Saturday, December 17, 2005

Redskins - Cowboys Game Handicap

It's Cowboys week and this time it means something. The Skins have utterly failed to keep up their end of this historic rivalry. Ironic that the Redskins declined when they were coached by Norv Turner, the Cowboys' former offensive coordinator. The Redskins playoff countdown is now "3 and 0 or we don't go."

If the Redskins sweep their last three games, they end the season 10-6 and will hold conference tiebreaker advantages. They will still need the Viking,Buccaneers or Giants to lose one more game for the playoffs to be a certainty. At 8-5, the Cowboys could lose this one and still be in the hunt for the wild card. If the Redskins lose another game, they will drop too far behind the other contenders. A 9-7 or 8-8 record will be a vast improvement over last year's 6-10; significant but insufficient.

There are plenty of game previews at football web sites. The numbers show the Cowboys and Redskins to be near equal in stats, with the Boys passing a bit better and the Skins having a slight advantage running.

Injuries on each team create weaknesses the other will test. Shawn Springs, Carlos Rogers and Walt Harris are nicked. All will play but could be vulnerable. Dallas will pass early to find out if they are, and we know Dallas can move the ball. If Ade Jimoh starts at cornerback, Terry Glenn and Keyshawn Johnson will spank him early and often.

Washington will have a two pronged counterpunch. First, disrupt the pass. Dallas' questionable offensive line is manned by rookies. They will be challenged. A heavy pass rush and blitzes could force Drew Bledsoe to throw early or erratically. Second, run the ball. Then, run it some more. The Redskins win when Clinton Portis rushes for 100 yards or more. After the Raiders game, the Skins offensive linemen implored the coaches to emphasis the ground game so that they could dominate the defense. The coaches listened.

I have to admit the Cowboys performed better over the season. They won the close games that the Redskins lost; last weeks thriller against the Chiefs is a good example. Normally, I would assert game plan supremacy by Joe Gibbs and Gregg Williams. Bill Parcells negates that.

Joe Gibbs teams feature slobber-knocking defense and ball control resulting in low scoring games. The Skins let close, low scoring games get away from them too many times this season. But that only happened once at FedEx, the mystifying loss to the Raiders. The gods were giving Norv Turner his due in that one. The Redskins must be ten points ahead by the middle for the fourth quarter as a safeguard. Anything less and Dan Snyder could sell antacid at triple the price at the concession stands. (and we know Snyder knows how to make a buck!).

The Skins showed an urgency in the Cardinal game. On third and short when Portis had the ball. The O-linemen swarmed around him and the group surged ahead for a critical first down. Urgency and focus born of desperation.

The Cowboys look like a 2-1/2 point favorite. The wild cards in this game are the return of James Thrash, the break out of Antonio Brown as receiver and punt returner, and the defense's recent ability to force turnovers. Excellence in any of those areas, along with avoidance of penalties, and the Skins could steal this one.

Fight for Ol' DC!

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