Cowboys and Redskins Analysis: This one Comes Down to Turnovers

Round 1 went to RG3.

Round 1 went to RG3.

It’s all on the line Sunday night when the Cowboys play at Washington to determine the NFC East Champion. These teams met back on Thanksgiving Day and the Redskins spoiled the turkey for Dallas as they exploded for 28 points in the 2nd quarter and held on to win 38-31. Romo had a huge second half finishing with 441 yards passing, but the Cowboys just fell short.

Obviously one key of the game for Dallas will be get off to a quicker start in order to quiet the Redskin home crowd a little and prevent the explosion of points.

I expect that Sunday night’s game will have a playoff game feel to it as Dallas will be eliminated if they lose and while the Redskins could still make the post season with a loss, it would require help that they aren’t likely to get. In playoff games, turnovers usually play a big role in determining the winners.

Give away/take away
So far this season the Redskins have a plus 14 margin in give away/take away which puts them at the top of the NFC in that category only behind the Bears who have a plus 16. Dallas has struggled in this area and while it has improved late in the season, they still have a minus 10 margin in give away/take away. It puts them toward the bottom of the NFC in this important category.

The Redskins have been excellent at taking care of the ball as they only have 14 turnovers (fumbles and interceptions combined) this season. That is the least amount of turnovers of any team in the NFL!

For Dallas to win in Washington, their defense and/or special teams must come up with at least a couple turnovers while Romo and the offense can not afford to give the ball away. It has not been a strength for them this season but to beat a good team on the road, they will have to find a way to get turnovers.

On Thanksgiving Day, the Cowboys had 3 turnovers (2 INTs and 1 fumble) while the Redskins had only one INT. The Redskins had a plus 2 advantage in turnovers that game and they won.

Panthers Beat Redskins on November 4:
The last time a team beat this hot Redskin team was on November 4 when the Carolina Panthers went to D.C. and came out with a 21-13 win. How did they do it?

-Neither the Redskins or Panthers had turnovers in that game so no turnover advantage for the Redskins in that one.
-The Panthers sacked RG3 four times that game. Dallas had 3 sacks last time they met and will need to pressure RG3 again.
-The Panthers were able to run the ball effectively for more than 100 yards which most teams have not been able to do against the Redskin defense that has been only allowing 95 yards rushing/game. That is 5th best in the NFL.

Last time, the Cowboys only rushed the ball for 29 yards as they were without DeMarco Murray who was injured. And once they fell so far behind, they were forced into all passing. They were also without their starting LT Smith and their starting center too. All are expected to play this time. It should help the run game.

Keys to Dallas winning the game:
Turnovers: The Cowboys can not afford to let the Redskins have a turnover margin advantage.
Rushing: With Murray playing this game, the Cowboys will need to have a much better effort rushing the ball and avoid putting it all on Romo. The Panthers were effective at running draws and delays against the Redskins.
Pressure: Like the Panthers did in their win, the Cowboys must sack and consistently pressure RG3.
Big Plays: On Thanksgiving, the Cowboy secondary allowed long pass plays in that disastrous 2nd quarter. The safeties can not allow Redskin receivers to get behind them ever. As they found out, RG can throw it a mile.

The Redskins are favored in this game and with good reason. They whipped Dallas last time and have not been beaten since then either. To have a chance at winning this one, Dallas will have to come out on top of the turnover margin, have success running the ball, and sack RG3. Also avoid the long back breaking pass plays with blown coverage.

Everyone of these areas have been a weakness for the Cowboys all season. But they just need to put it all together for 60 minutes Sunday night.