Fresh off their bye week, against the rival Dallas Cowboys on the road, looking to rebound from a 1-3 start in hopes to repeat as division champs, the stage is set for the Washington Redskins this Sunday night.
Claiming to be optimistic about the Redskins and their chances this weekend would be an understatement. Not only am I excited for the game itself after what will be 13 days without the burgundy and gold flooding my television screen, but I'm also confident in the adjustments made by the team during its time off.
It's hard to explain I guess, but here are five bold predictions for this weekend's game to lay the foundation.
Tony Romo is coming off of an incredible outing in his shootout with the Denver Broncos last week, having thrown for 506 yards and five touchdowns.
The Redskins defense, on the other hand, has been horrid through four games this season, having allowed 1,193 yards and nine touchdowns through the air.
As one of the more lopsided equations of the football weekend, predicting the Redskins to get the better of the Cowboys quarterback is a bit bold. But glance over Romo's stats over the past three years and you'll find that he doesn't follow up spectacular outings with additional spectacular outings.
That's not to say he falls apart following career games, but Romo's typically just average.
In 2010, following a game in Houston where he completed 23 of 30 passes for 284 yards, two touchdowns and posted a 127.6 rating, Romo threw three interceptions in the Cowboys' Week 4 matchup against Tennessee.
In his second game of the 2011 season, Romo was brilliant on the road in San Francisco, tossing for 345 yards and two scores. He followed it with no touchdowns, an interception and a quarterback rating of 71 in his next game against Washington.
And last season, facing the division rival New York Giants in Week 1, Romo posted a quarterback rating of 129.5 on his way to 307 yards, three touchdowns and just seven incomplete passes. At Seattle just one week later, Romo barely completed 50 percent of his passes, tossed a touchdown and posted a 74.1 quarterback rating.
That's nothing more than a box score observation, but it provides at least a little bit of fuel to the fire. The same fire that's hopefully beneath the rear ends of the Redskins defense as they embark on their final 12 games of the season.
Remember RG3's first four games of last season? He had 1,070 yards and four touchdowns with a completion percentage just shy of 70, a 104.7 quarterback rating and a 2-2 record. How sweet the sound.
Although the first four games of RG3's sophomore season haven't been nearly as pretty, this week in Dallas is where it all comes together.
From game to game, we've seen Griffin grow more comfortable from a physical standpoint after returning from knee surgery just eight months prior. He went from cobwebs in Philly, to rust against Detroit, to actually moving against Oakland. That trend will eventually lead to the kind of play we grew accustomed to last season.
And reminisce once more. Recall Griffin's first visit to Dallas last season as a rookie on Thanksgiving Day, just one game following the Redskins' bye week. In arguably his best game of the season, Griffin threw for more than 300 yards and four touchdowns while completing better than 70 percent of his passes en route to a 38-31 win over the division rival Cowboys.
Fast forward to now. Back in Dallas, on the big stage, under the bright lights, fresh off a bye week.
It makes entirely too much sense. Robert Griffin III is having his coming-out party this weekend.
Stat line? Why of course. Griffin completes 65 percent of his passes for 317 yards and two scores through the air.
Don't get me wrong. Dez Bryant is one of the best receivers in all of football. He presents the dynamic threat that defenses must prepare for and respect.
But Dez against the Redskins isn't necessarily the same Dez against everyone else.
Again, we rely on some box score digging.
Over the course of his career, Bryant has played in five games against the Redskins. In four of those games, Bryant has 19 catches for 258 yards and a score. That's an average of five catches for 64 yards and no score per contest.
In his other game against the Redskins—last year on Thanksgiving Day—Bryant hauled in eight catches for 145 yards and two touchdowns. A notable outlier to say the least.
But before his 85-yard touchdown, Bryant was "limited" to seven catches for 60 yards and one score on Turkey Day last year. Another notable sub-outlier, if you will.
Point is, Bryant isn't as poisonous as most think. Against most teams? Yes. Bryant is lethal. But against the Redskins, he's yet to prove himself as a consistent Washington killer.
Redskins fans can also rest assure that DeAngelo Hall, the Redskins best corner, will take on primary duties of making sure Bryant doesn't break loose.
Hall has had success in covering Bryant in the past, and the receiver's 85-yard touchdown from a year ago happened to occur when Hall wasn't on him.
While I wouldn't suggest scratching Bryant from your fantasy lineup this week (or ever), it's the other Dallas receivers who come off most threatening to the Redskins this Sunday night. Guys like rookie Terrance Williams, slot worker Cole Beasley and veteran tight end Jason Witten all pose threats against a porous Washington secondary. And if Miles Austin is good enough to play following a troublesome hamstring, you can add him to the bunch as well.
Bryant will garner the most attention in most games, as he should. But given the Redskins' track record against Bryant—in addition to a quarterback like Romo who can extend plays, find receivers and throw with accuracy on the run—it'll be the receivers alongside Dez who pose the biggest threat come Sunday night.
For what it's worth, I like D-Hall and the Redskins' chances in limiting Bryant this week to, say, six catches for 80 yards and no touchdowns.
When the Redskins drafted running back Chris Thompson last April, I was excited for how they'd use the undersized but extremely quick and versatile speedster. Sure, Thompson had a lengthy injury report from his days at Florida State, but his talent and skill set were well worth the draft pick so long as the Redskins deemed him healthy.
So far this season, we haven't seen a single carry from Thompson in the regular season, instead having to drudge our way through his lackluster and downright frightening attempts at returning a punt.
To be clear, though, that's not a cut on Thompson. The guy hasn't returned punts since high school, and everything at the professional level is more difficult than anywhere you may have played before.
And for that very reason—because both fans and coaches have seen enough ineffective kick returns and a punt return average of barely five yards—I think we may all get a dose of Santana Moss at punt returner this week.
Unfortunately, the Redskins are extremely limited in who they can line up deep in order to field a punt. While Moss is the team's second-leading receiver with 15 receptions and probably not the Redskins' ideal candidate in terms of trying to keep him healthy and fresh strictly as a receiver, he's the best option for the Redskins in an area that's been awful through four games.
It's not that I don't think Thompson can develop into an effective returner. It's just that I don't think the Redskins can afford to wait for the rookie's evolution as they try to right the wrongs of an ugly 1-3 start to a season following a division title.
Because why the hell not?
As you can tell from previous slides, I'm feeling a bit positive heading into Sunday. So much so that I'm predicting Romo to be just meh, while Robert Griffin III has a coming-out party and the Redskins defense holds Bryant to under 100 yards and no scores.
That's a well-crafted recipe for a Redskins victory over the Cowboys.
Is it bold? I'd say so. Perhaps not too over the top, but considering the hype surrounding Romo's game last week, the magnifying glass hovering over the Redskins and the fact that it's taking place in Dallas on national television, it's safe to say things are a bit stacked against the 5.5-point underdog Redskins.
While it wouldn't mathematically eliminate the Redskins, a loss on Sunday night would create quite a mountain for Washington moving forward, with Chicago and Denver looming ahead, followed by San Diego, Minnesota, Philly and San Francisco.
Not to question the character of this football team, or imply they couldn't do it, but imperative seven-game win streaks in consecutive seasons is quite the feat in the always unpredictable NFL. Avoiding such a scenario would be a nice touch.
Redskins defeat the Cowboys, 27-17.