The NFC East has been anything but good this season and will be featured in prime time when the Washington Redskins host the Dallas Cowboys in a pivotal divisional game Monday night on ESPN’s Monday Night Football. Washington enters the contest with a 5-6 record and sit atop the division leading the Philadelphia Eagles by a 1/2 game while the Cowboys come in at 3-8, but with a win will only be one game back of the division lead. This has all the makings for an ugly, drag-out brawl in the Nation’s capital in what will be the 111th meeting between these two franchises with the rivalry dating back to 1960.
The Redskins are coming off a 20-14 victory over the New York Giants where Kirk Cousins completed 20 of 29 passes for 302 yards and had a rushing and throwing touchdown. The throwing touchdown came on a 63-yard reception to DeSean Jackson, who now has back-to-back games with touchdown receptions of 50 or more yards. Alfred Morris ran the ball well for Washington, rushing for 78 yards on 23 carries. The defense was able to sack Eli Manning three times and picked him off twice. Washington is looking to win consecutive games for the first time this season. The Cowboys are coming off a 33-14 dismantling by the Carolina Panthers on Thanksgiving in a game where they lost quarterback Tony Romo for the rest of the season after only having him back for one week.
Keys to the game for Washington
– Can the offensive line keep Cousins on his feet? Last week the ‘Skins didn’t allow a sack, allowing Cousins to have a pretty good game. If they are able to keep him on his feet for a second straight week, Cousins will be better suited going against the Cowboys’ 6th ranked passing defense, which allows 225.1 passing yards-per-game.
Will the Washington run game get going against a Dallas defense that allows 106.9 rushing yards-per-game? Alfred Morris is finally starting to claim the starting back position for Washington after splitting carries with Matt Jones and played well last week. It will be tough against this Dallas defense.
Can DeSean Jackson continue his hot play? Jackson has been hampered with injuries this season and is now starting to get healthy and be productive for this team. The last two weeks he has had a touchdown reception of 50+ yards and plays like that will help open up the Washington run game as the safeties won’t be able to play so far up due to Jackson’s speed over the top. Cousins will look to torment rookie defensive back Byron Jones as he will likely be matched up on Jackson.
Can the defense limit Dez Bryant and Jason Witten? Bryant has also been riddled by the injury bug this year, missing five games with a foot injury. Since coming back, he hasn’t looked overly comfortable without Romo throwing him the ball. As for Witten, he leads Dallas in receptions with 55 for 508 yards and two touchdowns. He is still a productive player despite not having his main quarterback most of the season. Washington will need to lock in on him and make him have as little impact as possible.
Many playoff implications are on the line in this game from FedEx Field. Can Dallas remain alive in the division or will Washington take more control heading into the final month of the season? If the Redskins are going to win this division, this is a must-have game against a team that’s hanging on by a thread.