"Monday Night Football" provides viewers witht the latest installment of a historic rivalry as the Washington Redskins host the Dallas Cowboys. It's a matchup that features many things we'd never thought would have been true before the season. First off, Dallas is not the first-place team in this one as we may have thought it would have been. Instead, it's a Kirk Cousins-led Redskins team that could take sole possession of the NFC East with a win tonight. Tony Romo is not the quarterback of the Cowboys, instead it is Matt Cassel who is the third player to take his turn under center.
Two of Dallas' three wins have actually come on the road in Miami and Philadelphia. Thankfully for the Redskins, this one is at home where they are 5-1 on the season. That number represents half of their victories there the last three years overall. This has been a tight series in FedEx Field with the road team winning 12 of the last 23 meetings there.
Dallas at Washington
Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. ET (Monday)
Spread: Redskins -4.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Run Redskins Run
Washington's run game has gone MIA since a fast start at the beginning of the season. It showed a brief flash of brilliance against the Saints although everyone gets fat and happy against New Orleans. Alfred Morris, Matt Jones and Chris Thompson form a real good trio of backs, but none have really been able to get much traction. Jones has had a fumbling issue while Thompson is considered to be their passing downs' guy. Dallas' run defense has been stout allowing just 106.6 yards per game on the ground. Three straight opponents have failed to get 130 yards rushing. If the Cowboys make Washington one dimensional, then they stand a better chance of hanging around.
2. Not your ordinary Cousins
Kirk Cousins has been a revelation for Washington especially at home. The Michigan State grad has thrown for over 300 yards in his last three home games. Cousins has 10 touchdowns to no interceptions in the team's wins, while he has just six TDs to 10 INTs in the team's losses. The Cowboys' secondary is not awful holding two straight opponents to less then 200 yards passing. Dallas will have to continue its solid play against TEs as Jordan Reed continues to be a threat. Reed's been healthy for the most part this year and that's given this team another dimension.
3. Start fast... don't live dangerously
We are almost to the point of the season where bad teams are ready to check out for the year. Dallas doesn't really have much of a chance in winning the division or getting a playoff spot. Matt Cassel is not going to win their final five games which include road games at Green Bay and Buffalo as well. There are combustible egos in this locker room with Greg Hardy and Dez Bryant who will not enjoy all the losing. Washington has to start fast and make this team ready to hit the bus early. If you keep an unmotivated underdog hanging around for awhile, then you have trouble on your hands.
It's still hard to believe that the Redskins would be in first place by themselves with a win in this one. They are in the rare situation where they are expected to win and beat a Cowboys team that misses Tony Romo and DeMarco Murray. Washington has been a favorite just eight times the last three years and has won five of those games outright. I think the home team gets the win, but it's going to be closer then people think. There's something about rivalry games that bring weird results even when there is a talent disparity.
Prediction: Redskins 24, Cowboys 20
— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.