Cowboys – Redskins, 3 Keys To Watch For

The Cowboys and Redskins re-new their fierce rivalry on Sunday. (AP Photo)

The Cowboys and Redskins re-new their fierce rivalry on Sunday. (AP Photo)

With first place on the line in the NFC East the Dallas Cowboys are home at AT&T Stadium against the Washington Redskins on Sunday. The Cowboys and Redskins are two bitter rivals and the fireworks in this one should be fun to watch.

The Cowboys (2-3) are coming off a heartbreakingly close 51-48 loss to the Denver Broncos. Tony Romo had a huge day, passing for 506 yards and 5 touchdowns but a late interception allowed Denver to kick a game winning field goal.

The Redskins (1-3) were on a bye week last Sunday which came at a perfect time as they’ve had a myriad of injuries and should be much healthier and rested coming into this contest. Washington has struggled out of the gate, something which wasn’t forecast for this team prior to the season starting. Sunday marks a big game for them to a chance to right the ship.

Series History: The two teams have met 105 times in the past in both the regular season and playoffs with Dallas holding a 62-41-2 advantage. The last meeting was won by Washington 38-31 in D.C. as RGIII threw for four touchdowns to four different receivers and 311 yards.

Here is a look at three of the key matchups to watch for on Sunday from a Dallas perspective:

Dallas Passing Game Has To Repeat: Tony Romo shredded the Denver Broncos on Sunday and against a Redskins team struggling to defend the pass, he needs to do it again.

The Cowboys attacked all the vulnerable spots in the Broncos secondary last week, and with Miles Austin back in the fold, they should have plenty of options to pick from in their passing attack. Jason Witten should once again be a big target, Witten has traditionally played well against Washington and they’ve had issues covering tight ends.

The key for the Redskins is bringing pressure to relieve a weak secondary and with Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan they can pressure the QB with help from Barry Cofield. The Cowboys Tyron Smith and Doug Free will be tasked with keeping Romo upright against them. This is the biggest matchup for Dallas, they win this one and they’re in great shape against a team giving up 9.2 yards per pass attempt.

Look for Romo to attack rookie corner Josh Wilson who has struggled thus far this season. Wilson has played both right corner and the slot and if the Cowboys can single up Austin or Terrence Williams on him, it is a mismatch they’re looking for.

Control First Down: The Redskins like to run the ball with Alfred Morris and wear teams down. Morris isn’t the type to have highlight reel runs ala Adrian Peterson, but he’s a tough, downhill runner who loves contact.

With a team struggling on both sides of the ball, getting successful runs of first down opens up the entire playbook and makes play-calling much easier. Stopping Morris is even more key for Dallas since Robert Griffin is still not 100 percent physically.

RGIII hasn’t been able to run the ball effectively this season on his surgically repaired knee and has only managed 72 yards rushing with 21 of them on a single play. Dallas needs to hit Morris before he gets going and fill the gaps.

Washington will attempt to run the ball to left behind offensive linemen Trent Williams and Kory Lichtensteiger their two best offensive linemen. Williams and Dallas defensive end DeMarcus Ware should be a good battle to watch. Williams has done well in past meetings and Ware will be looking to counter.

Running behind these two, Washington is averaging over six yards per carry. If Dallas disrupts this flow, it will put the Redskin offense in second and long situations, which puts added stress on an already struggling offense.

Win the Turnover Battle: This is always a big part of the Washington games as each team will be looking to not only create but limit turnovers to aid defenses that are struggling. And it may only take one at a key time to turn this game.

Look no farther than the Denver game last week, with neither team being able to stop the other, Denver blinked first with Peyton Manning throwing a bad interception that allowed a Cowboys’ score to seemingly take control of the game. However, with the ball and under two minutes to go, Dallas turned it over which allowed the Broncos to kick a game winning field goal.

This one figures to be a high scoring affair, and RGIII has thrown four interceptions in the first four games, so the Cowboys defense, which has struggled as well against the pass will be looking to turn the tide by forcing one or two.

Prediction: Dallas could be in for an emotional letdown after letting a big one slip away last week against Denver, but there shouldn’t be any looking past their old rivals who beat them twice last season.

Dallas is the more talented team and is playing at home, look for the tight ends Jason Witten for Dallas and Logan Paulsen with Jordan Reed to play big parts in this game. In the end Romo and the Cowboys should hold serve in a shootout. Dallas 38-30

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