When the season began, I’m guessing not too many people had the season’s final game between the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins deciding the NFC East Champion. Yet here we are in week 17 and the final game of the NFL regular season comes down to these two rivals.
The first time around, the offenses had their way with the defenses in a 38-31 Redskins win. The Redskins and Robert Griffin III dominated the Cowboys defense and made several spectacular plays, throws in particular, that led to the Thanksgiving Day victory. This time around, I expect things to be a little different.
If the Cowboys are to win this game they must find a balance on offense. I don’t mean balance in the sense that they have to pass and run the ball the same amount of times, but I do mean they have to strike the right balance between the two. There is no reason to not give DeMarco Murray the ball at least 20 times. It will keep a Redskins defense that struggles against the run honest and will open up the passing game as well. The biggest advantage to giving Murray 20 carries is it keeps the Cowboys defense on the sideline. Dallas’ offense is clearly their strongest unit right now and keeping RGIII on the bench and watching would help an undermanned Cowboys unit tremendously.
However, Tony Romo and the passing game is on a tear right now so the Cowboys also can’t abandon the passing game. Romo ripped the ‘Skins pass defense last game and I expect the same this week. Washington couldn’t stop the Cowboys on offense in the last meeting when they were playing without DeMarco Murray, so I can’t see them stopping the added dimension that he brings.
Dallas will put up points, so the question is, can they stop Washington and Griffin on defense? Actually, they don’t have to stop them, just slow them down. Getting an extra stop or two could win this game for the Cowboys and I think they can get it. Rob Ryan is know for some exotic looks and I’m guessing he’ll have a few that Griffin hasn’t seen come this Sunday. Ryan, even without a healthy DeMarcus Ware, will come up will something this week that will slow the Redskins offense and that may make the difference.
In the last match-up, Griffin was as close to perfect as it gets and things went his way. Every pass he threw, even if it was off, seemed to find its way into a Redskins hand for a big gain and I don’t think that will happen again. The Cowboys blew plenty of assignments in the passing game I think that will get corrected. Again, just a few plays being a little less perfect can change the entire makeup of this game.
The biggest issue for the Cowboys defense is stopping Alfred Morris and the Redskins running game. The Cowboys are very beat up, and slow, in their front seven and that is not a good combination. Getting out to a lead and forcing the Redskins to panic their first big game in a long time would really help the Cowboys chances. Also, Griffin’s knee brace slowing him down in any way possible helps the Dallas defense.
In the end, it comes down to who wants it more. Nobody has wanted it more than the Cowboys of late and they have been playing some of their best football with their backs against the wall. Nothing pushes you up against the wall harder in sports than an elimination game on the road. This Cowboys team has answered almost every time they’ve been questioned or doubted this season and I don’t see that happening in this game either.
The Redskins played a flawless game last time around and that will not happen again. Dallas will not help Washington this game by turning the ball over and will force at least one from the Redskins. The Cowboys will continue with their dominance on offense and the defense will slow the Redskins on their way to an NFC East division title.
If you don’t believe that, then you haven’t been paying attention.
you can chat with or follow Ben on twitter @BenGrimaldi