Divisional games have a way of taking on a life of their own, so pre-game predictions may not mean all that much. Whether or not the experts have a good feel for what will happen on Sunday remains to be seen, but here's what those experts are predicting for the game:
Peter Schrager, Foxsports (10-4)
||24-14||If I'm Dallas, I'm letting DeMarco Murray rest, I'm making sure Brandon Weeden sees plenty of time, and I'm keeping an eye on the snap count for Dez Bryant and Jason Witten in this one. If I'm Washington, I'm doing everything I can to finish the season on a high note. Dallas is pretty much locked into the No. 3 seed at this point. Though others disagree with the strategy, I'd play this one safe. Washington can have a reason for optimism heading into 2015|
Pete Prisco, CBS Sports (10-5)
||35-21||The Cowboys are division champs, which means it's all about the playoffs now. The Redskins showed life in beating the Eagles last week, and you know they would love to give the Cowboys a beating as they head to the playoffs. Not here. The Redskins won the first meeting, but Tony Romo continues his hot streak to win the second one.|
Greg Cote, Miami Herald (10-5)
||27-23||Dallas is division champ and can clinch a first-round playoff bye with a win — but only if Seattle and Arizona also lose. That’s unlikely. Far likelier: DeMarco Murray getting the 29 yards he needs to break Emmitt Smith’s 1995 club rushing record. Washington won first meeting 20-17 in overtime in October and I’d bet this one is close, too.|
Mike Florio, Pro Football Talk (10-5)
||30-20||Washington would love to finish the season on a high note with a sweep of the Cowboys. The Cowboys don’t really have much to play for, with improved playoff positioning unlikely. Which could give the underdog the edge in this kinda-sorta bowl game for Jay Gruden and company. But then I remembered that the Cowboys obliterated the Colts last weekend.|
Sam Farmer, LA Times (9-6)
||31-24||Dallas scored 41, 38 and 42 points in their last three games. They're still battling for one of those top two seeds. Don't expect an encore of the upset by the Redskins.|
Vinny Iyer, Sporting News (8-7)
||34-20||The Cowboys do want to win to keep up the hope they can somehow walk away with the NFC’s top seed as East champions. Just as important, they want to gain some sweet revenge on their archrivals for that previous prime-time upset in Jerry World. Of course, the Redskins got a break there when Tony Romo got hurt; now he’s healthy and humming in December, making a late case for MVP. That campaign continues vs. an atrocious Washington secondary|
Elliot Harrison, NFL.com (7-8)
||24-20||One thing that seems relatively clear is that the Cowboys are headed for the No. 3 seed, win or loss. Yes, they could jump into first-round-bye territory, but they'd need a fair amount of help. So, they're in a pretty immovable playoff position, visiting the rival Redskins in Week 17. Wait, this seems familiar ... Yes, that was the case in both 1996 and 2007! Dallas lost at Washington both times -- and didn't end up making it out of the divisional round either year. Not entirely sure what all of this means, but I do know one thing: If Doug Free sits, Ryan Kerrigan might get three sacks ... at least.|
Michael Smith, Pro Football Talk (6-9)
||30-13||The Cowboys seem to be peaking at the right time. Tony Romo should put up huge numbers against a suspect Washington defense, and Dallas will roll into the playoffs.|
The Cowboys are strong favorites in our overview of pick'em panels below.
|USA Today||6||1||.642 (68-38)|
|NFL Around The League||5||0||.573 (43-32)|
|Dallas Morning News||8||1||.567 (72-55)|
|SB Nation||6||1||.528 (56-50)|
|Pro Football Focus||7||1||.475 (58-64)|
The Cowboys are 11-4, the Redskins are 4-11 and have lost six of their last seven games. The Cowboys have averaged 40 points over their last three games, the Redskins 13.
On paper, the game looks like a no-brainer, but NFL games, and especially divisional games, are not played on paper, and can often go in an entirely different direction than one would have expected. And with the very real possibility of the Cowboys resting some starters (despite Jason Garrett's protestations), almost anything is possible in this game.
What's your expectation for the game?