Cowboys offense vs. Redskins defense
The Redskins are finally healthy on defense so this won't be the same team Dallas faced in September. With Carlos Rogers and Shawn Springs manning the corners, the Redskins can be aggressive in their blitz packages with a little more confidence. The Redskins are a blitzing team and that won't change for this game, it might even be accelerated.
The Cowboys offensive line struggles when they are confused by the blitzes of opponents. The mental errors by the line played a part in the demise of Drew Bledsoe, and all of Romo's mobility might not be enough if the line at least doesn't get a body on each pass rusher. With the Redskins coming off a bye week, they've had plenty of time to dissect the Cowboys protections schemes and design blitzes to exploit them. Expect Gregg Williams to disguise the blitzes in hopes of confusing the Cowboys line and free up rushers to get clean shots at Romo. If the Cowboys can pick up the blitz packages and give Romo some time, his mobility will take care of the rest and the Cowboys should be effective in the passing game.
Jason Witten in the middle of the field should be a weapon this week. The Redskins safeties are not strong in pass coverage so Witten should enjoy a big day. Terrell Owens will draw a lot of safety help, putting even more pressure on the Redskins defenders in the middle of the field. Romo to Witten should be a familiar call by the end of the day.
The Redskins run defense has been average at best. The Cowboys run offense is one of the best in the league. The Cowboys are playing on the road in Romo's second start. All of this says the Cowboys will try to exploit the run as much as possible, using it to draw safety Adam Archuleta to the line of scrimmage. Once they accomplish that, they can use Witten (or Fasano) to beat the Redskins defense over the middle and take a couple of shots deep to Glenn and Owens.
The Redskins defense is aggressive; they like to jump the run with their linebackers. Dallas needs to use some hard-counts, play-action along with some misdirection to slow down their aggressive nature. Overall, the Redskins defense is underperforming, and will have to gamble to slow down the Dallas offense.
Cowboys defense vs. Redskins offense
With Santana Moss out of the game, the Cowboys defense has one main objective; stop Clinton Portis. The middle of the Cowboys defense is a tough place to run, most teams try to go off-tackle or stretch the edges to get running room. Occasionally, DeMarcus Ware and Greg Ellis will get overly aggressive and lose outside contain. The Redskins offense will try to exploit that by running counter-plays and other misdirection plays, including reverses. The Redskins offense under Al Saunders likes to attack the edges of a defense. The Cowboys need to be aware of the screen pass, the quick hitch and basic off-tackle runs with pulling backside guards. With Moss unavailable, the Cowboys can afford to roll their CB's closer to the line of scrimmage in run support. They will also keep Roy Williams closer to the line in run situations.
In the passing game, The Redskins will rely more on TE Chris Cooley with the absence of Moss and he's had success against Dallas before. The Cowboys need to be hyper-aware of where Cooley is on the field and Roy Williams needs to have one of his better coverage games. The Cowboys corners should have the advantage on the Redskins WR's and Parcells/Zimmer could choose to leave them in man-to-man coverage which puts them in a better position to check the run. Over the top, Dallas likes to play Cover-2 with the safeties, so in passing situations they could move Roy back and the LB's will need to check Cooley.
Don't expect Dallas to change their ways on defense and load up on the blitz. While the blitz can be a big-reward play, it also comes with big-risk. The Cowboys would prefer to make the Redskins work for their points on offense and don't want to open up their defense for big-play possibilities.
Dallas will run the ball on offense drawing the Redskins closer to the line then take their shots over the top. In addition to establishing the run game, the Cowboys will use the short-passing game as an alternative running game. They want to limit the chances for turnovers and mistakes, the Redskins best chance for scoring the upset.
On defense, Dallas will make Clinton Portis the top priority and will make every effort to contain him. The want to put the onus on Mark Brunell and WR's Antwaan Randle El and Brandon Lloyd to beat them.