The Cowboys can accomplish quite alot in beating the Redskins. Most importantly, they can regain the momentum they lost up in Lambeau. They can also increase their division record to 2-1 and their conference record to 6-2, which could come in handly for tie-breaking purposes down the road.
And, by handing the Redskins their seventh loss on the season, they could pretty much force them to begin waving bye-bye to their playoff chances.
Much of the talk this week at Valley Ranch has centered on Big D's offensive lack of production last week. On the flip side, Washington's offense seemed to show some signs of life for one of the first times this season. At home against Denver, RB Ladell Betts and QB Jason Campbell each scored, WR Devin Thomas showed some play-making potential, and the special teams found success on a fake field goal.
More VRR after the jump.
Perhaps it's the Cowboys' defenders that need to come up big. Beating the Broncos 27-17 last week boosted the Redskins' confidence. Deflating it early could be key.
"Coming off last week's victory, we've definitely got confidence. It was a big confidence-builder for us," Rock Cartwright said.
"You've got to keep it rolling. That's the whole objective," receiver Devin Thomas said. "You can never give up on a season just because things have gone bad. We knew we were just one click away from hitting on all cylinders."
With a win in Dallas, the Redskins would be only two games out of the NFC East lead with six games to play, three against the other division teams - including the Cowboys at home two nights after Christmas. Dallas, whose 57 wins against Washington are more than against any other team, doesn't want things to get that close. The dismal day in Green Bay likely got the Cowboys' attention.
The Cowboys should expect to see a heavy dose of RB Ladell Betts with Clinton Portis (concussion) out.
Betts rushed for a season-high 114 yards on 26 carries in last Sunday’s 27-17 win over the Denver Broncos.
Asked how Portis's status impacts him, Betts replied: "You get to be the man on first, second and third down, because before that, it was pretty much only on third down. Now I know that I get to play a full game, so it’s a little bit different mindset."
And it won't change the offensive game plan vs. Dallas, Zorn added. "We didn't change the run game necessarily to accommodate Ladell," Zorn said. "We ran our stuff, and what he did was push up into the hole and fight for yardage."
The Dallas secondary may be a bit banged up, but Mike Jenkins and Alan Ball sound ready to go. Ball should also receive help from Gerald Sensabaugh.
Cowboys CB Mike Jenkins injured his bicep in the Packers contest. Coach Wade Phillips said Jenkins has looked well and even had a couple of interceptions off QB Jon Kitna in scout team practice.
With S Ken Hamlin (ankle) out of the lineup for the Cowboys the next several weeks, look for safeties Alan Ball and Gerald Sensabaugh to split the duties of lining up the defense. Coach Wade Phillips had high praise for the smarts of Sensabaugh and his ability to handle the job.
Ball talks about the difference between playing free safety and cornerback. Also, it looks as if rookie SS Mike Hamlin will see his first action this week since the preseason.
"At cornerback, you don’t have to talk a lot," Ball said. "At safety, you have to know a lot. You have to make a lot of adjustments, a lot of checks. So you have to know a lot more going in. That’s about what it is."
Ball has five tackles and a pass breakup on defense this season. He has 12 special teams tackles, but is expected to have his special-teams workload lightened this week.
Phillips said rookie safety Mike Hamlin and cornerback Orlando Scandrick will fill in on special teams. Mike Hamlin has not been active this season.
Ball and Doug Free will be replaced on special teams.
With Alan Ball starting at free safety, reserve cornerback Orlando Scandrick will likely become the ``gunner,'' with outside coverage on punt-coverage teams. In addition, offensive tackle Pat McQuistan is scheduled to be active for the first time this season and replace Doug Free as a wall blocker on kickoff returns.
DeMarcus Ware talks about how Washington's blocking schemes and Jason Campbell's mobility in the pocket make it difficult to get to him.
"To be honest, it’s really hard to get to him because they keep in extra guys," Ware said. "They might have some guys on the front line so they do a lot of split backs and a lot of protection schemes to keep the guys off Campbell to make sure he’s effective in the pass."
"He’s a great pocket passer," said Ware, who has seven sacks, tied for 10th in the NFL. "He makes sure he has confidence in his line and the guys around him so he can step up in the pocket to make plays."
Jim Zorn has similar worries about Romo.
"When he extends, when he moves around, when he flinches the ball, it causes the secondary, the linebackers, to hesitate, to go, to move," Zorn said. "And then if he can pull it down and have time to hit somebody else, it is very hard. It is the most difficult thing in football because you got the coverage, and if you throw on rhythm, you think you can handle it. When that rhythm's broke and you have to cover long through the coverage that you had, it's hard. It's what makes those quarterbacks very difficult to defend and he's been good at it for a few years."
Brian Orakpo thinks the Packers mapped out a way to get to Romo.
"Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah," Orakpo told ESPN 103.3’s Galloway and Co. "They gave us a lot of good tips the way Green Bay was able to get after it with a lot of different looks. Best believe we’re going to go out there and try to perform some of those things and try to change it up a little bit and give Dallas a little different look."
"It seemed like they didn’t know who to block," Orakpo said. "You see guys flying out of nowhere and hitting Romo from behind and forcing fumbles. I mean, they were all over the place. I guess what we’ve got to do is switch it up ourselves. We’ll see how the game plan is and what the calls will be called, but obviously, we got a lot of tips from that game."
Yes, they have Albert Haynesworth and London Fletcher, but the Redskins' run defense isn't all that.
The Redskins continue to struggle in run defense this season. The unit has yielded 100+ rushing yards in eight of nine games this season, including 120 yards in last Sunday’s win over Denver. Overall, the Redskins have allowed an average of 125.7 rushing yards per game, ranked 24th in the league. They have allowed 4.3 yards per carry, which is ranked 17th in the league.
Felix Jones pre-strained knee ligament, and Felix Jones post-strained knee ligament.
Before the injury, Jones had 21 carries for 212 yards (10.1 yards a carry). Since coming back after the bye week and wearing a knee brace, he has 23 carries for 92 yards.
The DallasNews guys talk to Bradie James and Roy Williams about the game.
The Redskins are looking forward to playing in Cowboys Stadium for the first time.
"That’s the first thing I thought about going to Dallas, ‘Man, I get a chance to play in the new stadium,’ Santana Moss said. "Just to see it--I’m looking forward to seeing what it’s all about. It looks nice on TV. You get mesmerized. "I remember seeing the first game there [on TV]--you had cheerleaders dancing on platforms. I was like, ‘Wow.’"
Rock Cartwright admits he plans to check out the video screen, hopefully after he makes a big play. "I’m really looking forward to seeing that screen," Rock Cartwright said. "I guess every seat in the house is a good seat. I’m sure I’ll take a look at it after I make a nice run, or so. But I won’t be focused on it too much. I’ll be focused on what’s happening on the field."
The series history between the two teams:
The Cowboys lead the all-time regular season series with Washington, 57-37-2, including an unconventional split of last year's home-and-home. The Redskins were 26-24 winners in their trip to Texas Stadium in Week 4, but dropped a 14-10 decision when the clubs met at FedEx Field in Week 11. The teams engaged in conventional home-and-home splits in both 2006 and 2007. Washington is 2-0 against Dallas in the postseason, winning in the 1972 and 1982 NFC Championship games.
Cowboys head coach Wade Phillips is 3-2 all-time against Washington, with one of those wins coming for his Bills team in 1999 at FedEx Field. The Redskins' Jim Zorn is 1-1 against both Phillips and the Cowboys as a head man.
Here is the NFL Game Center for the Redskins at Cowboys.
DeMarcus Ware had the privelege of meeting President Obama as they worked together on a PSA to promote the NFL's Play 60 campaign.
"I was like ‘Ohhhh my God,"’ when Obama came out in a Bears pullover, Ware said in a telephone interview. "It was me, Polamalu and Drew Brees there, so you know how we feel about the Chicago Bears. But he’s a big Chicago Bears fan. He greeted each one of us, and he knew everything about our teams."
Ware is Dallas’ representative for the Play 60 program, which began in 2007. The NFL estimates it has committed $200 million worth of programming, grants, and time for PSAs to the initiative.
"I think it’s really important," Ware said. "If the players are getting involved in it, Obama, a lot of important people getting involved in it, sometimes it encourages kids to get out and do those type of activities and show them just how important it is."