Dissecting Most Crucial Matchups in Washington's Week 16 Contest with Cowboys

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Dissecting Most Crucial Matchups in Washington's Week 16 Contest with Cowboys
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Kirk Cousins has been effective in his two starts for Washington.

For football fans in Washington, there’s not much to cheer about right now. However, a Redskins win against Dallas before Christmas would at least ease the ignominy of returning to the NFC East cellar once again. It could also extinguish the Dallas Cowboys’ playoff hopes.

There are changes on both teams to the lineups that faced off in Week 6, so there will be a few key positions that will need to perform in order to ensure victory for their team. Some of those matchups are listed below.

 

RB Alfred Morris vs. LB Bruce Carter

Amid Washington’s downward spiral, the run game has remained strong—currently ranked third in the NFL—which makes it all the more mystifying why it hasn’t been utilized more this year. Yes, the team has sunk to big deficits early, but Alfred Morris remains the best option to move the chains.

Against the Cowboys, Morris has 394 yards and five touchdowns from three games. Dallas is stretched incredibly thin at linebacker right now but will be relieved at the sight of Bruce Carter returning to the lineup.

Carter will be forced to marshal a defense that ranks 28th against the run and that just surrendered two consecutive 100-yard rushing games (to Matt Forte and Eddie Lacy).

 

WR Pierre Garcon vs. CB Brandon Carr

Cornerback Brandon Carr came away victorious against Pierre Garcon in Week 6. Although Garcon led his team in receiving yards that day, the receiver was held to 69 yards from six catches.

Expecting a repeat of that this week would be unwise, as Carr has been poor overall this year, conceding receptions and looking out of position and unaware of plays happening right next to him.

Last week, Kirk Cousins demonstrated a quicker release than Robert Griffin III—which was a feature of his college play—as well as better awareness of his receivers and progressions.

He has to, of course, given that he is less predisposed to running the ball, but it should enable Garcon to get open and rack up yards against Carr and a porous Dallas secondary.

 

LT Trent Williams vs. DE DeMarcus Ware

At the time of writing, DeMarcus Ware is still an uncertainty for Sunday’s game after he missed practice on Wednesday. According to Brandon George at The Dallas Morning News, Ware is continuing to have trouble with the right thigh injury that he has carried for a lot of the season.

Nevertheless, Washington will still plan for his involvement, and Trent Williams will be charged with the task of protecting Cousins. 

The left tackle is also having injury troubles after picking up what Mike Jones at The Washington Post called "a light knee sprain" against Atlanta. Williams was unable to practice on Wednesday.

Cousins requires a cleaner pocket than Griffin, so Williams will need to be on his game more than in recent weeks. 

From being one of the undisputed stars of the offense, Williams has slipped up and made some mistakes that have put his quarterback in danger.

Injured or not, Ware remains a threat. With a more traditional pocket passer under center, that threat is multiplied.  

 

QB Kirk Cousins vs. QB Tony Romo

Although they will never see the field at the same time, both quarterbacks will face terrible defenses on Sunday, so whoever has the better performance will likely win the game for their team.

The Cowboys defense has surrendered 647 yards and eight touchdowns in the last two weeks, with just one interception. Those stats have also come against backup quarterbacks in the shape of Josh McCown and Matt Flynn.

In both of his two career starts, Cousins has eclipsed 325 passing yards. In doing so, he is the first Washington quarterback in the post-Super Bowl era to go over 300 yards in his first two starts. He will be looking forward to facing a Cowboys defense that is conceding an average of 297.4 yards through the air each week.

Tony Romo is facing his usual battle with the fourth quarter in December, which allowed Flynn to turn around a 23-point deficit and win the game for Green Bay last week. The Washington defense will fancy its chances to pick him off and help out Cousins.

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