Dallas Cowboys

Thanksgiving Preview: Redskins vs. Cowboys

The Washington Redskins (6-3-1) will travel to AT&T Stadium for a Thanksgiving showdown against the Dallas Cowboys (9-1). Earlier this year, the two teams faced off at FedEx Field, where the Cowboys earned their first win of the season, 27-23.

Previous Matchup

In Week 2, the Redskins held Cowboys QB Dak Prescott without a passing touchdown. Their defensive problems occurred against the ground game, which has proven to be one of Dallas’ strengths. Star rookie RB Ezekiel Elliott, an Ohio State product, rushed for 83 yards on 21 carries and a touchdown in the game while veteran RB Alfred Morris added another score that ended up being the game-winner. Prescott also found the end zone on his lone rush, a six-yard score.

Redskins’ Keys to Victory

-Kirk Cousins needs to continue his hot streak. In a “prove me” year, Cousins has been spectacular. He has thrown for at least 250 yards in all but one game and has already eclipsed the 3,000-yard mark with six weeks to go. Against Dallas in Week 2, he ripped them for 364 passing yards and a touchdown. He’ll look to continue his success Thursday.

-Find the run game. Washington has found a gem in rookie RB Rob “Fat Rob” Kelley, who has proven himself and taken the starting job from RB Matt Jones. Kelley has had 85+ rushing yards in all of his starts, including 137 and three scores last week against the Green Bay Packers. For his career, Kelley is averaging 5.0 (!) yards per carry. He’ll have a tough matchup Thursday against Dallas’ 3rd-ranked rush defense.

-Finish in the Red Zone. This has been Washington’s Achilles’ heel all season long. They rank 4th in the NFL  in red zone scoring attempts per game at 4.1, but rank 28th in the league in touchdown scoring percentage at just over 43%. They have to capitalize inside the 20 if they hope to take down Dallas and make a push toward the playoffs.

-Contain Ezekiel Elliott. This one is the most obvious, and most important key for the Redskins. Their rush defense currently ranks 22nd in the NFL, so they will need to make some adjustments against the MVP candidate running back. The Redskins also need to get some pressure on Dak Prescott early. Make him uncomfortable and force the rookie into some ill-advised throws.

Dallas’ Keys to Victory

-Pass defense. They have to find a way to get Kirk Cousins out of rhythm or they could be in for a long evening. Dallas’ pass defense currently ranks 21st in the NFL, giving up 264 passing yards per game to go along with an average QBR of 99.3. That will have to change if they hope to stop Washington’s high-power offense.

-Make Dak comfortable. Prescott is potentially having the best season that any rookie QB has ever had. He’s led his team to a 9-1 record through Week 11 and he’s thrown only two interceptions the entire year. Give him some short, quick throws early in the game to get him comfortable and in rhythm.

-Get Zeke going. Ezekiel Elliott is looking like the MVP of the league this year (aside from his offensive line). He has five 100+ yard rushing games this year and he’s already surpassed 1,000 yards for the season (did so in Week 10 against the Pittsburgh Steelers). He’s been the backbone of this Dallas offense and don’t expect that to change against Washington.

Analysis

In a pivotal game for the Redskins, this is almost a must-win if they hope to make the playoffs. They currently sit 3rd in the NFC East at 6-3-1 and hold the last wildcard spot. If they win this game, it will greatly improve their chances of making the playoffs and even move them into a position to win the division for the second straight year if Dallas slips up.

Dallas is 9-1 and in 1st place in the NFC East and in the NFC Conference as a whole. A playoff berth is almost inevitable the way that they’re playing, but they must be careful. The Giants and the Redskins are both playing great football this season and either one could potentially snatch the division from their hands if they drop a few games in the homestretch.

Bold Prediction

The Redskins are playing possibly the best football that they have all year. They started off slow, but they’re hitting their strides and will give Dallas all they can handle. I think that they will find a way to contain Ezekiel Elliott, and Kirk Cousins is going to do what he does best. He will throw for 350+ passing yards again, but this time for three scores as well and the defense will hold Zeke under 100 rushing yards.

The game is set for Thursday Nov. 24th at 4:30 p.m. EST.

Score: Redskins 31, Dallas 27

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