FedEx Field plays host to a real humdinger of a game this week, for the first time in over a decade the Redskins can claim the NFC East title with a win against their bitter rivals the Dallas Cowboys.
Washington will win the division if they win or tie and can still make the playoffs with a loss, providing Chicago and Minnesota both lose. The chance to go through automatically with a win, at the expense of the Cowboys, who must win to qualify for the playoffs, will surely be incentive enough though.
Robert Griffin III was one of three Washington players selected for the 2012 NFL pro bowl, alongside left tackle Trent Williams and special teams captain Lorenzo Alexander. RGIII practiced fully this week and is expected to run an offense more akin to the one the Redskins ran in the games before he was injured against the Ravens, and less like the one run against the Eagles last week, when he was visibly less mobile.
London Fletcher’s name appears on the list of injured players again, he did not practice, but the hard-as-nails linebacker is expected to suit up come game time as usual. DeJon Gomes and Tyler Polumbus may not be so lucky; both were limited in practice but are listed as questionable and could be game-time decisions.
Washington’s offense has maintained its play of late and is now the fourth best in the NFL for points scored per game, with 27.2. The Redskins still have the number one ranked rushing offense with 162.3 yards per game. Alfred Morris’ production may have slowed a little lately but he can still top 1,500 yards for the regular season against the Cowboys. Morris needs 87 yards; at his current average of 4.7 yards per carry he would need 19 carries to reach that goal.
This game won’t go all Washington’s way though, as both Tony Romo and Dez Bryant are starting to hit top form. Romo looks elite in December, showing the quality he has, whilst finding some of the consistency that was lacking in the early part of the season.
Dallas, inspired by Romo and Bryant went on a three game winning run after the 31-38 loss to the Redskins in week 12, only to be halted in their tracks by the Saints last week. Washington is on an astonishing run of six wins on the spin since the loss to Carolina in week nine and have won four against NFC East rivals in that time, two against Philadelphia, and one each over Dallas and New York.
The pressure is surely on “America’s team” in this game. Not many but the most hardy of Redskins fan would have predicted when Washington were 3-6 and missing key players like Brian Orapko and Adam Carriker that they’d be in this position come week 17.
Dallas meanwhile always expects to challenge for the division, and in recent years have been known to crumble under the strain.
Should Washington win or tie and clinch the division, their decision to invest so heavily in the trade to draft Griffin will surely no longer be called into question, and will be seen as the shrewd piece of business it was. Griffin has energised the organisation and the fan-base, and while the offense is not all RGIII, he has already become a huge part of it, he is their leader.
If the playoffs beckon for the Shanahans and their team there is no team they will fear. Having come out of one of the toughest divisions in the NFL they will happily take on anyone. Other teams, though, may look at the Redskins with more than a degree of trepidation, as on their day the offense is enough to give opposition defenses nightmares.
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