Three to Focus on: Cowboys @ Redskins, Week 11

| November 18, 2011

This ancient NFC East rivalry continues this week at FedEx field with the Dallas Cowboys looking capable of winning the division and the Washington Redskins once again the bottom-dweller. While the Cowboy’s 5-4 record makes it seem likely that they’ll beat the 3-6 Redskins, these two squads play each other tough more often than not, so an opposite result wouldn’t be too surprising.

This game is actually a rematch of the close 18-16 Cowboys win over the Redskins in Week 3 on Monday Night Football. In that contest, QB Tony Romo was playing just a week after suffering a rib injury and, while unable to get in the end zone, was able to lead six field-goal drives which proved to be just enough to give their arch rivals their first loss of the season. Rex Grossman had been solid for Washington up to that point despite having turnovers in the first two games, but two more giveaways in that one proved too costly. The Redskins have only won once since, and that was against the struggling St. Louis Rams.

Romo, far removed from that Week 2 injury, has been solid recently – as has their running game. With rookie DeMarco Murray shining since being given the opportunity, Dallas’ 44-7 beat down of the legitimate Buffalo Bills last week exemplifies their recent success. The Redskins’ once-potent running game has been MIA for over a month and Grossman is still Grossman, prone to turnovers, as the Redskins’ 20-9 loss to the previously one-win Miami Dolphins last week accurately reflects. Romo hasn’t quite shaken his reputation for giving the ball up, though, and this should be a close divisional fistfight.

 

Ryan Kerrigan vs. Tyron Smith

Two promising rookies will go head-to-head in this contest: OLB Ryan Kerrigan and RT Tyron Smith. Smith has been solid in pass protection, with only two negatively graded performances so far this year; however, one of those games was the Week 3 game vs. the Redskins, where Kerrigan beat him for four QB pressures. Kerrigan has had four games where he graded negatively in pass rushing, but still has a respectable six sacks, five QB hits, and a further 21 pressures. He also has shown the ability to make the most of sacks, forcing four QB fumbles, including two last week and one coming in that Week 3 game when the Cowboys tried to block him with TE John Phillips. These two young rising stars should have a fierce battle this Sunday.

 

Dez Bryant vs. DeAngelo Hall

The talkative DeAngelo Hall comes into this game having given up 38 of 50 passes thrown his way for 539 yards (180 after the catch) and a TD (given up to Larry Fitzgerald), while also compiling a pick and defending four passes. Hall will line up across from Second year  WR Dez Bryant throughout the day. Bryant has caught 32 of 50 passes thrown to him, 5 TDs with one drop and one fumble while forcing eight missed tackles. When these two met back in Week 3, Bryant clearly won that matchup, catching all four passes thrown against Hall’s coverage for 63 yards, including 33 yards after the catch and the much-discussed 30-yard catch on 3rd-and-21 late in that game. Hall no doubt remembers this, and while he hasn’t lived up to his Pro Bowl reputation this year, he is very capable of making game changing plays. Bryant, while clearly a beast, still has injury and conditioning concerns. This matchup will be one of the more focused on parts of this game.

 

Rex vs. Romo

While Romo has been playing well, let’s not forget that, like Grossman, he’s still a “double-agent”; the Week 1 and Week 4 collapses against the New York Jets and the Detroit Lions are just the most recent examples. Romo’s passer rating drops from 106.8 to 73.6 when he’s pressured, and the Redskins have proven very capable of getting after the QB. Meanwhile, Grossman’s 78.9 passer rating falls to 39.9 when the pressure gets there, which is problematic because the Cowboys are also great at pass-rushing. In their last meeting, both QBs threw a pick and fumbled, with the difference being Romo recovered his fumble while Grossman did not. Both QBs are capable of piling up yards, but the one who displays better ball security will likely come out on top.

 

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