Washington is very familiar with their rivals to the west. However, there’s a new sheriff in town for the Cowboys: Andy Dalton, who was signed as a backup this off-season, has taken over as the new signal caller after star quarterback Dak Prescott fractured his ankle.
Dalton struggled mightily in his first start as a Cowboy turning the ball over twice in a lopsided loss to the Arizona Cardinals, 38-10. Meanwhile, Washington is coming off a nail-biting loss to the New York Giants, 20-19.
In a division that is filled with mediocrity, it’s anybody’s guess as to who will come out on top. The Washington Football Team has now lost five in a row putting them at 1-5 on the year. Luckily, the Eagles and Cowboys sit atop the division with only two wins a piece. A win this weekend will go a long way in the division standings. Fortunately, Washington is catching Dallas at just the right time.
This is a winnable game; and if Washington can execute the key fundamentals of a football game, they should be able to pull this one out.
Win the Turnover Battle
Kyle Allen has started 15 games in his career and has turned the ball over a total of 31 times. To put it in comparison, Russell Wilson has only turned the ball over eight times during that same span. Allen is coming off his best performance of the season in which he threw for 280 yards, two touchdowns, and committed one turnover. While those numbers are nothing extraordinary, it’s a vast improvement from the week before.
The Dallas Cowboys defense is bad and I mean scary bad. One reason for that is the fact that they don’t force any turnovers. Opposing offenses methodically move the ball with ease and in return are left with an energy depleted defense. The offseason-hyped defense, led by Mike Nolan, has only managed to force two turnovers on the year: one interception and one fumble, good for last in the league.
On the other side of the ball, Dallas is equally bad. Their offense leads the league in turnovers, having given it away a whopping 15 times. Ezekiel Elliott has struggled with holding onto the football this year. He accounts for five of the 15 turnovers on the season and is coming off a game in which he fumbled the rock twice — something that he had never done before in any football game at any level.
While Washington has given up plenty of big plays on the year, their defense has still shown their capability of coming up with big plays of their own. They are tied for 14th in the league with eight takeaways. Kendall Fuller has been Washington’s biggest playmaker on defense, as he is tied for the league lead in interceptions with four. Landon Collins, Jimmy Moreland, and Fabian Moreau account for the other three interceptions while Ryan Kerrigan also has a fumble recovery.
On offense, Allen should be able to keep the ball away from a bottom of the barrel Dallas defense. On the flip side Fuller should be able to nab another interception while Dalton continues to get acclimated to the offense around him.
RUN THE BALL!
Washington’s rushing attack has 493 yards on the entire year, which comes in as the worst in the league. That is not very good. The Cowboys defense has given up 1,040 yards on the ground this year, which is second-worst in the league. That — for Washington, anyway — is very good.
The offensive line for Washington has been a problem all year. Last week, struggling LG Wes Martin was replaced by rookie Saahdiq Charles. That lasted all of two snaps, as Charles fell to the ground favoring his leg. Since then, Washington has put him on IR with a dislocated knee. To make matters worse, starting LT Geron Christian is questionable to play this Sunday. However, it’s not all doom-and-gloom, as G Brandon Scherff was just activated off IR and performed considerably well in his return to action.
Regardless of who plays up front, Scott Turner must force-feed the ground game. Against Baltimore, Antonio Gibson showed that he has the burst and acceleration to accumulate chunk yardage, while J.D McKissic is also coming off a game in which he toted the ball eight times averaging over five yards per carry. The numbers aren’t eye-popping, but that’s solely because of the lack of usage. Dallas can’t stop a cold. Run. The. Ball.
Dull Dalton’s (Potential) Shine
Dalton earned the nickname “The Red Rifle” because of his fiery-red hair, but that’s not the shine that I’m referencing. I’m talking about the shine that Dalton showed during his nine-year tenure with the Cincinnati Bengals. You know… the one where he led the Bengals to four consecutive postseason berths and two division titles? Everything is big-time in the “Big D” and the Cowboys and fans alike hope that Dalton can resurrect that success from the past.
Dalton’s first start was anything but resemblant of the star on his helmet. He turned the ball over twice and threw his lone touchdown in garbage time. The Cardinals were able to tally eight hits and three sacks on Dalton, and that was without All-Pro DE Chandler Jones. Washington’s defense is a couple notches above that of the Cardinals. Therefore, Washington’s “Ferocious Five” should be salivating looking at this matchup. They rank in the top-third of the league with 16 sacks, and are facing a patchwork Dallas offensive line. Specifically, Chase Young and Montez Sweat should have no problem feasting on the edges.
In order for Washington’s pass rush to be successful, they will need their secondary to give them a couple seconds of solid coverage. Dalton has quite possibly the most dangerous WR trio in the NFL in Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and rookie CeeDee Lamb. They are not yet on the same page, seeing as it is only Dalton’s second start. If Dalton can get comfortable with his weapons, it won’t be pretty. But, if Washington can apply pressure, then not only should they be able to dull Dalton’s shine on the field, but they should be able to give him some early gray hairs.
Dallas has all the talent in the world on paper; however, most of the names on that paper are hurt. At this point in his career, Andy Dalton is a serviceable quarterback, at best. His play should improve mainly because of his supporting cast of skill players. However, his offensive line may actually get him killed, especially against the likes of a team like Washington. The defensive line is Washington’s strong point, as it’s filled from tackle-to-tackle with men who can get after the quarterback.
Washington’s offense has no excuse to play conservative throughout this game. The dink-and-dunk offense needs to be thrown in the trash for this matchup. The Cowboys defense is almost non-existent; they’re the only team in the NFL to have allowed over 200 points on the season. Washington’s offense should be able to build off of last week’s performance. However, it’s also worrisome that they struggled to get pressure on Daniel Jones. After starting the season with eight sacks against the Eagles, the pass rush has cooled off significantly.
The Cowboys, albeit injury-ridden, have more offensive talent. I like Dallas to take this one in another nail-biter 27-26.
Prediction: Dallas, 27-26.