At the start of the season many pundits expected Washington to have nothing to play for in Week 17, and they were right. What they didn’t expect was for that to be because Washington wrapped up the NFC East and the #4 seed in the playoffs in week 16. Even fewer expected to see Kellen Moore as the starting QB for the Dallas Cowboys. At halftime versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in week 7 things were looking bleak for Washington, down 24-7 and staring 2-5 in the face. After the half, something had changed for the Redskins, and particularly for their, then, embattled QB. Kirk Cousins has been a different player since then, propelling himself towards franchise QB status and a lucrative contract as a free agent at the end of the season. At 8-7 and preparing to host a playoff game, few in DC are still calling for Colt McCoy! Dallas would however, probably love to try out McCoy at the QB position, starting their 4th QB this season following the injury to Tony Romo and the poor play of Brandon Weeden (since cut) and Matt Schaub (since benched). Stephen Jones confirmed to the media this week that HC Jason Garrett is safe for 2016 but it is probably fair to say that he is on notice and anything short of the playoffs will likely end in his departure.
Keys to the Game
- How much do Washington’s starters play? As mentioned above, the Redskins are locked into the #4 seed in the NFC regardless of results this week so have nothing to play for outside of momentum. Jay Gruden will surely want to avenge the earlier season defeat to Dallas and to keep spirits high in the camp but it would not be a surprise to see stars such as Cousins, DeSean Jackson and Jordan Reed on the sidelines in the second half.
- Can Dallas get any production in the passing game? If it wasn’t bad enough that the team is starting Kellen Moore – who failed to lead a TD drive and passed for less than 200 yards on 13 of 31 last week – their passing game will again be missing Des Bryant, placed on IR this week with a foot injury. Don’t expect an aerial explosion this week from the Cowboys.
- A silver lining of sorts for Dallas? In particular for Darren McFadden, who needs just 3 yards to surpass 1000 yards rushing for just the second time in his career, and a landmark the vaunted Cowboys line will be keen to see him surpass.
Matchup to Watch
Dallas DE Greg Hardy vs Washington LT Trent Williams
Hardy is playing for his NFL future, and not just in Dallas. Signed amidst the hoopla of his reinstatement following a domestic violence suspension, Hardy has not delivered the expected on field production while proving a disruptive figure in the locker room. The Cowboys will likely move on after the season and Hardy will be anxious to show evaluators around the league that his talent warrants another chance but putting in a strong display against one of the league’s elite Tackles.
I struggle to see how Dallas scores points this week and fully expect Washington to have this game under control by halftime before resting starters. The Cowboys will make it closer in the second half but it would be a shock to see anything but a Redskins victory.