Ten Spot Preview: Redskins at Cowboys

John Keim takes a look at ten burning questions going into Sunday's game and offers his predictions.

1. How effective can Santana Moss be?

Good question and one we're tired of answering. Moss says he's going to play and he's listed as probable, so there's no reason to doubt him. Moss started to look good in the Jets game then got hurt again. Just seems like one of those years for him. At least he returns at a time when he's really needed. Without him, the Redskins would have trouble threatening this secondary. With him, they have a threat. He would do well in the no-huddle game which features shorter passes and lets the receivers use their ability to break away. That suits Moss. But he hasn't had a big game in a long time.

2. Do the Redskins think they can win this game?

Hard to say. Before the Patriots game, I thought they believed they could at least make it a good game. The defense seemed very focused and the practices, from what they said, were outstanding. But there was no sense in the locker room that this is a team on the verge of a major upset – or a major collapse for that matter. But did they seem overly focused, determined or anything else? No. Doesn't mean they can't win, but it is something to think about. Then again, it seemed like just another week and maybe that's a good thing.

3. Is Dallas the best team in the NFC?

Sure seem to be. The Cowboys have the best offensive balance, something Green Bay lacks. The Redskins had a shot against Green Bay – and should have won – because the Pack is one-dimensional. They have a very good defense, but the Cowboys' offense makes them so dangerous. And with their defense, if they get a lead they can be very good. They have holes defensively but in some ways they're a little like the Colts a couple years ago where it's a defense built to play with a lead because of the pass-rush ability.

4. How can the Redskins pull off the upset?

By playing darn near perfect and being aggressive. Can they do that? Well, that's what they have to do. Jason Campbell will be pressured in the pocket; he can't turn the ball over like against the Patriots. But the Cowboys' secondary is suspect in coverage so he must be aggressive in testing them. They can't pull off this upset by sticking to the ground game. They rushed the heck out of the ball at the end of last season and went 2-5. Minus Sean Taylor, they'll need to score more to win.

5. Can Pierson Prioleau hold up at safety?

I love Prioleu – as a third safety. I've never been enamored of him in coverage, especially deep. Now, few safeties are like Taylor in terms of athleticism. But Prioleau especially does not excel in a deep coverage role in part because of that athleticism, or lack thereof. The Redskins likely will have him line up very deep like last week, ensuring no one gets behind him (they used this tactic last week in part because they did not think the Eagles would be patient enough to sustain drives. It mostly worked).

6. Who else must play better defensively?

Well, pretty much everyone. The corners have to hold up against a very good receiving corps, led by, of course, Terrell Owens. But the guy who must show up is Rocky McIntosh. He hasn't played as well lately and I'm starting to wonder about his thought process on the field. Last week, he botched the Brian Westbrook backside pitch for a touchdown by making the wrong read and decision. McIntosh's poor decision-making can't be exposed. Another guy is end Andre Carter, who is playing Flozell Adams. Carter tends to shrivel up against mammoth guys but needs to really show up Sunday.

7. Can they stop the Dallas offense?

That would be hard to imagine. Yes, the Redskins have played very good offenses and save for one, they've done a pretty good job. They're as tested as any defense. But the problem Dallas presents is the balance because of running back Marion Barber. Focus on the passing game and Barber will have a big day. But they're going to have to stop him with their front seven, which is why it'll be good to have Marcus Washington back. He's quicker than Randall Godfrey and more powerful than Chris Wilson as a rush end. He's not a great pass rusher, but he's better and makes this defense obviously better. They have to somehow get to Tony Romo. And another guy to watch out for is Patrick Crayton, a solid No. 2. He's hurt Washington in the past.

8. Who could have a big game Sunday?

Chris Cooley. The Cowboys struggle against tight ends – Jerermy Shockey had 12 catches last week. But the problem is, Dallas can do things against Cooley that they couldn't do vs. Shockey because of the surrounding talent. Shockey had Plaxico Burress and Amani Toomer to take pressure off him. The Redskins have nobody like that. It would help if Moss got into a good rhythm early with Jason Campbell.

9. What's the other big worry?

Dallas' 3-4 front. The Redskins have played against several such fronts already this season. They won't be fooled by too much, but it's not about how they use guys, it's about who's coming. They'll obviously pay a great deal of attention to DeMarcus Ware, but the guy who could have a big game is Greg Ellis on the other side. The Redskins can match Chris Samuels against Ware, but who will handle Ellis? They'll have to double him, but that hasn't always worked. And Mike Sellers has shown that in one-on-one blocking as a TE, he's not all that great. What Dallas should do is make Sellers make a choice. He's best used as a lead blocker who zeroes in on one target. The more choices he has to make, the better it is for the defense.

10. Who will win?

The Redskins really, really need to get a win to regain the momentum they had earlier in the season. But in all honesty, next week's game against Tampa Bay might be bigger because it's a team they're closer to in ability not to mention playoff standing. Washington has won before in Dallas as a double-digit dog – two years ago and also as a 17-point underdog in 1995. But it's too much to ask. The Redskins need to have all their playmakers available for such a win and missing Taylor won't help. Dallas is simply playing better right now. Cowboys 30, Redskins 13.


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