The Redskins travel to Dallas for a Thursday night with two big opportunities: Draw even on the season, and get revenge for a home loss a few weeks back. This game amounts to a prequel to the playoffs for both teams, as each squad sits at 5-6 and with slim hopes of pushing for a Wild Card spot.
A win for either team means continued life in the chase for a playoff spot. A loss, and a record of 5-7, likely spells the end of postseason aspirations.
BE SURE TO TUNE IN TO NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON+ THURSDAY AT 7 P.M. FOR A SPECIAL 30 MINUTE TRIBUTE TO THE LATE SEAN TAYLOR.
Plenty is on the line, not to mention one of the oldest and most bitter rivalries in the NFL. There is plenty to watch and take notice, but here are the three biggest to monitor:
- Running in different directions - The biggest headline in Dallas these days is the continued absence of star running back Ezekiel Elliott, who's out serving a six-game suspension. The contest against the Redskins will mark the fourth straight contest Zeke will miss, and without him, the Cowboys offense has collapsed. Dallas hasn't scored double digits in their last three contests, and has been blown out in consecutive national television contests. The Redskins, meanwhile, suddenly appear to have found their ground game. In consecutive games, rookie running back Samaje Perine has gone over the 100-yard mark, the first time that's happened in the Jay Gruden era. Washington will again look to feature Perine on the ground, and Dallas will hope that former Redskins star RB Alfred Morris can get their offense moving again.
- Better, and worse - Injuries have been a major subplot, maybe even the main plot, to the Redskins 2017 season. Stars like Chris Thompson and Jonathan Allen hit the injured reserve, and a slew of other important players have missed games. Near the top of that list would be Pro Bowlers Trent Williams and Jordan Reed. Williams, the star left tackle, looks like he will play in Dallas, good news after he missed the Thanksgiving win over the Giants. Reed, however, will miss the Cowboys game, and the whispers about his eventual return don't seem good. The star tight end hasn't played since before Halloween, and speaking to reporters, Gruden couldn't say if Reed's return would come in "one week or four weeks."
- Too good to ignore anymore - Kirk Cousins and the Redskins have weaved a curious quilt, one without any long-term commitment but plenty of guaranteed cash. Usually the conversation around Cousins talks about a QB that is good, but not great. Cousins stats in 2017 disprove that theory. Washington's sixth-year quarterback has numbers that are better than any passer in the league not named Tom Brady, Carson Wentz or Drew Brees. Don't believe it? Check the stats. The QB has an opportunity to cement his name among the top tier of the NFL if the Redskins can win out and force their way into the playoffs, especially as Cousins runs the point of an offense without deep receiving threats, an oft-injured offensive line and missing their Pro Bowl tight end. Cousins knows what is in front of him, but won't lose sight of the immediate task at hand either, "We have got to go 1-0 each week. If we do that, we do have a chance at the end of this season, but we can’t put ourselves in that position at the end of December unless we win this week. So there is really no point in looking beyond this week and that’s where I am going to focus."
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: Jay Gruden talking about Kirk Cousins' 2017 performance.
I think his progress, I mean, you would be a blind man if you don’t see him making huge strides throughout his career. So I have been impressed with Kirk [Cousins] and his progress. I just think there is so much more for him to grab as far as getting better and better. The sky is the limit for him.
News & Notes
- Vernon Davis needs 49 yards to become the ninth tight end in NFL history with 7,000 career receiving yards.
- The Redskins rank third in the NFL with less than six penalties per game.
- Zach Brown is first in the NFL and the NFC with 110 tackles.
- Kirk Cousins is first in the NFL in passing plays of 25 yards or more with 32. He ranks second in the NFL in passing yards, behind only Tom Brady.
- At 22 years old, Kendall Fuller is the youngest member of the Redskins to record at least four interceptions in a season since Sean Taylor’s four-interception season at 21 years of age in 2004.
Want more? Listen up
Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayNBCS for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcasts, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!