1. Are the players intense about this rivalry?
Some are. Chris Samuels despises Dallas, which he has let everyone know since he arrived in 2000. But it is not a universal feeling in the locker room. Clinton Portis calls this just another game. They understand what it means to the fans; they just don't share the hatred. There's a couple reasons: so many players change teams that they don't stick around long enough to work up a good hate for another team; also, the Redskins and Cowboys rivalry grew because the teams both were good in the 1970s and ‘80s, but Washington's inconsistency has decreased the national importance of these games. If they can win today, that could start to change.
2. Is Dallas really 11 points better than the Redskins?
Or, rather, should they be 11-point favorites? Well, probably yes. The Cowboys have looked darned explosive and already have won twice on the road. Granted, Cleveland isn't playing well but the Browns were 7-1 at home last year and were never in the game. And Dallas won at Green Bay. Despite the showing vs. Philly, it's not just the offense. The defense has a batch of playmakers as well. So while the Redskins have had two nice wins at home; the Cowboys simply have been the most impressive team in the league. It's not hard to understand why they're double-digit favorites. Just as they have been in other games where … the Redskins beat them.
3. Where is Dallas better defensively?
OK, let's hold off on their offense for a moment. Defensively, the Cowboys' corners are much improved, with Terence Newman, Anthony Henry and Adam Jones. They can match up with most receivers in the league. Also, while some wonder about Zach Thomas' effectiveness, those who are around Dallas on a daily basis say Thomas has played very well.
4. Where can they be exploited?
Deep down the middle of the field. Safety Ken Hamlin can be beaten and the Redskins will have to attack this area. Philly did with success. Dallas has allowed two wideouts to have more than 100 yards receiving so the opportunities are there, especially if their line can't get to the quarterback.
5. What must Washington do offensively?
A few things, starting with controlling the ball. That does not mean always running the ball. The West Coast offense is about treating passes like runs, so quick throws will be in the offing as well. But you don't beat Dallas just by controlling the ball; you win by scoring and not kicking field goals. So they have to take some shots. The Cowboys apply a lot of pressure, which means Washington must tame their aggressiveness. They did this last weekend by using lots of misdirection, end arounds and rollouts. Look for more of the same. They need to give the outside backers a moment's pause to buy Jason Campbell some time. Also, it would be=2 0nice to see the running game a little more diverse. Washington has been too left-handed in its ground game; the Redskins need to be a little more balanced. Maybe they'll trust Jon Jansen on the right side more than Stephon Heyer.
6. The biggest matchup offensively?
Gotta be OLB DeMarcus Ware vs. LT Chris Samuels. Despite what Jim Zorn says, Samuels has made his name – and money -- as a pass-blocker. But Ware got him for two sacks last year. Samuels needs a strong game so they can give Jon Jansen help on the right side and allow Chris Cooley to run routes and not block.
7. Can they stop Tony Romo?
That will be hard, but not impossible. Romo does have three interceptions as he will still force plays. He's not compared to Brett Favre for no reason. But Romo has done a better job in the pocket at not moving up too far; he did that in the past and would run right into a sack or other trouble. And the problem with stopping Romo is that to do so leaves you vulnerable in other ways. Look at the talent in that passing game – T.O.; Jason Witten. The corners and safeties MUST have strong games in coverage, giving the rush more time to reach Romo. And, yes, Shawn Springs will cover Owens every chance he gets.
8. What is most scary about this offense?
The balance. First off, Owens only has 10 catches in three games (and three touchdowns). They've scored 32 points a game without a huge game from him. Felix Jones adds game-br eaking speed as a complementary back. Marion Barber is an underrated power back, running behind a big line. The Redskins must make Dallas one-dimensional if it wants a chance to win.
9. Will they miss Jason Taylor?
On third downs, yes. Taylor's speed would have given RT Marc Colombo fits. People in Dallas still joke that Colombo is why Drew Bledsoe lost his job. Don't think it's that simple, but we digress. Taylor's backside pursuit against the run will be missed. But it's not like he's made a ton of plays in the first three games. Demetric Evans is a capable backup and probably more stout vs. the run. So that's not a huge concern. However, nickel end Chris Wilson is so small that if Dallas runs when he's in there, he'll get driven back 10 yards each time. Just as Arizona did last week. That is a concern.
10. Will they win?
The Redskins played Dallas very well in Texas last year, losing 28-23 despite four touchdowns from Owens. Jason Campbell's late interception sealed their fate. Campbell is playing better, but we fear Dallas harassing him into more mistakes than he's made this season. If he has time he can hurt the Cowboys' secondary. But the Redskins have to play exceptionally well to win. It's hard to imagine that happening right now. Cowboys 31, Redskins 20.
John Keim covers the Redskins for the Washington Examiner and is a contributing editor for Warpathinsiders.com. He has covered the team since 1994. Some of his other stories can be found at dcexaminer.com
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