The Dallas Cowboys are heading to Washington to send an early message to the rest of the NFC East that the reigning division champs have no intention of stepping down. A win on Sunday puts the team atop the division, a place they can remain in all year if they can just take care of business. Despite being on the road, the Cowboys are favored by 5 1⁄2 points, but these NFC East games are no easy task. The Redskins gave the Cowboys their only divisional loss last year as Brett Maher hit the upright as the Cowboys were attempting to send the game in overtime.
With another tough road challenge ahead of the Cowboys, what’s it going to take to leave D.C. victorious? Which players are going to be the difference makers in this one? Last week, Strawn’s selection galloped his way to a career day.
Michael Strawn: Michael Gallup
With the Giants expected to be focused on stopping Zeke and Amari Cooper I expect Michael Gallup to come up big. He and Dak seem to have developed some good chemistry. We’ll see a more aggressive passing approach from Kellen Moore’s schemes/playcalling, and thus Gallup should get some opportunities. Expect 80+ yards and a touchdown from the impressive second-year receiver.
Gallup didn’t find the end zone, but he nearly doubled Strawn’s prediction and is currently second in the league with 158 yards receiving. Not a bad start to his sophomore season.
Which player leads the charge this week? The front page writers here at BTB make their picks as to which players will come up big on Sunday.
David Howman: Jaylon Smith
Not only will he be relied upon to help stop newly activated Adrian Peterson but I expect Kris Richard to get him involved more in rushing the passer. Washington’s OL is hurting at left tackle without Trent Williams, and I can see Smith being used to attack that weakness with various blitz packages.
Matt Holleran: DeMarcus Lawrence
Washington only allowed one sack in their Week 1 matchup with Philadelphia, but look for that to change this weekend courtesy of DeMarcus Lawrence. Going up against a Washington offensive line that has Ereck Flowers as a starter, look for Lawrence to feast in rushing the passer and stopping the run. I can see an easy two sack day for Tank on Sunday.
Dave Halprin: Tony Pollard
The Cowboys didn’t really utilize Pollard much except as the mop-up guy late in the game. This week, they will give him some plays out in space either through screens or lining him up as a receiver. He’ll make one spectacular highlight play out of that.
Michael Strawn: Xavier Woods
Just a hunch, but I feel a couple plays coming from the third-year safety. Am thinking an interception, maybe returned for a touchdown. Add a couple big hits, maybe a forced fumble.
Tom Ryle: Ezekiel Elliott
It may seem an odd choice, but my X factor is Ezekiel Elliott. Last game was all about getting the passing game rolling, and Zeke still had the issue of getting into “game shape”. Kellen Moore showed what his Moore Motion offense could do with Dak and the receivers. Now it is time to show just what he can do by folding the ground game in. What I think will happen is that Zeke will start to produce, and then he will dictate the entire Washington defense as Moore’s big threat. Oh, and he’ll be over 150 yards from scrimmage to boot.
Michael Sisemore: La’el Collins
If the Cowboys are going to get repeat of week one, it starts with keeping Dak Prescott clean. Washington will miss Jonathan Allen in the middle of their defense but Ryan Kerrigan is still quite the edge rusher. Collins just got paid a hefty sum to stay in Dallas and this game is where he needs to show why. Kerrigan is disruptive from the snap and he’s not likely to spend much time rushing at Tyron Smith. La’el Collins needs to show that nastiness we’ve seen in the past and neutralize Ryan Kerrigan. If Collins is successful, you can expect the Cowboys offense to roll over Washington.
Danny Phantom: Randall Cobb
I can’t remember a time when I’ve been this excited about a Cowboys trio of wide receivers. Amari Cooper is going to be a problem for Josh Norman, and Quinton Dunbar (sore knee) is going to have his hands full with Michael Gallup. While those receivers are going to require extra safety help, Randall Cobb could end up being the benefactor. Whether it’s rookie Jimmy Moreland or the just signed Aaron Colvin, the Redskins are going to have problems keeping Cobb from getting loose.
Who is your X-Factor player of the game?