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Rick Snider: Redskins-Cowboys rivalry dormant -- until Sunday

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Sports,NFL,Redskins,Rick Snider

ASHBURN

Finally, a game that will resurrect the rivalry -- next year.

The Washington Redskins meet the Dallas Cowboys in Sunday's season finale at FedEx Field with the winner taking the NFC East title and the loser probably missing the playoffs. Six months of work come down to 60 minutes of play.

There have been plenty of big games between the teams over the last 40 years, some of them so bitter a funeral wreath was once thrown into the Redskins' locker room after a loss. But the last thing current players will consider come kickoff is how much they hate the other team because largely they don't.

The rivalry has been a fan-driven obsession -- and mostly on Washington's side -- since coach George Allen arrived in 1971. It peaked in the 1980s and early 1990s when the teams regularly vied for Super Bowls. But a combination of mediocre teams, multiple coaching changes by both teams and regular roster rollover have made it the thinnest of grudge matches. It is just another game to many of the players.

That, of course, should change no matter who wins Sunday. Both teams need the victory to reach the postseason, and the loser will stew over Sunday night the entire offseason -- if only because fans won't let them forget it. Yes, revenge will be a factor next year.

This is the game that can reignite a dormant rivalry. It will be personal come 2013.

Only a few current Redskins truly dislike the Cowboys. Stephen Bowen, Santana Moss, London Fletcher ... it's a short list. It will grow soon.

But for the moment, the Redskins simply want to win this game and advance to the playoffs. They could be facing a team from Attu Island for all they care. That's especially true because Dallas hasn't done anything spectacular since 1995 to merit any such ire.

Mostly, the walk-up to Sunday featured the cliched "next game" syndrome.

"It is the biggest stage, but none of us are looking at it that way," quarterback Robert Griffin III said. "It's another game we have to go out and win. That's the way we look at it. Every moment in your life is the biggest one at that time.

"Whenever you play the moment up too much, it can become too big to seize the moment, so you just want to make sure you don't make something so big you can't grab a hold of it."

Tight end Chris Cooley conceded fans should love this game.

"For football and for fans and for people around the league, this is an amazing thing," Cooley said. "The anticipation, if I was a fan, would be unbelievable. It would make it so much fun for me to be a fan of either team. As a player, you can't get caught up too much in the rivalry."

After all, there will be plenty of time to reflect on the rivalry when it really counts next year.

Examiner columnist Rick Snider has covered local sports since 1978. Read more on Twitter @Snide_Remarks or email rsnider@washingtonexaminer.com.

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