Turkey, stuffing, and a divisional rivalry game on Thanksgiving, could it get any better than this? Once one considers the storylines and match-ups for this game, it only gets better. Washington and rookie sensation Robert Griffin III travels to Dallas to take on a Cowboys team with momentum heading into this huge week 12 grudge match. It is Griffin’s first game returning to his home state, and he faces Tony Romo, who is playing lights out football, throwing for 4 touchdowns and no interceptions in the last 3 games, after recording 13 picks in the first 7 games.
Cowboys Offense vs. Redskins Defense
Tony Romo and Dez Bryant chose the right time to finally get on track. Romo has stepped up in the absence of a consistent rushing attack, and Dez Bryant is focused and playing his best football this season. Bryant and Romo stand out as some of the few success stories in the wake of the Cowboys overtime win against the Browns, in which they gave up seven sacks in a long physical game. The Dallas offensive line struggled against a less than elite pass rush of Cleveland, and this week they face a Redskins defensive line that is playing well despite missing their key pass rusher Brian Orakpo. In Orakpo’s absence, Barry Cofield, Stephen Bowen, and Ryan Kerrigan have stepped up to become the pass rush specialists for Washington. Nose tackle Cofield is coming off his best game against the Eagles, and is facing a suspect backup center in Ryan Cook. Kerrigan is also facing a backup, as Cowboys left tackle Tyron Smith is out and 3rd year player Jermey Parnell will get the start. Jason Garret will have a tough job ahead of him, managing a weakened offensive line with difficult questions at running back. Starter Demarco Murray is doubtful to play, and backup Felix Jones is questionable. With Murray and Jones out, it leaves unknown Phillip Tanner to tote the rock against Washington’s 7th ranked rush defense. In the Cowboys favor is Romo’s undefeated record on Thanksgiving, 5-0, and he is typically amazing in November. Romo is facing a much-maligned Redskins secondary, 29th in the NFL. The Redskins received a small performance bump from safety Brandon Meriweather last week, only to see him go down with a torn ACL. Cornerback Deangelo Hall leads the team with 3 interceptions, yet is victimized as often as the rest of the Redskins secondary. Kevin Ogletree will be out for Dallas, leaving starters Bryant and Miles Austin the lone receivers to stretch the field in a great match-up for the Dallas wide outs. Tight end Jason Witten will be critical in this game. With 40 receptions in the last 4 weeks, Witten is Romo’s favorite target, and he will need to provide open outlets for Romo to check down and avoid pressure. The Redskins have no one in their linebackers or safeties that match well with Witten. The Redskins will attempt to get pressure while playing two deep shell coverage, not fearing the Cowboys running game. Look for the Cowboys to test their updated rushing attack early, but Romo and his weapons will dictate the success of the Cowboys.
Redskins Offense vs. Cowboys Defense
Can you say R…G…3! Robert Griffin III is coming off a single incompletion game where he became the first person to throw for 200 and 4 touchdowns and run for more than 75 yards. Griffin and Alfred Morris are the reason behind the Redskins 2nd ranked running game. The Redskins offense focuses around a triple option scheme that works play action more than any other team in the league. This combination of success rushing the ball, and the quick option play action causing defenders to bite in anticipation of their potent running game, has resulted in an offense ranked 10th in the NFL in scoring. The Cowboy’s 13th ranked rushing defense has a difficult task ahead of them, containing Morris and Griffin will be about staying disciplined, and not biting on fakes to their assigned men. Demarcus Ware is having another All-Pro season, with 10 sacks already this year. This week Ware faces disgruntling Redskins left tackle Trent Williams in one of the most critical matches of this contest. Griffin is most successful throwing from the pocket. When flushed out of the pocket, Griffin tends to check down or scramble. If Ware and opposing outside linebacker Anthony Spencer can pressure Griffin, it will ease the stress on a secondary torched last week by underwhelming rookie Brandon Weeden. The Cowboys are dealing with safety problems as Danny McCray will be inactive, and the Redskins may look to take advantage with deep crossing routes to Santana Moss and Josh Morgan. Morgan leads the team in receptions (32), despite not seeing the end zone yet this year. It will be up to Cowboys corners Brandon Carr and rookie Morris Claiborne to play up to the situation, and contain RG3 and the Redskins recievers. The Cowboys defense is better than it played last week, and has been tough against opposing passers, 6th in the league. Look for the Redskins to attempt to run the ball right through the center of this Dallas defense, while working play action deep to abuse the weakened Cowboy safeties.