In their annual Thanksgiving game, the Dallas Cowboys will try to inch a little closer to the top of the NFC East when they host the Washington Redskins.
The Redskins have had a difficult season in the standings, but the performance of rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III has brought a lot of optimism back to this once-proud franchise. This team is headed in the right direction; there are just a few tweaks that have to be made in the offseason.
The Cowboys, by some miracle, have pushed their record back to .500 and are just one game behind the New York Giants in the division. They have done this despite being outscored by 13 points, boasting one of the worst rushing attacks in the league and a quarterback who has as many touchdowns (13) as interceptions.
Where: Cowboys Stadium in Dallas, Texas
When: Thursday, November 22 at 4:15 p.m.
Spread: Dallas (-3), courtesy of Bovada
Despite boasting a better record and being at home, the Cowboys are getting the standard three-point edge. That is very telling about how the oddsmakers feel about this team right now. It is hard to disagree with them, based on what we saw from this team against Cleveland last week.
This is a difficult spread to predict because the Redskins boast one of the worst secondaries in the league and the Cowboys have a lot of weapons on offense. It is easy to see this game turning into a 10-point edge for the Cowboys.
However, Griffin looks like the great equalizer for the Redskins. Even if the defense can't stop anyone, he has done a remarkable job of making plays and keeping the team in games it probably has no business being in.
Give the Redskins the edge in the spread.
Over/Under: 48, courtesy of Bovada
As inconsistent as the Cowboys have been, this game has all the makings of an exciting shootout between two mediocre teams. The playoff ramifications may be small, but that doesn't mean the game won't be fun.
The Cowboys have been held under 20 points five times this season, including just 19 against the lowly Panthers and 13 to a middle-of-the-road Falcons defense.
The Redskins have gone through some growing pains this season, as evidenced by their 13-point showing against Carolina three weeks ago. For the most part, they have been able to put up points against teams who aren't in that elite class.
An over/under of 48 seems a little low for this game, so take the over because one of these teams is going to have a strong day on offense.
Key Fantasy Players
Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins
While Cam Newton had the best rookie season statistically that many of us will ever see, what Griffin is doing is far superior to the Panthers quarterback.
Despite being just 10 games into his career, Griffin is already a must-start each week. Even with the Cowboys being ranked in the top 10 in pass defense, Griffin can beat a team with his arm or on the ground, so don't be worried about his numbers in this game.
Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys
Honestly, you could pick anybody from the Cowboys' big three (Bryant, Miles Austin, Jason Witten) and predict him to have a huge game against a Redskins defense that ranks 29th in pass yards allowed and has given up 20 touchdown passes.
Bryant gets the nod here because of his rapport with Tony Romo. The third-year receiver just had his best game of the season against the Browns, with 12 receptions for 145 yards and a touchdown.
Prior to last week's game, Bryant had gone three straight games where he averaged at least 15 yards per reception. He is going to have another huge day against a weak Redskins defense.
Keys to Redskins Win
Big plays down the field; create pressure
What the Redskins lack in subtlety, they make up for in explosiveness. They have scored at least 30 points four times this season, including last week's 31-6 drubbing of Philadelphia.
The Cowboys have been susceptible to the big play this season. Just last week they gave up three receptions of at least 20 yards to the Browns. Look for the Redskins to take a lot of chances down the field to catch the Cowboys asleep at the wheel.
On defense, we know the secondary is going to give up a lot of yards. What will decide the game is how the defensive line performs. The Redskins are seventh in the league defending the run, but just 23rd with 18 sacks.
The Cowboys have allowed just 24 sacks on the season, so it is critical that the Redskins create pressure up front and force Romo into making mistakes, which he is prone to do.
Keys to Cowboys Win
Don't beat yourself; keep RG3 in the pocket
The biggest problem for the Cowboys this season is their knack for finding ways to lose. Their last three losses have come by a total of 13 points, so we know they are capable of hanging with anyone in the league.
Despite their knack for dramatic finishes, the Cowboys are 15th in the NFC with 20 turnovers. They can't afford to give Griffin more possessions in good field position if they want to celebrate a holiday victory.
Speaking of Griffin, the best way to beat him is to find a way to get pressure on him while keeping him in the pocket. He has a great, accurate arm and can show it off if he has time or is forced to scramble.
If the Cowboys hope to stop Griffin, they have to get pressure with their front four and hold him in a collapsing pocket so he has no room to make a play with his arm or legs.
Everything is saying that the Redskins will win this game, but for reasons not entirely clear, I believe in the Cowboys more in this spot.
Cowboys 30, Redskins 28