Prediction—Redskins will need a strong air game

Rich TandlerSenior Analyst ISeptember 25, 2008

I'm usually a pound the rock guy, especially when playing a quality opponent on the road.

Not this Sunday.

If the Washington Redskins are going to have a shot at beating the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, they will have to pass early, often, and effectively. The game will be on the arm of Jason Campbell, on the hands of Santana Moss and Chris Cooley and on the ability of members of the offensive line to keep their bodies in between the Dallas pass rushers and Campbell.

It's not that a couple of dozen carries for a combined 125 yards for Clinton Portis and Ladell Betts wouldn't help the cause. Anything that keeps the Dallas offense off the field will help. But the air game needs to be the primary weapon.

This proposed game plan is not based on any complex analysis of matchups and schemes. It's based on my belief that it will take something close to 30 points for the Redskins to beat Dallas. The Cowboys have scored 28, 41, and 27 points in their three games. It would be great for the Skins if they could hold them to 17, but that's not something you can count on.

Something that you can count on is that Tony Romo will make things happen but not all of what he makes happen is good for the Cowboys. He handed the Eagles 14 points with an ill-advised throw that was intercepted in Dallas territory, leading to a Philly touchdown, and with an attempt to make a play out of a botched exchange in the end zone. Instead of falling on the ball in the end zone and giving up just two points Romo tried to make something out of less than nothing, fumbled, and the Eagles fell on it for a touchdown.

Against the Packers Romo threw an end-zone interception that even had the Cowboys' radio broadcasters wonder what in the world he was thinking.

He's going to make those mistakes because that's who he is. Dallas won both of those games in part because Romo made more plays that helped his team than plays that hurt. What the Redskins need to do is make him pay for his mistakes.

The Redskins have been very good a minimizing their mistakes, committing no offensive turnovers so far this season. That will need to continue or at least Romo will have to damage the Cowboys considerably more than the Redskins damage themselves.

But regardless of any Romo gifts, the Redskins will need to move the ball in big chunks on Sunday. That means airing it out to Moss and setting up that tight end screen so that Cooley can rumble for 20 yards or so. That means hitting Antwaan Randle El in stride and getting a contribution from Devin Thomas. Certainly the run will have to be mixed in but Jim Zorn will have to use the pass to set up the run.

And because I think that Zorn will do just that, I'm calling for the upset here. The Redskins will jump on top early and Zorn will keep attacking. Just when it looks like the Cowboys are going to rally, a big turnover will turn the tide back to the Redskins. The Skins widen their lead and hang on at the end. They'll kill the last few minutes of the clock on the ground because the Cowboys will be worried about Zorn calling a pass.

Redskins 31, Cowboys 27