Redskins-Cowboys preview

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Sports,NFL,Redskins,John Keim

Keys to victory

1 Limit the big plays » Yes, Dallas will make some. The Cowboys have a dangerous combination in quarterback Tony Romo and receiver Dez Bryant. The Redskins allow big plays every game; they have limited them of late, but quarterbacks also have missed open targets for scores in each of the past four games. The Redskins did well with five-man rushes last time as Dallas averaged just 4.5 yards per pass attempt on 22 such rushes. They averaged 8.6 yards per attempt vs. 40 eight-man rushes.

2 Unleash RGIII » In his first game back from a sprained knee, the Redskins called for one run by Robert Griffin III. Yes, they could probably hurt Dallas' defense without his legs. But that would make it easier on the Cowboys as well. Griffin just needs to show he's a running threat. Considering how much Dallas' defense has changed because of injuries, the more Washington can throw at them, the more confused the Cowboys will become. It could lead to a huge day.

3 Red-zone success » Washington survived its Thanksgiving Day game vs. the Cowboys in part because it limited the Cowboys to two touchdowns in four red-zone trips. The Redskins will allow yards, but they must force field goals. In their three losses before the winning streak, the Redskins allowed a touchdown on seven of 10 trips inside the 20-yard line. In the past six games, they have allowed 10 touchdowns on 17 red-zone possessions. The problem Sunday: Dallas has more choices than in the first meeting with receiver Miles Austin and running back DeMarco Murray available. Austin was injured early in that game.

Key matchups

CB Josh Wilson

He plays tight but gets beaten by top receivers. He must compensate for a five-inch height difference.

vs.

WR Dez Bryant

He has averaged 115.4 yards in his last seven games and has 10 TDs during that stretch.

NT Barry Cofield

He's playing well and did a solid job in the first game, particularly on stunts.

vs.

C Ryan Cook

The brother of ex-Redskins player Erik Cook did not play in the first meeting because of an injury.

LT Trent Williams

Since hurting his left thigh, the Pro Bowl selection has been vulnerable to the inside.

vs.

LB DeMarcus Ware

Like Williams, he's playing hurt. But he still has 11.5 sacks and is dangerous.

State of the teams

Dallas Cowboys

Dallas is in the same state as Washington: Win Sunday night and it wins the division. But the Cowboys can't earn a playoff spot with a loss. They enter the finale having won three of their past four games, with an overtime loss to New Orleans last week the lone blemish. This is only the second time in seven weeks Dallas has played on the road.

Washington Redskins

The Redskins, winners of six straight, also win the division with a victory. But they can clinch a playoff berth before the Sunday night kickoff. However, they need both Chicago (at Detroit) and Minnesota (vs. Green Bay) to lose. If either one of them wins, the Redskins can reach the postseason only with a win or a tie Sunday.

Examiner predicts

The Cowboys' offense will provide the Redskins' defense with one of its most difficult challenges of the season. But the Cowboys' defense is too hurt to slow this offense down. Start celebrating.

Redskins 30, Cowboys 28

jkeim@washingtonexaminer.com

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