For the third time in the last five years, the (8-7) Dallas Cowboys will be playing for their postseason lives, this time against the Washington Redskins (8.30pm ET, Sunday).
On the first two occasions, the Cowboys lost by a combined 55 points first against the Philadelphia Eagles in 2008 and then the New York Giants last year. Now Dallas will once again be up against a divisional rival with the chance to make the playoffs on the line.
For the visiting Cowboys, the formula is simple: win and they are in. For the home team, the (9-6) Washington Redskins, a win guarantees them the NFC East crown but a loss does not entirely eliminate them. If the Redskins lose, they will know their playoff fate based on the Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears game outcomes from earlier in the day.
Needless to say however, the NFL has scheduled itself what is sure to be an exciting and highly competitive final regular season game of the season.
Big Plays From Big Playmakers: (WAS) Robert Griffin III vs. (DAL) Tony Romo
This season, there has been no quarterback as competent as Dallas’s Tony Romo when it comes to completing long passes down the field for scores. Romo has thrown a league leading 14 of his 26 total touchdowns on passes at least 15 yards downfield. Ten of these touchdowns have come since week nine, most of them coming in do or die situations as the Cowboys have mounted much needed fourth quarter comebacks as of late.
The biggest reason that Romo has been able to have such success down field is not just testament to his offensive line, which has given him the needed time to throw, but also because Romo has one of the most explosive big-play wide receivers in all of the NFL in Dez Bryant.
On the season, the 24-year-old Bryant, who is having an incredible second half, leads the NFL with six touchdown catches on pass plays of more than 15 yards. In fact, since week nine against the Eagles, Bryant has caught a pass of at least 24 yards and at least one touchdown each game.
Bryant’s emergence as one of the best and quickest receivers has come to the benefit of Romo and the Cowboys. In fact, much of the reason why Dallas is even contending for the NFC East after starting the season so poorly at 3-5 is because of the way Bryant has become Romo’s top target.
For Washington, their core of wide receivers consists of Leonard Hankerson, a two-year pro out of the University of Miami, an underutilized Santana Moss and the team’s leading receiver in total yards and receptions, 26-year-old Pierre Garcon. Only Garcon has over 500 yards, and with just 587, he has still almost one half of what Bryant has in Dallas. That said, the Redskins have more wins. Why? Because Robert Griffin III can make any receiver look like and even play like a Dez Bryant.
On the season, the rookie quarterback out of Baylor, affectionately nicknamed RG III, has done more than most expected. He leads all rookies in several categories and even broke the NFL rookie rushing record set by Cam Newton last season. On top of that however, Griffin has not only been arguably the best rookie quarterback this season, but also one of the best in the league overall. His 66.4 completion percentage ranks fifth among all quarterbacks, and his QB rating of 104.1 is just slightly behind league leader Alex Smith’s.
Griffin as a mobile quarterback has effectively managed even the best pass rushes, most notably as he showed in two contests against the Giants and their fearsome foursome at the line. When the opponents have sent five or more pass rushers, Griffin has excelled tremendously, posting 97.7 QBR which is the best in the league. Additionally, when it comes to added pressure, Griffin has a 68.4 completion percentage, good enough for second best in the NFL. Against the Cowboys in the team’s week 12 matchup, Griffin was 6-of-7 for a total of 131 yards and two touchdowns when the team sent added pressure.
The major trap teams have fallen into when facing Griffin this season is in treating him like a running back. When sending added pressure, Griffin has used his speed to create distance and that is when he has utilized the deep pass down the field. Like Romo, this has been one area in which Griffin really excels. On the season, he has a 50 percent completion rate on balls thrown 20 yards or more and this is the best such mark in the league. Against the Cowboys, Griffin threw two of his seven 20+ yard touchdowns.
While it looks like Griffin has the edge against the Cowboys, the fact that both Bryant and Romo have emerged as of late has to be comforting to the Cowboys and their chance at the playoffs. It is also in their favor that this is the second meeting they have with Griffin. On the season, teams that have faced the rookie twice have held him to fewer yards and fewer touchdowns in the second meeting. The Giants held Griffin to nearly 100 less yards and the Eagles cut his touchdown totals in half the second time they saw him. With their playoff life hanging in the balance, Dallas will hope to do the same, avenging their 38-31 loss from earlier this season.
Dallas Cowboys at Washington Redskins Betting Picks
The biggest factor going against Dallas in the sportsbooks is the fact that they are choke artists. As mentioned in close out games, the Cowboys have lost two straight and have done so by huge deficits. Romo has not been clutch and the team is their own worst enemy.
For this reason, Washington finds themselves around three-point favorites. As much as I would like to pick the Cowboys to match this spread, I can’t help but think they will choke again.
- Americans should take the Redskins, now 10-5 ATS on the season, -3.5pts @ +105 with Bovada. The alternative is -3pts @ -125 with BetOnline. Non-Americans can get -3.5pts @ 21/20 with Coral.
- Expect a shootout as well considering that both of these teams boast high powered offenses and Americans should bet on the over 48.5pts total points at -110 with BetOnline. Non-USA residents should take over 48pts @ 10/11 with William Hill.