The NFC East title and a guaranteed playoff spot is on the line for the two division rivals as the Dallas Cowboys travel to Washington for the last game of the regular season on Sunday night. The Redskins have won six straight games since starting the season 3-6. The Cowboys have put together a strong second half following a 3-5 start.
For the Skins, there is a possible scenario in which they make the playoffs without winning the game: If both the Bears and the Vikings lose their afternoon games, the Redskins could already have a playoff berth locked up before kickoff. In betting circles, the possibility that the Redskins could give less than 100% effort in that specific scenario, and therefore possibly score fewer points, has already been accounted for, with the total for the game moving down from it's opening of 50 to 48.5.
Even with the hypothetical but highly unlikely scenario of the Redskins not bringing their A-game, that 48.5 is still the second highest over/under of Week 17. But the building blocks are there for two OVER teams: both teams have fairly good offenses, both teams have fairly bad defenses. Here's what the two teams have looked like over the last four games in terms of points scored and points allowed since their last meeting in Week 12:
|Points per game, last 4 games|
|Points For (Rank)||Points Against (Rank)|
|Cowboys||29.0 (5th)||27.5 (27th)|
|Redskins||28.3 (7th)||21.3 (13th)|
Any combination of the above scoring averages would lead to combined scores over the 48.5 total. And the experts polled below are also coming down 7-2 for the OVER.
But will Sunday's game really be the high-scoring affair some of the experts seem to suggest it will be? Weigh in with your opinion in the comments section.
Bill Simmons, Grantland
||Griffin doesn't look totally healthy … Washington's ridiculous fumble luck (they've recovered 19 of their 25 fumbles) finally swings against them … Romo plays out of his mind as Cris Collinsworth lectures us that we "have to stop pretending that Tony Romo isn't an elite QB" … a once-crazy Washington crowd goes into super-tense "Uh-Oh" mode (shades of the Nats' last playoff game) as Romo does whatever he wants … Griffin makes one classic rookie mistake down the stretch … Collinsworth gushes that "People don't realize how mentally tough this Cowboys team is" … Al Michaels gets excited when a late Cowboys field goal beats the "over" … Dallas wins by 10.|
|Dan Graziano, ESPN||31-27||That Cowboys defense has allowed more yards per game over the last eight weeks than any other defense in the NFL and I just don't think they'll have what it takes to stop Robert Griffin, Alfred Morris and the Redskins offense at the end of the game.|
Pete Prisco, CBS Sports
||31-27||This is a playoff game. The winner wins the NFC East. The Cowboys are out if they lose. The Redskins will still have some hope. This should be another high-scoring game. I look for Tony Romo and the Cowboys to outduel Robert Griffin III.|
|Peter King, SI.com||21-17||We talk about the meaning of quarterbacks in every game, and rightfully so. But I like Alfred Morris (4.7 yards per rush as a sixth-round rookie) to win this game down the stretch before a crowd that will be Gibbs-Monk-Doug Williams excited ... and will make the stadium shake in the process Sunday night.|
Elliot Harrison, NFL.com
||38-24||These Cowboys have relied on terrific quarterback play from Tony Romo, a receiver who has dominated smurf defensive backs in Dez Bryant and some clutch defensive plays when needed. Meanwhile, the Washington Redskins are one of the hottest teams in the league, with Robert Griffin III meriting consideration for both Offensive Rookie of the Year and league MVP. Yet, he didn't look like himself last week, and the 'Skins might not get the secondary play to stop the Dallas offense|
|Sam Farmer, Cicago Tribune||28-24||Redskins have won six in a row, their longest winning streak in 16 years. With division on line, recovering Robert Griffin III will beat Cowboys again.|
|Peter Schrager, Foxsports||31-20||Washington hasn’t won a division crown since 1999, while the Cowboys are just 2-10 in Week 17 games since 2000. FedEx Field is going to be crazier than it has been all season long, but I think the Cowboys — going against recent history — will find a way to stop Griffin and come out on top. I’ve long been accused of being a Tony Romo "fanboy." Fair enough. I think he silences critics (for now) and gets the job done on the road Sunday night.|
|Joel Thorman, SB Nation||24-20||A belated Christmas present for football fans. This game is on Sunday night, and it should be a beauty. The Redskins have now won six-straight games. Incredibly, they were 3-6 at one point. The dream season will continue and everyone will get the gift they wanted -- RGIII in the playoffs.|
|The Fifth Down, New York Times||- -||A win (or a tie) would give Robert Griffin III and the Redskins a division title and would send the Cowboys home without a trip to the playoffs despite brilliant play by Tony Romo as the season drew to a close. Motivation will be a factor for Washington should Minnesota and Chicago both lose prior to kickoff, which would clinch a Redskins playoff berth. If that happens, the desire to keep Griffin’s balky knee healthy will likely limit their offense to the point that Romo can beat them.|
|Vinny Iyer, Sporting News||27-23||With Morris operating as usual, it will set up Griffin for some big pass plays off play-action—even when he's contained in the pocket and seeing limited read-option opportunities. Tony Romo is passing very well of late, and his deep connection with Dez Bryant is the reason Dallas has a shot at winning the division title. The Redskins, however, will be able to pin their ears back on third down and aggressively pressure him into a critical mistake or two. The Redskins will protect their quarterback and the ball better, meaning the rookie additions of Morris and RG3 will add up to an immediate playoff berth|
|Ray Monahan, Capperspicks||Cowboys by 3
||The last time that these teams met, the Dallas Cowboys were in the midst of a small slump – no such worries heading into Sunday! In what is essentially a playoff game, you have to like the experience versus the youth. The Dallas defense has seen RG III already and you can bet that their game plan will be tightened up ahead of this pivotal game. It all comes down to which defense will get the occasional stop – I see Dallas limiting Washington a little more than I can see the leaky Washington secondary slowing Mr. Romo.|
In addition to the selection of experts above who provide a rationale for their picks, many other experts don't provide any specific commentary, and are summarized in the table below:
|Pro Football Focus||2||6|
|Dallas Morning News||3
|NFL Around The League||4||1|
|Inside the NFL||1||0|
Overall, the Cowboys look like slight underdogs in the court of public opinion, but that isn't a bad place for them to be in. Now, about that high-scoring game that's widely being predicted ...
If you think there'll be a lot of points scored, there'll also be a lot of fantasy points to go around. Why not put togther a fantasy team with the players you think will put up big numbers on Sunday? Won't take you more than five minutes, plus your name may end up on the Week 17 leaderboard!