Redskins vs. Cowboys NFL Week 17 Preview

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington Redskins will close their 2012 NFL regular season in prime time against their fiercest rivals, the Dallas Cowboys ,on December 30th. Kickoff has been rescheduled for 8:20pm at Fed Ex Field in suburban Washington, D.C. The game was initially scheduled for a 1pm kickoff time. However, the time was rescheduled in consideration of the NFC East title being at stake for the winner of this game.

The Redskins are coming off a 27-20 Week 16 road victory over the Philadelphia Eagles, which was Washington’s sixth consecutive victory. Quarterback Robert Griffin III was efficient, if not spectacular. The multidimensional rookie sensation tossed two touchdown passes and one interception in his return to action from a right knee injury.

However, it was the Washington defense that came up with big plays when necessary against the Eagles. Redskins’ linebacker London Fletcher snared his third interception in as many weeks. Outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan earned two sacks, and forced a fumble recovered by Washington cornerback Richard Crawford. Fletcher’s interception and Crawford’s fumble recovery resulted in 10 points on the Redskins’ ensuing drives. That proved to be the difference in the game.

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The Cowboys are coming off a heartbreaking 34-31 Week 16 home overtime loss to the New Orleans Saints. Talented, but maligned Dallas quarterback Tony Romo played well. He threw for over 400 yards and four touchdown passes.  Another talented but maligned Cowboy, wide receiver Dez Bryant, amassed over 200 receiving yards and two touchdown receptions. Performances like Romo’s and Bryant’s against the Saints usually ensures victory for many teams.

Unfortunately for Dallas, their rushing attack let the Cowboys down. Dallas gained only 40 yards rushing against the Saints. Running back DeMarco Murray lost a fumble deep in Cowboys’ territory, compounding Dallas’ struggles running the ball. Prolific New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees capitalized on Murray’s misfortune, tossing a touchdown pass to running back Pierre Thomas. While Murray’s fumble wasn’t the direct cause of the Cowboys’ loss, you can’t commit these types of turnovers and expect to win.

Redskins’ fans hope Griffin III will return to the status he enjoyed during the first Redskins-Cowboys meeting. Washington won the Thanksgiving Day game against Dallas 38-31, a game that saw Griffin III pass for 304 yards and four touchdowns. For Washington to emerge victorious, running back Alfred Morris must continue his strong, downhill running. He is currently fourth in the NFL in rushing yards with 1,413, so the Cowboys’ defense must account for him.

For Dallas, Romo must continue his strong play for the Cowboys to have a chance at victory. He will rely on Bryant and wide receiver Miles Austin to stretch the field. However, Romo will definitely lean on perennial Pro Bowl tight end Jason Witten in a pinch. Defensively, Dallas may have to force a Washington turnover or two to remain competitive. All Pro outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware will need to step up defensively in an effort to corral Griffin III and contain the Redskins’ explosive offense.

Prediction: The Redskins’ 27 points per game are daunting enough for Dallas.  Factor in Washington’s plus 14 turnover differential, which is tied for third in the NFL, and the Cowboys will be in an uphill battle. While the Cowboys have enough talent to win this game, Washington has all the momentum and confidence that a six game winning streak usually provides. It won’t be easy, but I expect Griffin III to lead the Redskins to victory, and their first NFC East title since 1999.

Final score: Redskins 31, Cowboys 27.

 

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