The (3-8) Dallas Cowboys travel to FedEx Field to take on division-leading (5-6) Washington Redskins in what is a must-win game for Dallas and their playoff hopes, which due to the woes of the NFC East are slim but far from none (8:30pm ET Monday on ESPN).
The NFC East is the NFL’s worst division with not a single team at or above the .500 mark. Washington is tied with the NY Giants at the top with a record one game under .500. However, the Redskins are coming off of a win last week against the Giants and are as hot as any team has been in the East all season long, having won three of their last five.
The Redskins are on a five game home winning streak and have won five of their six home games all season. Additionally, the team is 2-1 against the NFC East. That’s not to mention Dallas’ injury woes and struggling offense, all of which favor the Redskins to continue their run as co-leaders or perhaps even pass the Giants as sole leaders of the division.
Washington are -3.5 point favorites on the spread with 5Dimes Sportsbook. My prediction is that they will be able to cover those points in a win. This preview’s pick is for the Redskins to get the job done at home and here’s why:
Kirk Cousins at Home
The 27-year-old Kirk Cousins (pictured) is not only having a career year but he’s having a defining one. For the first time since he was drafted by the Redskins in 2012, the same season the team took Robert Griffin III, Cousins has started more than half of the team’s regular season games. In fact, after Griffin sustained another injury last year, Cousins was promoted as starting quarterback and he hasn’t looked back. He has started every one of the team’s games this year.
In those 11 games, Cousins has completed over 68 percent of his passes, has thrown for over 2,700 yards and has 16 touchdowns. While these numbers are pretty average for an NFL QB with the exception of his NFL 2nd best completion percentage, it is at home, at FedEx Field, that Cousins has separated himself from his competition.
Cousins has a completion percentage just a few decimal points shy of 75 (74.7) when playing at home. He has 11 touchdowns to just two interceptions and 1,632 yards. His rating is 113 compared to 69.8 on the road. This follows a November trend that saw Cousins throw for over 300 yards twice and complete upwards of 80 percent twice as well including a near-perfect game against the New Orleans Saints (20-for-25, four TD, a perfect 158.3 passer rating). Cousins is only one of three quarterbacks to achieve that mark in 2015.
Dallas’ QB Situation Affects More than Just the QB
In an NFL offense, the quarterback is known as the field general. His job is to run the offense as flawlessly as possible and put them in a position to win. Quarterbacks make their receivers, their running backs better. They make the job of their linemen easier the better and more productive they can be. When the Cowboys offense is run behind Pro Bowl QB Tony Romo, Dallas is a respectable, perhaps even playoff worthy team as they have been in the past. But without him, this is an offense that continues to struggle just to put points on the board.
Matt Cassel, the second of Romo’s replacements this year, will once again be on the field as the starter. The Cowboys lost all four of Cassel’s starts and haven’t won a game behind a backup quarterback in seven tries this year.
To be fair to Cassel, all four of his losses were in close games. Against Seattle, Dallas lost by just one point, against Tampa Bay just four, against the Philadelphia Eagles just six and against the Giants just seven. There is reason to be hopeful given all of the losses were just by one score. However, in road games, Cassel has not been good at all. He has just one touchdown compared to four interceptions in his two road starts this year.
Without Romo, the whole team has suffered. Dez Bryant has seen his catches and targets drop off and the running game has also suffered given the passing game is not a legitimate threat. On the plus side for the Cowboys, Darren McFadden is in the midst of an every other week streak dating back to Cassel’s first start of the season, that would mean he’s due for big numbers against the Redskins. McFadden has rushed for over 100 yards in every other start since October 25th. Last week, he had just 11 so if the pattern holds, he’s due.
Without Romo, the Cowboys will need McFadden to be on top of his game. Fortunately for the Cowboys, McFadden matches up with the league’s fifth worst rushing defense, allowing on average, 126.6 yards per game on the ground. Meanwhile, the Redskins are the 13th best passing defense allowing just 240 yards per game through the air.
Jordan Reed Staying Healthy
According to his QB, Reed is an elite tight end. It’s a sentiment that few would argue as Reed was always considered to have the skills needed to excel at his position. His problem was always health. The third year veteran has never played more than 11 games in a season but that could change this season.
Reed has missed two contests this year, but in the nine games he has played he has been one of Cousins’ favorite weapons. Reed has a career high 55 receptions, 66 targets, 541 yards and six touchdowns on the season. He is coming off his best game in his last five, accruing a season high in yards with 98 and a 2nd high of the season in receptions with eight.
Against the Cowboys, Reed and Cousins don’t exactly have a favorable matchup as they face the league’s seventh best passing defense and eighth best overall defense. It is a far cry from last week facing the Giants’ NFL worst passing defense. That said, Reed and Cousins have gotten into a rhythm and given that Morris Claybourne will likely be tasked with keeping big play threat Desean Jackson out of the endzone, Reed might end up putting in another big day.
Our Preview’s Dallas Cowboys vs Washington Redskins Picks
- With the offense humming, the home field advantage and Dallas’ key injuries, this preview’s prediction is to take Washington and the points in Monday night’s showdown. The best betting picks option at the moment is the Redskins -3.5pts on the spread @ -110 odds with 5Dimes Sportsbook. It is -4.5pts with Bovada and -4pts (but -120) with BetOnline.
- This should be a low scoring affair as well so take the under 42 total game points with any of BetOnline, Bovada or 5Dimes sportsbooks.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB, NBA & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.