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Redskins Need Win Against The Cowboys To Stay in the Playoff Hunt

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The mere mention of playoffs may have many of you imagining the infamous clip of Jim Mora scornfully mocking the press with, “What’s that? Ah – Playoffs? Don’t talk about – playoffs? You kidding me? Playoffs? I just hope we can win a game!” After all, Mora’s Colts were 4-6 at the time and not in that dissimilar a position to the (5-6) Washington Redskins; or their opponents, the (5-6) Dallas Cowboys for that matter. Regardless of the improbability, that is still the scenario for the two beleaguered teams as they head into this week’s Thursday Night matchup. In the Redskins odds for the next game, bookmakers have Washington favored ever so slightly. A win for either team will keep them mathematically in line for a Wild Card spot, while a loss would all but drive the final nail into the coffin.

That kind of make-or-break situation will only add to the already tense rivalry between the two teams. Two disenchanted franchises that come into the game… disappointed.

The Cowboys were expected to be front runners of the NFC East after a strong performance in 2016. Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott posted gaudy numbers last season. However, a Dallas loss to the Redskins tomorrow will actually guarantee the Philadelphia Eagles the NFC East title. The Eagles are 10-1, and a Cowboys loss would put the Eagles too far ahead to be caught over the last four weeks of the season. The Redskins can’t catch the Eagles no matter what, by virtue of the tiebreaker and their two losses to them this season. The Redskins can finish 10-6 at best if they run out the table, but the Eagles would have the first tie breaker even if they mysteriously lost the next five games. And that’s not going to happen anyway – right now, they’re the best team in the entire NFL.

If you’ve been under a rock, Elliott has been caught up in a legal battle for the bulk of this season. He and the Cowboys have been dancing a legal Tango of appeals, injunctions and overturns with the courts and the NFL. Currently, Zeke has served three games of his six game suspension, and apparently is somewhere in Europe. The Cowboys will be without him for a fourth consecutive game this week, and have appeared lost without him.

Nobody yearns for Zeke’s return more than Prescott, who has managed exactly zero touchdowns since the running back’s suspension started. He’s also thrown five interceptions and fumbled the ball three times in that three game span. The young quarterback’s poise seems to have gone the way of the dodo bird, but perhaps it’s from running for his life. A Cowboys squad that has only allowed Prescott to be sacked 21 times in Zeke’s 23 career NFL games, has seemingly fallen apart and allowed 14 in the last three without Elliott. That’s an eye-opening, cringe-worthy statistic.

The Redskins have the exact same problem. Cousins has been sacked more times (33) through 11 games in 2017, than in the previous two seasons combined. Washington’s woes are a little easier to put a finger on – their original 2017 offensive line doesn’t even exist anymore thanks to injuries. Stalwart tackle Trent Williams hasn’t played for weeks, and probably should be on the IR; but if they aren’t going to put him there, tomorrow would be the time to insert him into the lineup. The Cowboys have league leading sack man Demarcus Lawrence to contend with, and obviously the best tackle in football would only help the quarterback’s blind side.

The Cowboys secondary is struggling right now, and if the Redskins can keep Lawrence away from Cousins, there will be opportunities for big plays down the field.

Jamison Crowder has started coming around the last couple of weeks and is looking as dangerous in the slot as he did last year – that can be huge for the Redskins offensive attack against the Cowboys. Same goes for Josh Doctson – who has started to flash some of the tools that led the Redskins to draft him in the first round in 2016. He has 13 catches and 198 yards in his last four ganes, and perhaps more importantly, is gaining some confidence and separating from defensive backs. Cousins and the Redskins faithful will be looking to both receivers for big games if they want to hang a loss on Dallas.

Washington will also be counting on running back Samaje Perine to carry on a healthy rookie campaign. After being thrust into the starting position after season ending injuries for both Rob Kelley and Chris Thompson, Perine responded with back-to-back 100 yard games. The Redskins need to keep the running game going, if they’re to have any hope of masking how beat up their offensive line truly is.

The Cowboys will also be counting on a backup at running back – a back that Redskins fans are very familiar with – Albert Morris. Morris has quietly posted a very respectable 5.6 yards per carry this season – though that number has dropped to 4.9 since taking the starters reigns. AlMo will be facing his old squad, and it’s one that has struggled mightily against the run of late – allowing 100 yards rushing in six of the last eight games. Incidentally, Washington lost five of those six.

Add it all up, and what may appear to be a lacklustre matchup, actually has all the makings of a great game. Sure both teams are struggling, but both need a win, and both hate each other with a burning passion.

Tune in Thursday and find out which one can pull out the win, and keep their playoff aspirations alive for at least another week.

More By Mark Solway

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