In Week Four of the 2008 NFL season, the NFC East once again provides football fans with the game to watch. The Washington Redskins visit the Dallas Cowboys in what could be the last time these two teams match up at Texas Stadium, as the Cowboys will move into their new stadium next season.
This rivalry has been heated at times, and may be headed back to those epic battles with high emotional swings, as the Redskins have won four of the last six meetings. Prior to the 2005 season, the Cowboys had won 15 of 16 during the days the Redskins couldn't muster much of a fight.
That long stretch of dominance from the Cowboys had served to deflate what had been one of the NFL's most famous and heated rivalries. Starting in 1961, Redskins-Cowboys has been the setting for some of the most memorable games for both franchises.
In their last meeting, the Redskins came into the game in high gear, already on a three-game winning streak, and needed a victory to complete a late-season playoff run. The Cowboys had already down-shifted. Entering the game having already locked up homefield advantage in the upcoming playoffs, the Cowboys were no match, and the Redskins dominated the contest, winning, 27-6.
Both teams went on to lose in the first round of the playoffs, and set up a 2008 season that has become as much about the division in which they play as it is about each team individually.
The NFC East is easily the best division in football, with a combined record of 10-2. Both losses have been within the division, and the Redskins, Cowboys, and Eagles all beat other division leaders last week—the Cardinals, Packers, and Steelers, respectively.
The New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys are viewed by most around the league as the two best teams in the NFL, and the Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins want to be included in that conversation.
The Eagles had their shot two weeks ago, and put on quite a show. In a typical NFC East showdown, the Eagles proved they could "run with the big boys," as they scored 37 points but squandered good field position from a 47-yard kickoff return in the fourth quarter with a Donovan McNabb fumble. That fumble set up what proved to be the Cowboys' winning touchdown.
Now it's the Redskins' turn to take on Dallas and try to prove they also can "run with the big boys."
The Redskins will be without star defensive end Jason Taylor, who will be missing the game due to a minor medical procedure on his left calf to alleviate blood pooling from being kicked early in his team's win over the Arizona Cardinals. Taylor will be ending an impressive games-played streak at 133.
The loss of Taylor could be an issue for the Redskins, as they will likely need a consistent pass rush to help slow down the Cowboys' potent offense. In his place will most likely be former Cowboy Demetric Evans. Evans is considered more of a run-stopping defensive end, and will likely mean an even more significant rotation along the defensive line for the Redskins.
The Cowboys will be without the services of starting left guard Kyle Kosier, but backup Cory Procter started the first two games to start the season and shouldn't adversely affect the league's No. 1 offense.
Cowboys' quarterback Tony Romo has once again started the season hot. Currently the sixth-highest rated quarterback in the NFL (103.2), Romo is a playmaker. His counterpart, Redskins' quarterback Jason Campbell, is only three spots behind him at No. 9 (100.1), and seems to have taken dramatic steps forward within rookie head coach Jim Zorn's version of the West Coast Offense.
Both teams also boast two of the league's top 10 running backs in the Cowboys' Marion Barber and the Redskins' Clinton Portis.
In 21 carries against the 'Skins last season, Barber averaged an ugly 1.8 yards per carry. In the 2006 season, he averaged 5.6 yards per carry on only 15 attempts. Which Barber will play this week?
While Portis fared better last season, 3.78 yards per carry on 37 attempts, overall it has been difficult for these teams to run the ball against each other. This game shapes up to be dependent on each team's ability to run the ball as anything else, as the winner in the rushing game will likely be the winner on the scoreboard, as well.
Tomorrow we'll continue this look into this matchup, breaking down more of each team's positives and look for some of the negatives that each team may be looking to exploit on Sunday.