Cowboys Countdown to Washington Rematch

The Cowboys formally flush the commode on their disappointing 2015 campaign with a continuation of the NFL's modern range war at noon at AT&T Stadium. Here are some stats to keep an eye on if you want Dallas to win, lose, or draw:

10: Chris Jones' rank for yards per punt -- The fifth-year veteran out of Carson-Newman has had plenty of opportunities to show off his skills this season, and, no joke, he has earned a game ball in one of Dallas' four wins so far. Jones is averaging 44.7 yards per punt, good for 10th-best in the league. This has really given the Cowboys a chance to tilt the field and let their defense keep them in games while the offense has sputtered. With Kellen Moore under center, Dez Bryant on injured reserve, and hosting the new division champs, expect plenty of punts from Jones today.

Oh, and with those changes come more ...

Most notable there? Sean Lee, who takes a financial kick in the teeth from being sidelined with a hamstring ... But who lives to play another, more important, day.


9: Washington's rank for red zone touchdowns per game -- The great thing about Bill Callahan's turning around the Washington offense is he's left little evidence behind, a point CowboysHQ first officer KD Drummond penned earlier today. Another number that dispels the "Cult of Callahan" is Washington's 1.9 red zone touchdowns per game at 1.9, which ranks ninth-worst in the NFL. On the Cowboys offense, they rank absolute worst in the league at 1.1 and also have the worst red zone conversion rate at 41.5 percent. At least Dallas can blame the fact they are on their quaternary option at quarterback and their star wideout, whose business is catching jump balls in the end zone, is on injured reserve. In any event, get ready for another classic duel between the right legs of Washington kicker Dustin Hopkins and Cowboys Pro Bowler Dan Bailey.


8: Number of straight games Dallas has had a giveaway -- The last turnover-free game the Dallas offense put together was against Seattle on Nov. 15, and with the way this season has gone, of course the Cowboys would have to chock that one up as a loss. The Cowboys are 4-9 when they commit a turnover, and are strangely 1-2 when they win the turnover battle. Nonetheless, the numbers bear out that when the Romo-less offense has a giveaway, it's curtains for the team's chances to win.


7: Sacks DeMarcus Lawrence has in the past seven weeks -- Big deal. Like lying about one's height on their driver's license, everyone does it. Right? Wrong. There's only three other players in the NFL who have seven sacks or more in the past seven weeks: Oakland's Khalil Mack (11), the Giants' Robert Ayers (seven), and the Jets' Muhammad Wilkerson (seven). These are guys who made the Pro Bowl or darn near should have. For Lawrence to lead the team with eight sacks in just his second season is a testament to both is talent and Rod Marinelli's ability to develop rushmen. For those scoring at home, with eight sacks in his second season as a Cowboy, Lawrence joins Jim Jeffcoat and DeMarcus Ware as the only other second-year Cowboys to record eight sacks or more since 1982.

Let's watch him work ... and do the same with Greg Hardy, who has $500,000 riding on him recording two sacks today to get to eight for the season.


6: Jordan Reed's rank for most receiving touchdowns -- The third-year pro out of Florida is tied with Eric Decker, Rob Gronkowski, and DeAndre Hopkins for 11 receiving touchdowns, the sixth-most in the NFL. Reed was held to three catches for 33 yards against the Cowboys earlier in December, but he has exploded in the last two games with two touchdowns per game. In the past three games, he has averaged eight catches for 111 yards. If Washington wants to keep their momentum alive heading into their home wildcard playoff match, they will find ways to get Reed involved often.

This is a Byron Jones challenge. Other kids will likely line up at cornerback. With Barry Church done with a broken arm, rookie Byron gets to take a big bite today.


5: Darren McFadden's rank for rushing yards -- Lost amid the 4-11 record, dashed playoff hopes, broken collarbones, and a turnstile at quarterback are the impressive individual performances some Cowboys are having in 2015. Enter McFadden, an oft-injured veteran who spent his first seven seasons wasting away in Oakland. In his first year in Dallas, despite the coaches electing Joe Randle as the committee chairman for the first six games, McFadden has managed to reel off 997 rushing yards, which is good for fifth-most in the NFL. Never would Cowboys fans think McFadden would be in a top-5 with Adrian Peterson unless it was "Top Bengay Users in Postgame Locker Rooms." McFadden's rank is a testament to his durability and also to the offensive line.

And if you believe in what Fish calls "Organic Tanking'' (losing with valor so Dallas can finish 4-12 and likely own the No. 4 overall pick in the draft, as opposed to winning and maybe sliding to No. 8)? You get McFadden the three yards he needs to get to 1,000 (and a $300K bonus that comes with that) and you move to the kids.


4: Washington's rank for points off takeaways -- In Matthew 25:14-30, Jesus tells of the Parable of the Three Servants where all but one decide to put to work their investment capital given by their master. The third one goes and buries his and is deemed wicked and punished. Maybe Jesus was prophesying the 2015 Washington offense that has managed just 36 points off of turnovers this season, "good" for four-fewest in the NFL. In fact, they are the only playoff team in the bottom-5. Dallas fans bore witness to Washington's inability to capitalize on Cowboys mistakes on Monday night last month as their arch rivals got three points off Dallas' three turnovers. In other words, Washington got an extra point per Dallas giveaway. Even Weimar Republic citizens would find that rate of exchange laughable.

How much Washington QB Cousins plays in what is essentially a meaningless game for the NFC champ 'Skins might be the central issue in takeaways today.


3: Kellen Moore's rank for interception percentage -- 7.1 percent of the Boise State legend's NFL passes have been intercepted, and that percentage is the third-highest in the NFL. There is a saying about Tony Romo among opposing defenses that "he's good for at least one a game." The saying is true for Moore, whose statistics bear out that he throws 1.8 interceptions per 25 passing attempts. If Dallas wants to hold on to its fourth overall pick in April's draft, one way to do it is to ask Moore to throw close to 30 passes against Washington, even if they have only snagged nine interceptions all year.

We've kiddingly called folks who believe blindly that Kellen Moore is a savior "Kellen Moore-ons.'' Ah, but Kellen as a backup prospect? Sure. Bring it on.


2: The Cowboys defense's rank in least opposing touchdowns thrown -- As underachieving and puzzling as 2015 has been, the Cowboys defense has managed to only allow opposing quarterbacks to toss a grand total of 15 touchdowns against them, good for the second-fewest in the NFL. This is a defense that faced the likes of Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Cam Newton, and Aaron Rodgers. Even Kirk Cousins, who has managed to have four-TD games thrice in 2015, only managed one touchdown pass in the Monday night game in December.

Washington may yet earn a ninth win against Dallas today, but it may not be through the air.


1: The Washington defense's rank for fumble recoveries -- Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli may preach for his players to get strips, but his son-in-law, Washington defensive coordiator Joe Barry, has been the one shouting Hallelujah on Sundays as Washington leads the NFL with 14 fumble recoveries. Though the Cowboys are good for 14th-fewest fumbles lost with just nine all season, they saw up close their arch rival give them a case of the butterfingers as McFadden lost two and receiver Devin Street lost one as well. Though those three turnovers helped Washington win the turnover battle, they still lost the game. Don't expect history to repeat itself should Washington have more takeaways today.

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