Archrivals renew acquaintances with first place in the NFC East on the line
The Dallas Cowboys (3-3) and Washington Redskins (3-2) are both coming off their third win of the season. The Cowboys, however, took a much more dominant approach against the Jacksonville Jaguars during a 40-7 home victory.
This will be the first divisional game for the Redskins as they come off a 23-17 Week 6 victory over the Carolina Panthers. It was tough for starting quarterback Alex Smith to find consistent yardage through the air (4.53 yards per pass attempt). But he did manage to throw two touchdown passes with no interceptions.
Dallas has been even better limiting the success of opponents’ air yardage. They’re only giving up 224.5 yards per game, which is good for No. 8 in the NFL. That should make things interesting as they try to build on last week’s impressive performance.
Dallas at Washington
Kickoff: Sunday, Oct. 21 at 4:25 p.m. ET
Spread: Washington -1
Three Things to Watch
1. Dallas on the road
As it sits right now, the Cowboys have a .500 record as we approach the halfway point in the season. The issue for them has been the abnormal splits between home and away. All three of the team’s victories have come at AT&T Stadium, while all three losses have been on the road.
The Cowboys haven’t scored more than 16 points on the road this season, but they haven’t scored fewer than 20 at home. That should make things interesting as they travel to FedEx Field for Week 7. Can they start to improve on those splits?
The good news for Cowboys fans would be the dud that the Redskins dropped at home back in Week 2 against the Indianapolis Colts. The offense was only able to put up nine points in that game. The defense gave up 21, but they did limit Indianapolis to only 281 total yards on 60 plays.
2. Adrian Peterson’s health
Don’t look now, but Peterson is currently ranked No. 15 in the league in rushing yards (339). He’s also coming off a 17-carry, 97-yard performance during the team’s 23-17 win over the Panthers last week.
With that said, the future Hall of Famer is still dealing with ankle and shoulder injuries that have limited his participation in practice. He seemed in worse shape heading into last weekend, however, so it’s looking likely that he’ll suit up.
It’ll be even more important for Peterson to be on the field if fellow running back Chris Thompson (ribs/knee) is forced to miss his second consecutive game. His status for Sunday is looking a lot grimmer at the moment.
3. Redskins' front seven vs. Cowboys' rushing attack
Ezekiel Elliott has found success early and often against the Redskins during his career. In three games, he’s carried the ball 74 times for 350 yards (4.7 yards per carry) and five touchdowns.
There’s good news for the Redskins, however. Of Elliott’s eight career fumbles, three of them have come against Washington. That's an absurd percentage if you think about it.
Washington has seen more improvement against the run than any other team in the NFL. In 2017, the Redskins were dead last (134.1 yards per game). This season, they’re currently ranked No. 6, giving up only 90.2 yards per game.
That improvement has a lot to do with the additions of Jonathan Allen and Da’Ron Payne. Outside of edge rusher Pernell McPhee, the two former Alabama standouts have the highest run-stopping grade on the team, according to Pro Football Focus.
Dallas exited Week 6 looking like one of the top teams in the NFL after its dominant performance against the Jaguars. The Cowboys still haven’t proven that they can go on the road and play to that level, however.
The line on this game essentially makes it a pick 'em, which is exactly why the Redskins are so appealing. The offense must avoid coming out flat like it did against the Colts earlier in the season. If Washington is sharp out of the gate, this game shouldn’t prove to be overly difficult.
One area where Washington will need to capitalize is in the red zone. The Cowboys are ranked No. 4 in the NFL (41.18 percent) in red zone defense.
The Redskins, on the other hand, are only averaging 3.2 trips to the red zone per week, according to TeamRankings.com. That means they’ll need to take advantage of at least a couple of those opportunities if they want to land a divisional win on Sunday.
Prediction: Redskins 23, Cowboys 17
— Written by Clint Lamb, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @ClintRLamb.