Cowboys at Redskins (8:30pm ET Monday, ESPN)
You gotta hand it to the Dallas Cowboys: For all the bad luck that befell them this season, they still had a puncher’s chance as late as Week 11 of making the playoffs. But, that dream died when quarterback Tony Romo went down for the season having re-broken his collarbone in a 33-14 Thanksgiving Day loss to Carolina. Romo’s taken a lot of heat over the years, but the fact is the ‘Boys are 3-0 in the games he started (and finished) this year, and 0-8 in those he didn’t. Throw in the 6-week absence of All-Pro wide receiver Dez Bryant and you’ve got the ingredients for the 27th most passing yards, 28th most passing TDs, the 2nd most interceptions.
Then, there’s been a number of tough losses, including overtime defeats by the Eagles and Saints, a 1-point loss to Seattle, and a 4-point loss to Tampa – yeah, it’s been that kind of year. But, when you sign guys like Greg Hardy, aren’t you kind of inviting all kinds of bad juju to come crashing down? Alas, Dallas will go into the game with Matt Cassell at the helm, who has a 34-42 career record and 173 yards per game average.
Following a 20-14 victory over the New York Giants, Washington is 5-6 and sits atop the NFC East. There is something fundamentally wrong with a playoff system that finds a spot for a sub-.500 team, but the NBA and NHL seem totally cool with it, so why not? Quarterback Kirk Cousins has enjoyed a Jekyll-and-Hyde season since being given the starting job following a preseason concussion suffered by Robert Griffin III. At home, Cousins is a beast, completing 75% of his passes for 272 yards a game with a total of 11 TD’s and only 2 interceptions to lead the team to a 5-1 record. Cousins on the road road is a different story: 62%, 231 yards per game, 5 TD’s, 8 INT’s, and an 0-5 record. Maybe Cousins really loves FedExField, or maybe his mattress at home is insanely comfortable. Perhaps it’s just a small sample size fluke. Whatever it is, Washington’s fortune rests entirely on his arm. They win when he’s got a quarterback rating over 90 and lose when he doesn’t.
Though it’s easy to solely blame the guy guiding the ball, the Washington defense has been equally unstable. They’ve given up 417 yards and 32.4 points per game on the road, but just 325 and 17.5 at home. If the Patriots were posting these kinds of splits, Roger Goodell would launch an investigation.
So, to review: No Romo in Washington, Cousins does better at home, and, no matter what happens, we’ll see a rematch on January 3.