Neither the Dallas Cowboys nor Washington Redskins got off to the start that they had hoped for in the 2016 NFL season, both suffering losses in Week 1. The division rivals will meet on Sunday in Week 2, with the loser taking sole possession of last place in the NFC East.
Dallas came close to winning the season opener, but time ran out during the game’s final drive as the Cowboys lost to the New York Giants by one point. Washington wasn’t nearly as competitive in defeat, losing 38-16 at home to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first “Monday Night Football” game of the year.
The Redskins looked nothing like the team that won the division a year ago. After leading the league in completion percentage for the 2015 season, Kirk Cousins looked much more like the quarterback that was a mediocre backup for the first three years of his career, throwing two interceptions and no touchdown passes. Washington’s defense wasn’t any better, allowing the most points of any NFC team.
Washington might not have the same success that they did in 2015, but they are better than what they showed on Monday. Instead of facing a legitimate Super Bowl contender and their future Hall-of-Fame quarterback, the Redskins welcome in a team led by a rookie quarterback, who’ll be making his first ever start on the road.
Following a brilliant preseason, Dak Prescott was ordinary in his regular-season debut. Tony Romo’s replacement managed the game well enough for Dallas to nearly win, but a closer look at his numbers indicates that the Cowboys could be in trouble if they have to rely on him to make big plays.
Prescott didn’t throw an interception, and he engineered five scoring drives. But he had trouble getting the Cowboys into the end zone, leading his only touchdown drive when the offense began their series in Giants’ territory because of an interception. Prescott averaged five yards per pass attempt, completing just two of his 10 passes that were thrown more than 15 yards downfield.
Head coach Jason Garrett didn’t ask much of Prescott in Week 1 because the Cowboys took an early lead, but the quarterback will be forced to lead more of a vertical offensive attack if Dallas falls behind. Playing his first ever meaningful game on the road, Prescott might not be up to the task.
Ben Roethlisberger threw touchdown passes of 26 and 29 yards against Washington, utilizing the NFL’s best wide receiver. Playing in his second game ever, Prescott might not have that in him just yet.
While Prescott’s numbers are likely to regress in Week 2, it’s hard to believe that Cousins won’t improve on Monday’s performance. He might not be worth the nearly $20 million that he’s making this season, but the quarterback is better than what he showed against Pittsburgh, especially at FedEx Field.
Cousins completed 74.7 percent of his passes at home in 2015, giving him the best single-season mark in NFL history. Throwing two interceptions in 43 tries against the Steelers, Cousins was picked off on just two of his 257 pass attempts at home in 2015. In two games against the Cowboys last year, Cousins completed 74 percent of his passes for four scores and no interceptions.
Washington is a three-point home favorite at Las Vegas and online sportsbooks, via OddsShark, meaning the betting odds would be even on a neutral field. The over/under is 45.5 points.
Prediction: Washington over Dallas, 27-16