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Dallas Week: Washington Redskins Keys to the Game vs. Cowboys

December 28, 2012 in Washington Redskins Keys to the Game

By Staff Writer John Manuel:

Its Dallas Week.  Here are my keys to the game for the Redskins to beat the Cowboys in the Sunday Night Showdown at FedEx for the NFC East crown.

1 – I will get right into it with first and foremost we need to look at the opponent.  The Dallas Cowboys are an 8-7 football team not a 10-5 or even 9-6.  They are what their record is.  And honestly if Antonio Brown could have protected the football on a punt return this game could have been meaningless for them.  I do think they can be explosive and play like they did week one versus New York but that was week one, not seventeen.

Although the Redskins have not had any games of this magnitude in years, Dallas has had a few and when they have they failed.  The Cowboys have been up and down all season, eking out wins the past two months usually having to come from behind late in games.  The Redskins did the same versus Baltimore but took care of business against teams like Cleveland, in Dallas, New York and last week in Philadelphia over this six game win streak.  Yes, the games ended close but except versus Baltimore, Washington had the lead in all those games down the stretch of the fourth quarter.

2- I could almost copy the same thing I had on the quarterbacks before the Thanksgiving game in Dallas.  Tony Romo did have a big statistical game that day almost all in the second half after the Cowboys fell way behind.  The knock on Romo has been that he can't win these types of games and now to do it on the road gives me confidence he won't be able again.  Before the season I thought Dallas could be a disaster waiting to happen and that Romo could be the fall guy by seasons end.  I will admit that Romo has played very well but let’s see what he does Sunday night.

On the other hand we as Skins fans have full confidence that Robert Griffin III will show up and do what he has done all season.  Yes, the knee will have an effect but all Griffin does is move the ball, don't turn it over and put up 100+ passer rating performances.  And oh yeah, be a true leader as a rookie.  A captain.  That is what he does.

3- Everyone's main concern this week is dealing with Dez Bryant.  And by having to deal with Dez Bryant does that open it up for Jason Witten and Miles Austin.  Bryant last week was as good as anyone other than Calvin Johnson and clearly the weakness of the Redskins is in their secondary.  But will Dez Bryant show up?  Does Dallas add 2 or 3 more chaperones this week to make sure?  I still think that the Cowboys need to watch over a 24 year old is a joke by the way.  Though every time Dez Bryant looks to be on the right path, he does something stupid.  As for on the field, I do think he will be tough to handle.

The return of DeMarco Murray also will be a factor in the Washington defense being able to slow down the Dallas offense and force turnovers.  Washington's bend but don't break approach has worked in recent weeks but it has worked because of causing timely turnovers.  Ryan Kerrigan has to do what he did last week.  Rob Jackson has to get back to level of play versus the Ravens as well to help the struggling secondary face the likes of Bryant, Austin and Witten.

4- The first game showed a head to head coaching advantage for the Redskins.  This must happen again.  Mike Shanahan has obviously been in more big games than Jason Garrett and Shanny needs to win the coaching battle.

Can Shanahan win the coaching battle Sunday night?

Can Shanahan win the coaching battle Sunday night?

The obvious battle between the coaches will pit Kyle Shanahan and his offense against Rob Ryan and his defense.  Shanahan worked Ryan in Dallas on Thanksgiving and I would expect no change this week.  Rob Ryan like all the Ryans', is a clown.  Kyle has had his ups and downs but right now has it going and going good.  Ryan will not be helped by Demarcus Ware being far from 100% but Ware is tough and even at 70-80% will give Pro Bowler Trent Williams a handful like always.

On the other side it was turning into a long season for Jim Haslett until the win streak occurred.  His defense is still giving up yards but just holding opponents points down enough to win.  Just holding them down this week may not work so he will need to find holes in a suspect Dallas offensive line.

5- Maybe the most famous Redskins/Cowboys game for Washington fans is 1982 NFC Championship Game.  The game will be mostly remembered for Darryl Grant's touchdown and Dexter Manley knocking out Danny White but what can't be forgotten is how the Redskins were able to run the ball down Dallas' throat with John Riggins all day.  Washington must do the same Sunday night with Alfred Morris.

Morris has proven all season to be this team's Diesel.  And although I doubt Alfred Morris needs any motivation losing out on a Pro Bowl nod to Frank Gore makes for adding motivation.  I expect Griffin to be more of a run threat Sunday night which will open it up more for Morris as well as the receiving core.  Dallas has been torched like the Redskins many times this season so matching big plays with Dallas will be a key as well.  But I would love to see the 2012 Cowboys get pounded into the FedEx turf like 1982 Cowboys were at RFK.  Here is a link to that game.

As for what will happen.  It is crazy to say that we finally have a huge game at FedEx Field after so long.  It is actually embarrassing after the success the team had for many years under Gibbs' first coaching run.  But I have confidence in my quarterback and I have confidence in our leaders like London Fletcher.

Over the past six weeks these guys have yet to fail us on the field and I don't see it happening Sunday night.  I see a win and a division title but not as high scoring as Thanksgiving and more like the Giants Monday night game.  Redskins 23  Dallas 17




Redskins Keys to the Game vs. Cleveland Browns

December 13, 2012 in Washington Redskins Keys to the Game

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By Staff Writer John Manuel:

Here are the five biggest factors for the Redskins to defeat the Cleveland Browns this Sunday:

1.  First question is obvious, what should be the determination on if Robert Griffin III plays Sunday.

Monday I would have given little chance that he would be out there by then came practice on Wednesday and that Griffin was doing much better.  Right now no one is going to say any percentage chance he is at until Friday's injury report.  And I am fine with that move by Shanahan.

That being said, my guess is that the doctors will OK him to play and the Griffin will want to play.  It's going to come down to Mike Shanahan's call after he weighs the chances to win with Kirk Cousins versus the potential long term injury risk.  These are the big decisions that Shanahan is paid megabucks by Dan Snyder for.  I don't think anyone knows the answer yet.

2. If Griffin goes it most likely means he will be able to do what we have seen all season.

Big Ben would be out there Sunday in the same situation but his playing style would allow it.  If Griffin goes he will slash the Browns Defense like he has all defenses.  It will continue the Skins ability to run the ball down the throats of the Browns even though they have a solid front as of late with Phil Taylor back.

The Browns have been playing better but it’s very low impressive wins versus teams like the Chiefs and Raiders.  I am convinced at this point that an 80% Griffin can move the ball against any NFL defense.

3. If Kirk Cousins is under center it is a big change.

Who will play this Sunday in Cleveland...Griffin or Cousins?

Who will play this Sunday in Cleveland…Griffin or Cousins?

I do think the Redskins can win this game with Cousins, although we have seen very little.  I think the coaching staff and Rex Grossman will have Cousins ready to play.  Cousins having Pierre Garcon out there will be a huge assist as well.  I have been amazed with the offensive game plans this season and especially most recently.  So I would expect the same if they have to prepare for a Cousins start.

The big difference could be protecting the football.  Griffin has been Brady-like all season throwing only four picks.  Cousins threw two in short work versus Atlanta so that would be the team’s biggest concern going with Cousins.

4. The Cleveland Browns offense is very young even though the quarterback is almost 30.

Sounds weird but it is what it is.  Brandon Weeden has played better than most expected and recently has found a big play connection with fellow rookie Josh Gordon.  Gordon has to be licking his chops to get against the Washington secondary like any wideout in the NFL, CFL, BCS, High School, or college intermurals.

For the defense it has to start up front stopping another rookie in Trent Richardson.  Richardson has been solid this season and is due for a monster game.  Both Rice and Pierce ran at 6 yard clips last week which is scary since the run defense has been decent.  Although that could be misleading since any good passing team should just pick the Skins apart and put the running game on the back burner.

Richardson scares me a lot more than Weeden in this game.  I can't see Weeden picking the Skins D apart as easily as Flacco, Manning and Romo did for a half of each game.

5. I am going to add this until they do something about it.  The Redskins must add a kickoff specialist this week.

I know roster spots are valuable but one long kickoff return can cost them any of these three final games.  Josh Cribbs or Travis Benjamin can easily burn us bad this week.  The Brandon Banks roster is useless now with Richard Crawford returning punts.  Make the move now.

I would even take Billy Cundiff back for kickoffs only at this point.  Cobra Kai Forbath is money on field goals but the Skins can't risk a big return even if their coverage teams are solid.  Goodell is giving teams a touchback with the 35 yard line rule so we need to take it.

As for my predictions.  Plural, because RG3 playing or not may be bigger than the game prediction itself.  I think Griffin goes Sunday and leads them to another win but it will be tough.  I'm thinking 20-17 win for this game.