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The Coach: Mike Shanahan has convinced the world that he's a good coach with or without John Elway playing quarterback. He's 1-4 in the playoffs without Elway, though, and hasn't taken a team to the postseason since he was in Denver in 2006. The Redskins haven't shown much improvement in his three years as coach, but Griffin probably buys him another year and another hundred spray tans.
The Offense: Griffin's the headliner, but you could do worse than rooking running back Alfred Morris when it comes to a supporting act. He's picking up 4.7 yards per carry and the Redskins use every formation under the sun to disguise which way they'll attack you with the two youngsters. If they could put together an offensive line and a healthy receiving corps, they'll really have something going in D.C.
The Defense: Losing linebacker Brian Orakpo and defensive end Adam Carriker for the season was bad news for a defense that wasn't all that good when they were in the lineup. They did a good job against Eagles rookie Nick Foles, but this is also a team that gave up a 77-yard touchdown pass to Victor Cruz late in the fourth quarter of a game they were winning. They left no one deep on the play because, well, no one's really sure why they did that other than the fact that they are a pretty poor unit across the board.
Key Matchup: Griffin vs. DeMarcus Ware/Anthony Spencer - You can't let Griffin get to the edge, which means both of the Cowboys outside linebackers have to be extra careful about the angles they take to the ball on Thursday afternoon. Griffin can make throws from the pocket and has the accuracy to show it, but his biggest plays tend to come off of broken plays when the defense loses their original assignments. Ware and Spencer will be the first line of defense against this and the Cowboys' chances of winning plummet if they fail.
The Cowboys, coming off a nail-biting overtime win against Cleveland, turn around to face a classic rival on Thanksgiving Day. The Sports Club sent out Dallas -4.5 while early lines offshore opened with America’s Team as a 3.5-point home fave.
“Washington is a live dog here,” says Korner. “That win was great for Dallas and the Cowboys do have their following, but I don’t think (the spread) will go either way. It should settle in around three.”
Redskins’ rushing defense vs. Cowboys’ RB injuries
Dallas has become very one-dimensional since RB DeMarco Murray went down with the foot injury in Week 6. The Cowboys managed just 63 yards on 21 carries versus the Browns last week and rank 29th in the NFL in rushing yards per game. Cleveland, knowing Dallas couldn’t run the ball, brought heavy pressure on Tony Romo, sacking him seven times and forcing a fumble late in the game.
Backup RB Felix Jones hasn’t been able to shoulder the load and has been less than 100 percent all season. Jones left the field in the fourth quarter Sunday, leaving the Cowboys with third-stringer Lance Dunbar. Murray is out again and Jones will limp into Thanksgiving with a bum knee.
Washington is doing one thing right on defense, stuffing the run. The Redskins are giving up just 94.6 yards on the ground per game (in part to their poor pass defense), and checked Philadelphia for just 80 yards on 21 carries and knocked RB LeSean McCoy out of the game in Sunday’s win. Foes are picking up the first down on the ground just 23.5 percent of the time versus Washington. Dallas has picked up a fresh 10 yards on just 22 percent of its run attempts this season.
From Elias: Robert Griffin III threw four touchdown passes in the Redskins' win over the Eagles, including a 61-yarder to Santana Moss on third down and 10 yards to go. Griffin, prior to that completion, had thrown 23 passes this season on third down and 10 or more yards to go and he had not produced a first down on any of them! That was the longest single-season drought of that kind since 2008, when JaMarcus Russell failed to gain a first down on 26 consecutive passes with that down and distance.
Tony Romo knows all too well the routine of playing on Thanksgiving.
But even though he’s 5-0 on turkey day, that doesn’t mean he’s a fan of what it requires.
“I think you just have to immerse yourself in the tape and really just keep watching it over and over and over,” Romo said, via Carlos Mendez of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “You’re going to be tired. You’re going to be mentally a little bit fatigued, but you feel very prepared at least by Thursday if you are constantly watching tape and constantly putting in the time that it takes to get comfortable with what you’re going to see.”
He must be putting in plenty of prep work, because he’s been better than the Butterball hotline when America gathers together.
Romo was hurt in 2010, but has a 115.4 rating to go along with his 14 touchdowns and spotless record on Thanksgiving, having beaten the Buccaneers, Jets, Seahawks, Raiders and Dolphins. He didn’t play in the 2010 game against New Orleans because of injury.
The Dallas Cowboys are 6-3 ATS over their last nine Thanksgiving Day games and hope to keep that winning trend going when they host the Washington Redskins at Cowboy Stadium this Turkey Day.
But they face a team that has dominated them ATS. The Redskins are 9-2 ATS is 11 recent meetings with the Cowboys.
Dallas is 4-0 ATS in its last four games against an NFC opponent on Thanksgiving.
Dallas is 3-0 SU over its last three games against Washington but the Redskins are 4-0 ATS in the last four meetings between these two NFC East rivals. The total has gone under in five of the last seven games between them.
The game-by-game numbers are actually staggering for Romo and the Cowboys.
Here's a breakdown of the five games:
2006, 38-10 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Romo threw for 306 yards and five touchdowns as the Cowboys rolled. Terrell Owens had eight catches for 107 yards and a score, while Terry Glenn caught two touchdowns. Romo's passer rating finished at 148.9.
2007, 34-3 win over the New York Jets. Romo threw for just 195 yards and two scores, but the Cowboys blew out the hapless Jets. Owens and Jason Witten caught the touchdowns. Marion Barber and Julius Jones combined for almost 170 yards on the ground.
2008, 34-9 win over the Seattle Seahawks. Romo threw for a Thanksgiving-high 331 yards and added three touchdown passes. Witten and Owens combined for over 200 yards receiving and the Cowboys never trailed.
2009, 24-7 win over the Oakland Raiders. Romo racked up 309 yards and two scores as the Cowboys jumped out to a 17-0 halftime lead. Roy Williams caught a fourth quarter touchdown to put the game away.
2011, 20-19 win over the Miami Dolphins. Romo threw two picks—his highest ever amount on Thanksgiving—as the Dolphins led for much of the game. But the Cowboys quarterback led two separate fourth quarter comebacks, with the second of the two ending in Dan Bailey's chip-shot field goal as time expired that gave the Cowboys a much-needed win.
The success isn't just limited to the Thanksgiving holiday.
Under Romo, the Cowboys have dominated the three-game stretch of games that includes the Thanksgiving Day showdown.
According to John Clayton of ESPN, Dallas went 11-1 during the team's typical 12-game stretch in November from 2006 to 2009. Romo missed 2010's stretch, but he returned last season to lead the Cowboys to a 3-0 mark that included wins over theBuffalo Bills, Redskins and Dolphins (above).
So far this season, the Cowboys are 2-0 to start the stretch, beating both the Philadelphia Eagles andCleveland Browns. Without including 2010, Dallas is 16-1 during the team's pivotal stretch of November games since 2006.
Clayton credited the Cowboys' familiarity with the November schedule to the success both Romo and the team have had during a physically and mentally difficult stretch of games.
Why Washington will cover the spread: The Redskins will cover the spread if the moment isn’t too big for QB Robert Griffin III. There’s no reason to believe that he’ll crack, knowing that he threw for four TDs last week and now has a total of 2,817 yards of offense with 18 total TDs against just three picks for the campaign. Still, this is the biggest game with the most pressure in the biggest spotlight that he has played at the pro level, and he is going to have to keep his cool in order to have a shot to beat Dallas in its building.
Why Dallas will cover the spread: The Cowboys will cover the spread if they can find a way to force the ball up the field. The Redskins are allowing almost 300 yards per game to opposing quarterbacks this year, and that includes some massive plays. The reason that the Philadelphia Eagles had no success against this team last week is because QB Nick Foles just couldn’t hit the big play. QB Tony Romo does that well, and he has the receivers to be able to hit those home runs that are needed to produce victories over the Redskins.