario for any version of a Jason Garrett led team.  The irony here is that prior to this day, the casual joke was something to the effect of ” if Dallas has a win or get situation, at least it will be at home…”  Not so much.  That was lost in the span of thirty minutes last Sunday afternoon.  Next week’s home game may not mean anything if the Cowboys can’t find a way to win at Washington today.

Regardless of the Redskins miserable 3-11 record, their obvious soon-to-be head coach firing or the fact they will be missing their franchise quarterback, does anyone really think they won’t win?  Apparently Vegas is still backing the Cowboys since they are a three-point favorite.  Maybe the guys in the locker room still believe (the mantra of the week in most of the interviews), that is until the first time the Redskins score with ease or there is a crucial turnover.  The fans?  Hard to say.  I can only speak for myself when I say that I have given up hope on this season.  Dallas is now in a position to prove me wrong but my expectation level is somewhere around my ankles, you know, since they have forced me to grab them so often this year.  In the off chance that there is still a heart beat, it will likely be due to these keys to victory in this week’s version of The Four Quarters.

FIRST QUARTER
3 > 6 ?…

A large factor in the dismal season that the Redskins have turned in is the dichotomy in supposed production versus actual production.  What this means is that if you look solely at the yards that Washington gains, you would think they have a potent offense.  Top ten in total yards, yards per play and third down conversions.  Third best in rushing yards.  Middle of the pack in passing offense.  Washington certainly can move the ball, but they just cannot score.  The Redskins are 23rd in scoring, averaging 22 points a game.  In the previous Week 6 matchup with Washington, Dallas held them to three field goals and only one touchdown on a big run by Alfred Morris.  Those three field goals were all under 35 yard attempts meaning that Dallas was able to keep them out of the end zone when Washington was inside their 20 yard line.  If Dallas wants to make next week matter, they need to repeat this effort and keep the Redskins to three’s instead of sixes.

SECOND QUARTER
The return of TO…

No, no, no… not THAT T.O.  I’m talking about turnovers.  Besides their inability to finish drives, the other issue that contributes greatly to the Redskins’ failures on the offensive side is their propensity to turn the ball over.  With 29 turnovers on the year, Washington is the third worst team in the league at protecting the ball.  Dallas, on the other hand, really only has that as a feather in their defensive cap.  We can go on and on about the historically epic horror show that is the 2013 Dallas Cowboys defense but their ability to turn teams over has really let them down recently.  Dallas has forced 26 turnovers, but only five in their last five games.  In those games, they are 2-3 and have given up 35+ points on average.  For Dallas to have a shot at winning this game, they will need to not only win the turnover battle but also create more than just one since Washington gives up the ball multiple times per game.

Dec 15, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray (29) is tackled by Green Bay Packers defensive end Josh Boyd (93) in the third quarter at AT

THIRD QUARTER
Captain Kirk…

With Robert Griffin, III shut down for the rest of the year, the Cowboys will face their fourth straight opponent who will be using a backup option at the most important position on the field.  You would think this would be the Golden Ticket to a playoff run… think again.  Dallas is just 1-2 against second and third stringers and the numbers are enough to make you vomit.  The holy trinity of Matt McGloin, Josh McCown and Matt Flynn… aka three guys who have started 14 games collectively all year, have combined for a passer rating of 111.7 against the Cowboys.  That would be a better rating than every other quarterback in the NFL except Nick Foles and Peyton Manning.  These three guys have completed 67% of their passes and have an 8:2 TD to INT ratio facing the joke that is the Dallas defense.  If the Cowboys want to see different results, it would certainly help to keep Kirk Cousins, he of the 70.4 passer rating, under 60% completion percentage and 3 TD’s to 4 INT’s, look like Kirk Cousins and not some Brett Favre/Dan Marino/John Elway hybrid.

FOURTH QUARTER
Running down a dream…

As mentioned above, this defense is not likely to stop anybody from having a career passing day, so maybe, the best idea would be to focus their attention on the run.  After all, it is what the Redskins do best or should I say did best.  Even though Washington is the third best team in rushing yards, their production has dropped off the last four games.  Alfred Morris has not eclipsed either 100 yards or 20+ carries in any of the previous four games.  He also only averaged barely over 50 yards per game, has one touchdown and two fumbles lost.  The Redskins are 0-4 in these games.  Compare that to DeMarco Murray, who is averaging over 100 yards and a touchdown in the last four games, including back-to-back 100 yard games and has not lost a fumble.  Containing Morris and feeding Murray time after time may be the last sliver of hope this team has left to save their season.

THE PREDICTION… Murray gets the ball early and often but Dallas gives up on it and gets ultra pass happy.  Miles Austin has a key drop on a third down or Dez Bryant fumbles ending a sure scoring drive.  DeMarcus Ware continues to go without a sack and the defense does not stop Morris or Cousins, leading to a pointless finale at home.  Cowboys 24, Redskins 30.

WEEK 16 PICKS

LAST WEEK 9-7 (.563)
SEASON RECORD 104-118 (.468)

-3 Miami at BUFFALO
+3 New Orleans at CAROLINA
Dallas at WASHINGTON +3
Tampa Bay at ST.LOUIS -4.5
+3 Chicago at PHILADELPHIA
+1.5 Cleveland at N.Y. JETS
Indianapolis at KANSAS CITY -6.5
Minnesota at CINCINNATI -7.5
-10.5 Denver at HOUSTON
-5.5 Tennessee at JACKSONVILLE
Arizona at SEATTLE -10
+9 N.Y. GIANTS at Detroit
+10 Oakland at SAN DIEGO
+7 Pittsburgh at GREEN BAY
+2.5 New England at BALTIMORE
Atlanta at SAN FRANCISCO -13

Tags: Dallas Cowboys DeMarco Murray DeMarcus Ware Dez Bryant Miles Austin

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