Cowboys vs. Redskins NFL Week 17 Preview
In their first meeting, the Redskins edged the Cowboys 38-31. They did it on the arm and legs of rookie sensations Robert Griffin III and Alfred Morris. Griffin ran the option-read like a boss and burned the Cowboys defense time and time again. In fact, 21 of Washington’s 38 points came on play-action.
Having seen what Griffin can and can’t do first hand, I fully expect Rob Ryan to adjust his game plan. How much he adjusts given the personnel he’s rolling out there is yet to be seen. If you recall, Dallas has lost six starters on defense, but as I’ve said before; great coaches find a way to get the most out of the guys they have playing.
The Redskins bring a six-game winning streak into the 106th edition of this 52-year-old rivalry, and are trying to make their first postseason appearance since 2007. Washington has a bit of leeway, because they aren’t in a win-and-you’re–in scenario. Technically, Washington can lose the game and still make the playoffs as a wildcard team if both the Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings lose.
The Cowboys, on the other hand, must win to make the postseason and could secure their first division title and playoff berth since 2009. The Cowboys, however, are notoriously bad in their final regular-season games on the road and have gone 10-21 in said games.
With inclement weather on the horizon, I have a feeling that there won’t be too much airing the ball out, and if that’s the case then I give the Redskins’ 5th overall defense against the run, and No. 1 rushing offense the advantage in this game.
However, none of the rankings or stats will matter on Sunday. It will be up to the Cowboys to go into D.C. and come out with a win if they want to make the playoffs. If that's to happen these are five things I think the Cowboys must do.
Limit the Big Play
In the Thanksgiving game, Griffin torched the secondary at will, so it’s up to the secondary to remain disciplined when covering the receivers. On three separate occasions, Griffin sucked the defense it with play-action and burned them deep. I’m not saying don’t react to the run, just saying don’t be overly aggressive and abandon the receivers before the play develops.
Hit Robert Griffin III
The Redskins give up sacks, so it will be crucial for the Cowboys to get to Griffin. In their first meeting, a healthy RG3 was sacked three times. I expect Ryan to release the hounds in an attempt to disrupt the timing between RG3 and his receivers. Only bad thing about it is that Griffin is second, only to Tom Brady, in completion percentage against the blitz.
Establish the Run
I think the Cowboys can establish the run against the Redskins, and are going to have to rely on DeMarco Murray. No. 29 offers a new dimension, a dimension, which wasn’t available when these two teams met on Thanksgiving. If Murray and the Cowboys’ offense fail to establish the run, I can almost say with certainty that it’s going to be a long, long day for the Cowboys.
Convert on Third Down
The Cowboys were pathetic on third down in their previous game, and that cannot happen against the Redskins. Tony Romo should look for Jason Witten, who’s closing in on the franchise’s single season receptions record, Miles Austin, despite a recent spell of drops, and Dez Bryant, who has become an almost unstoppable force at wide receiver. Each one of those guys must be able to beat their one-on-one coverage and exploit the matchups when given the chance.
Limit Third Down Conversions
The Cowboys defense has more holes than Swiss cheese, and that might be an understatement. It’s seemingly comprised of no-name backups who were sitting on their sofas a few weeks back. It will be crucial for the defense to make stops on third down and get the ball back to the offense with good field position.