One of the NFL's oldest and most historic rivalries reconvenes this Sunday at FedEx Field in suburban D.C. when the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins face off for the 104th time in the series, which began in 1960. Gametime is set for 1:00 PM, and the early football odds favor the Cowboys by -7 points.
The Cowboys snapped out of a slump this past Sunday with a resounding 44-7 whacking of the Buffalo Bills at home. The 37-point margin of victory was the widest by Dallas since the 2000 season, and equaled their biggest point total since 2007. QB Tony Romo turned in a nearly perfect Allpro performance by connecting on 23 of 26 pass attempts for 270 yards and 3 TDs, giving him a QB rating of 148.4, by far his best of the season. Romo led his teammates to touchdowns on their first 4 drives, and their 433 yards of offense was also a season-high. Rookie RB DeMarco Murray once again ran wild, racking up 135 yards on 20 carries, while WR Dez Bryant successfully latched on to all 6 of Romo's passes that were targeted at him for 74 yards, including an opening drive 34-yard scoring pass that set the rout in motion. TE Jason Witten caught 5 passes, allowing him to move past Hall of Famer Ozzie Newsome into third place all-time for receptions by a tight end.
Dallas' defense was also solid, allowing Buffalo's high-powered offense into the end zone once while limiting the Bills to only 271 yards of offense. CB Terrence Newman was responsible for adding a nice cherry on top of the victory with a fourth-quarter 43-yard interception return for a touchdown.
Washington's woes continued on Sunday, losing to the Miami Dolphins on the road, 20-9. The loss dropped the 'Skins to 3-6 after opening the season with a 3-1 mark. The loss was the fifth in a row for Washington. Mike Shanahan switched QBs during the week, handing the reins back to Rex Grossman. Grossman was benched three games ago for John Beck, but Beck's performance failed to earn him the job long-term. Grossman connected on 21 of 32 passes for 215 yards, but he also suffered 2 interceptions to Miami, who collected their first home win in almost exactly a year. With RB Tim Hightower out for the season, rookie Roy Helu got his first start, and led what there was of a Redskin ground game by amassing 41 yards on 6 carries.
The strength of the Redskins resides on the defensive side of the ball, but their effectiveness has been sorely tested, in large part due to the offense's ineffectiveness. The 'Skins have an abundance of talent on defense, but the problem, as it is with so many good defensive/ poor offensive teams is the exorbitant amount of time the defense is forced to be on the field due to the offense's lackluster ball control ability. Any team that is continually going "3-and-out" places an unfair burden on their defense to hold things together game after game.
Dallas rookie PK Dan Bailey provided every point for the Cowboys 18-16 victory in the first 2011 meeting between these storied rivals. It's expected that since Murray's emergence, which occurred after the first Cowboys vs Redskins game, Dallas will be able to move the ball considerably better. WR Miles Austin is expected to be ready to go after a hamstring tweak 2 weeks ago. In a short week, Cowboys vs Dolphins on Thanksgiving Day, having just won two straight, can't be overlooked. For the Redskins, regardless of whether they go with Grossman or Beck, this is a team in desperate need for someone, anyone who can find the end zone. Injuries have wreaked havoc on Shanahan's squad this season, and it appears now that their surprising 3-1 start is only a distant memory. The 'Skins travel to Seattle next week, and looking ahead to that contest, assuming it will be "winnable" would be a mistake.
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