ARLINGTON - There might be mixed emotions in Cowboys Nation regarding what it wishes for its favorite team today. But the Dallas Cowboys of course have no such conflict.
"Make no mistake about it,'' says team owner Jerry Jones, "winning this game is very important to me, very important to the players, very important to this team.”
That, of course, is no guarantee that the Cowboys will play with that heightened sense of focus and urgency; indeed, the lack thereof is why this supposedly talented team is in the predicament today of having to defeat a bad Redskins team here at AT&T Stadium today while hoping for a simultaneous Eagles loss at New York, the combination being the only way Dallas wins the division and gets an NFL Playoffs berth.
The ducks are in a row, in Arlington, on paper. Case Keenum will be the Washington QB and he'll be without offensive weapons like Terry McLaurin and y Derrius Guice. But Adrian Peterson is available to run it - and Dallas yielded 100-plus rushing yards in four of the last five weeks. And without McLaurin, somebody like unheralded Steven Sims could line in the slot and hurt the Byron Jones-less Cowboys there, as slot guys have all season.
On the other hand, the Redskins defense does not figure to have answers for Ezekiel Elliott; It has allowed seven yards per carry over the last three weeks. Yes, I know that Washington's secondary is rag-tag at best. A dominant Dallas running game, however, can protect QB Dak Prescott and his bum throwing shoulder. Still ... "figuring'' the 7-9 Cowboys - even against a 3-12 Washington team limping along with a long list of guys who've checked out, a coach on the outs and a GM on the outs - has been a season-long challenge.
I predict Dallas wins, with relative ease ... as players violate the public directive from lame-duck coach Jason Garrett to not scoreboard-watch. Give me Cowboys 24, Redskins 13 ... and a fourth quarter where everyone in this building is watching Eagles-Giants with one eye.