This was a victory for the unsung heroes. None of the big stars really dominated. Instead we saw our #4 WR (a 7th rounder from Garrett's first draft) make huge plays (helped by great blocking), our rookie WR make a great adjustment and catch (helped by a great Romo escape/throw) and a bunch of defensive cast-offs and no-names simply hustle, hustle, hustle play after play until the Redskins could withstand them no-more. I still think Dallas has a ways to go in the personnel department before we become a top-tier team but I have from Day 1 been a huge fan of the way Jason Garrett approaches Dallas' problems. His recruiting and the remolding of personnel templates (RKG) ensures a dedicated team who give their all takes the field every week.
I had a pretty good run with predictions the previous few weeks but it was hit and miss this game:
For a decisive victory I think it'd be very helpful to get off to a fast start and keep the Redskins chasing points. Griffin is no Rivers/Manning and if he's forced into 35+ throws it's good for us. In their lone victory Griffin threw 31 passes, 0 Int's and 0 fumbles. In the Redskins 3 losses Griffin threw 49, 40 and 50 passes. He had 5 Td's (5 passing, 0 rushing) during those 3 games but also 4 Int's plus 4 fumbles (only 1 lost though). Our D will likely give up some big plays but there should also be opportunities for our D to make a few big plays too. If our D can make a few plays I expect our offense to capitalize against the Redskins underwhelming Defense. A 34-24 type victory should be on the cards.
I was pretty close on the score and with Dallas scoring early and never relinquishing the lead it kept the Griffin chasing points and throwing passes (39 in this game) and as expected this didn't go well for the Skins. Griffin threw 1 Interception and had 2 fumbles (losing 1) and a 58.3 Qb rating. I did not expect the defense to be this effective though. Griffin's 58.3 Qb rating is not only the worst he's had this year but it's the worst he's had in his young career. Hats off to the D for a solid bounce back game.
I also thought we'd get much more offensive production through the air. I expected a pretty big day from Romo and Co. but it was certainly underwhelming in that regard and a little disappointing considering they were at Home against a Defense that was ranked very poorly. Accidental Innuendo (AI) said to tap the brakes on my passing game optimism until we see them do it again and right he was. I'm not exactly sure what Romo's NY/A is from this game but it's well under my prediction of 7.6, AI predicted a much closer 6.6 (I think the actual NY/A from this game will be around five and a half, would be thankful if someone who knows where to find the NY/A game breakdowns could post the result in the comments). An outstanding performance from Dwayne Harris and the special teams players ensured a strong victory but the inconsistent passing game is still a minor concern going forward.
Since Jason Garrett took over as Head Coach mid-way through 2010 Dallas has played 3 division doubles (back to back division games). In 2010 Dallas lost to Philly 30-27 in Week 14 and then beat the Redskins 33-30 in Week 15. In 2011 Dallas lost to Philly 20-7 in Week 16 and lost to the Giants 31-14 in Week 17. In 2012 Dallas lost to the Redskins 38-31 in Week 12 and then beat Philly 38-33 in Week 13. In 2013 Dallas beat the Redskins 31-16 and then...
Dallas has lost the first match-up of the division-double the previous 3 years. This time we have a real chance go 2-0 through it and it would be a huge boost to our East title chances if we can do it. As a side note, just for good measure the NFL has decided they'd give us a division double double this year: Redskins, Eagles in Weeks 6 & 7 plus Weeks 16 & 17. Anyone else think that Week 17 game against the Eagles will be huge?
With the NFC East falling apart Dallas' Division Title and Home Playoff Game hopes could rest on these division match-ups more than ever. So far the schedule shows the non-division games being generally a higher calibre of opponent. If we want to rack up some wins we need to look no further than our crumbling division for victims. Within the NFC East the saying goes "throw out the win-loss records for these games" because they're usually close and very hard fought regardless of standings. If Dallas wants the playoffs they need to buck that roller-coaster.
The Giants are 0-6 with the 1-4 Vikings and 3-3 Eagles next. At best they can only be 2-6 at mid-season.
The Eagles are 3-3 and likely to be the team that challenges us for that division crown. The similarities between Dallas and Philly's 3-3 records is fascinating. Philly has beaten the Redskins, the New York Giants and the Buccaneers. Dallas has beaten the Giants, the Rams and the Redskins. Philly has lost to the Chargers, the Chiefs and the Broncos. Dallas lost to the Chiefs, the Chargers and the Broncos. Of their individual schedules they've played 5 of 6 of the same opponents and both won and lost to the exact same teams. I think it's fair to say they've played on a similar level so far.
A look at the other NFC standings as of right now doesn't leave much hope for the loser of the Dallas/Philly division chase to get one of the wildcard spots. The NFC North has 3 teams over .500 and the NFC West has all 4 teams at .500 or higher. Much can happen between now and seasons end but hoping on a wildcard doesn't look like a good idea.
The weak division needs to be taken advantage of with a 5-1 or even a 6-0 record in the East because victories against Detroit (away), New Orleans (away), Chicago (away) and Green Bay (home) will be much harder to come by.
While the Denver match-up was the most exciting and potentially revealing game of the season so far the most important game of the season so far is definitely this week. Beating Philly now gives us a solid leg up in the all important division title chase. Even if it all goes horribly wrong at Ford Field the week after and we get lit up by Detroit we would still be 4-4 with at least a game and a half lead in the division at the mid-way point in the season. Nothing wrong with being up a game and half at the halfway point and a victory against Philly guarantees at least that much.
The similarities between the two teams don't end with their opponents. Philly is a highly ranked passing team at 2nd Net Yards Gained Per Pass Attempt (NY/A) with a poorly rated pass Defense at 22nd Net Yards Allowed Per Pass Ateempt (DNY/A). Dallas is also a good passing team at 7th in NY/A and with a poorly rated pass Defense at 24th in DNY/A.
With Mike Vick out injured the last game and a half the efficiency of Philly's passing game has actually gone up. Nick Foles is currently holding a terrific Qb rating of 127.9 predominantly coming from his play in Away victories against the Giants and Buccaneers both of who had better rated pass defenses in DNY/A than Dallas currently has. This will be Foles' first Home game as starter this year and he could cause some real troubles for our D along with both LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson who have been playing well. Those two have real home run threat potential. Dallas is of course injury riddled at Dline and despite a fine effort last week from that group there's good reason to be concerned for them in this game.
I think DeMarco Murray will be missed more in the passing game as a blocker (rated 10th of 54 by PFF) and receiver rated (6th of 54) than in the running game (14th of 54). I think a Tanner/Randle duo should go fine as runners but as blockers and receivers I think it could be a substantial downgrade. That may make Romo's life a bit more difficult. The good news is, as a collective group, PFF rates Philly's pass rush as very bad (31st in the league) and our pass blocking as very good (4th in the league). It also rates Philly's pass blocking as bad (30th overall) and Dallas' pass rushing is ranked average (17th). So we should have advantages in the crucial areas of both rushing and protecting the passer.
Also, and after last week this shouldn't be overlooked, Dallas Special Teams ranks 4th in the league (PFF) and Philly ranks 30th. In a big game like this with relatively evenly matched teams a special teams play, whether it's a 50+ yard Bailey kick or a 50+ yard Harris return, could make a crucial difference.
This should be a great game that could go either way. The stakes in regards to division positioning are high. Both teams are ranked high in points scored per game (Dallas 2nd at 30.5 and Philly 4th at 27.7) and ranked low in points allowed per game (Dallas ranks 21st at 25.3 and Philly 29th at 29.8) I expect something similar in this game. My guess is a 30 to 27 type victory. Post your best guess in the comments.