It is gameday for the Dallas Cowboys as they go to Landover, Md, to face the Washington Redskins. The two teams are headed in distinctly different directions, as the Cowboys are above .500 again and hoping to maintain some momentum in trying to take over the lead for the NFC East, and the Redskins are mired in a five game skid. Dallas played the best football of the season last week, while Washington is suffering from a string of injuries that has left seven players on IR. Tony Romo is looking to be at the top of his game. The Redskins are going with Rex Grossman over John Beck as the lesser of two evils.
But it is the Cowboys and the Redskins, and hopefully no one involved with the Dallas organization is taking this one for granted.
This may be affected by the weather. The temperature is going to be pretty good for football, in the low sixties, but there is a chance of rain. Hopefully, Tony can keep up his recent strong play, and the newly potent Dallas running game will be able to control things the way it has the past couple of games.
Given that this is not exactly a featured game this week, there is a lot of stuff out there on the game, so take a look at what is being said about it.
I troll the media after the jump.
First, a couple of notes on the Cowboys' roster. Stephen McGee will be the number two quarterback, with Jon Kitna not making the trip after a problem with his back kept him out of practice this week. And the team is going to be without a fullback, as the team decides to not bring Shaun Chapas up from the practice squad to fill in for the ailing Tony Fiammetta. Hopefully Jason Garrett has an effective plan to keep DeMarco Murray eating up the yards. Meanwhile, Felix Jones is back, and there is speculation that, even though he will likely get a smaller portion of the carries, he may be listed as the starter.
Now that he's back, the scope of Jones' role is expected to be reduced. But don't be surprised if he gets a start for old times' sake.
Matchups are always an interesting way to look at the game, and this week is the first time we are seeing the Cowboys in a rematch.
ESPN takes its Scouts Eye look at the game. The first one up is Doug Free against the dangerous Brian Orakpo. Free has been up and down this season, and we hope he can counter Orakpo and keep Tony safe.
Orakpo is explosive off the edge and he can get into a blocker quickly, then turn the corner. Orakpo can also make himself small where Free doesn't get much of a hitting surface on him. If the tackle can't get his hands on him, then it makes it difficult to stop his path to the ball.
The Dallas Morning News focuses just on that matchup. They do offer some optimism.
At the time, Free's struggles raised concerns that he would fail to match his 2010 performance, which exceeded expectations. But Free has been solid ever since that September night and has buttressed an offensive line that hasn't allowed a sack in two games.
The Sporting News sees the ability of the Cowboys' tackles to handle the Washington pass rush as the main key for Dallas.
Dallas' three-man defensive line is better, so it's easier for the Cowboys to get pressure. That said, Redskins edge rushers Brian Orakpo (5.5 sacks, two forced fumbles) and rookie Ryan Kerrigan (five sacks, four forced fumbles) will put a lot of heat on Cowboys left tackle Doug Free and rookie right tackle Tyron Smith. Free and Smith must show they can make the correct adjustments to different blitz schemes and that they can get out of their stance and into position to cut off the speed rushers before they can get the corner and pressure the quarterback.
Another DMN article looks at the different units on the team. As might be expected given the recent games, they give all the player vs. player advantages to the Cowboys, but do put the intangibles in the Redskins' favor.
However, Washington is playing at home and the Redskins may not have to look too far for motivation after being accused by the Cowboys of mimicking Tony Romo's cadence - an unsportsmanlike tactic -- in the previous meeting.
Washington Redskins cornerback Josh Wilson had his best game of the season in Week 3 at Dallas, when he recorded a career-high four pass breakups to go with four tackles in an 18-16 defeat.
Everyone seems to have their take on keys to the game. The Washington Post has five storylines they feel will tell the tale, one of them the performance of Rex Grossman.
Grossman & Co. need to find the end zone. During this five-game skid, the Redskins have averaged 10.6 points a game. That certainly won't cut it against a Dallas team that ranks 10th in the NFL in scoring (24.8 points a game). Can Grossman and his short-handed offense get back on track?
And the San Antonio Express News offers up their five things to watch. Among them, they give a little love to one of the real surprise success stories of the season (and one of my favorites), the emergence of Laurent Robinson.
Unheralded Cowboys wide receiver Laurent Robinson has scored four touchdowns in the last three games, including a career-high two in last week's 44-7 bashing of the Bills.
With a hamstring injury sidelining Miles Austin for a second straight week, Robinson will have another golden opportunity to shake his journeyman tag and secure a multi-year contract with Dallas.
Back at DMN, they offer their four keys. One that certainly seems good in any game is to get out to an early lead.
The Cowboys hope to put Washington in a position where Rex Grossman is the driving force of the offense. They can do so by jumping on the Redskins at the outset.
It seems that a lack of faith in Sexy Rexy is pretty universal. Which just means he will probably have a better game than normal, given how things seem to go. And John Riggins' blog points out in its keys to the game that, as our own tanstaafl observes with great frequency, this is a team game and not just Grossman's issue.
Although he looked decent last week, he was rushed a lot and forced to make bad throws. If the offensive line can hold off some of the most brutal linebackers in the league, Grossman will have the opportunity to make accurate throws, and more importantly, touchdowns.
Receiver Dez Bryant said the Cowboys are a different team than the one squeaked by the Redskins 18-16 in Week 3.
Last time, the Cowboys were banged, considering that quarterback Tony Romo was recovering from a fractured rib and punctured lung suffered a week before against the 49ers. Receiver Miles Austin missed the game with a hamstring injury. Bryant himself was nursing a deep thigh bruise that kept him out the 49ers game.
The National Football Post looks at five different games, and one of them is our tilt.
Romo was hot last Sunday in the win over the Bills. Working vs. single high safety defenses, Romo used the vertical passing game and was efficient in the red zone during a 44-7 win. Tomorrow at Fed Ex Field, the Redskins will show more pressure looks, play some Cover 2 and give Romo multiple blitz fronts to deal with. I expect Washington to bring an aggressive game plan to the stadium, get hands on WR Dez Bryant at the line of scrimmage and use some combination coverages inside of the numbers vs. TE Jason Witten. Let's see how Romo responds.
For a general overview of the game, you can catch the Express News scouting report. One thing they bring up is Bradie James, who was only on the field for one play last week. He expects it to be different this game.
"I'll play this week," he said. "It's old-school ball. What you see is what you get from them. They're not going to try to sugarcoat it, which is what we like. It's two teams that know each other really well. They're going to try to run the ball, impose their will."
Another good scouting report is in the Washington Examiner. They don't see a lot of hope for the 'skins.
Injuries ruin the Redskins' chances in a game like this. Dallas is more explosive than the first meeting, and the Redskins will struggle to threaten the Cowboys' defense.
Also in the Examiner, a columnist discusses how the once ferocious rivalry has fallen on hard times.
Washington fans chanting "We want Dallas" has become a worn cliche? If Redskins fans are so desirous of beating the Cowboys, why will FedEx Field likely be half filled with Dallas backers?
It's OK to move on. Dallas certainly has.
The Austin American Statesman takes a look at how different things are for the Cowboys and Redskins since the first meeting of the season, and catches some of the bitter feelings the 'skins have about the state of their team.
Throw the records out the window when these teams meet? Yeah, right. The Redskins can only wish it were possible.
"It's irrelevant at this point," Washington tight end Logan Paulsen said. "It's Dallas, whatever. They're kind of on the rise right now, but we just need to get a win."
Finally, back to San Antonio, where the Express News talks about the subject that we are hopeful of here, that the Cowboys are starting a run to something great.
A 3-1 record in the past four games is nice, but consider the competition (combined 13-23) and that nine others are on equal or better runs. But win in Washington today, and the hype will start to build.
We certainly hope so.
Fear the Star. (To steal a phrase.)