Thanksgiving Football on Sling: Washington Chasing Dallas in NFC East, Big Ben's Steelers Battle Luck and the Colts
Washington Redskins (6-3) vs Dallas Cowboys (9-1)
4:30pm ET on FOX
Since suffering a Week 1 defeat at the hands of the Giants, the Dallas Cowboys have won a franchise record 9 in a row and emerged as quite possibly the best team in the NFL. They have the best record, the best point differential, play in the toughest division… you get the picture. Last week they overcame a sluggish start to beat the Ravens 27-17, with Dak Prescott completing 27 of 36 for 301 yards and 3 TDs, and Ezekiel Elliott carrying the ball 25 times for 97 yards. Prescott (67.7%, 2,640 yards, 17 TDs, 2 INT) and Elliott (1,102 yards, 9 TDs) have to be in the conversation of best rookie teammates in league history at this point, thanks in no small part to a hugely talented O-line.
Kirk Cousins lit up the scoreboard Sunday, passing for 375 yards and 3 touchdowns in leading the Redskins to a 42-24 win over Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. Cousins hooked up with Pierre Garcon (6 catches, 116 yards) for a beautiful 70-yard touchdown pass at the top of the 4th quarter, and later found Jamison Crowder (3 catches, 102 yards) for a 53-yard completion that set up a 1-yard TD run by Robert Kelley. Kelley (24 carries, 137 yards, 3 TDs) was phenomenal, breaking several big runs and slicing his way through the Green Bay defense on more than one occasion. Nursing a 35-24 lead late in the 4th, Redskins cornerback Josh Norman came through with a big forced fumble, as he punched the ball out from the crook of Jared Cook’s arm, whereupon William Compton recovered it for Washington. A minute later Kelley ran 66 yards up the right side, and then went right again for a 4-yard TD to salt the game away.
Dallas just squeezed past the Redskins 27-23 in Week 2, scoring the winning touchdown on a 4-yard TD run by Alfred Morris with about 3 minutes to play. Since then, Washington has gone 6-1-1, and Cousins has shown last year wasn’t a fluke. But Prescott and Elliott have been unstoppable, the Cowboys are just too good for the likes of Washington.
Pittsburgh Steelers (5-5) vs Indianapolis Colts (5-5)
8:30pm ET on NBC
The Steelers finally ended a 4-game skid last week, beating the hopeless bad Browns 24-9, as Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger tied the NFL record for most wins at Cleveland’s FirstEnergy Stadium – let that sink in for a minute. He didn’t tie the record for most wins by a visiting quarterback, he tied former Browns QB Derek Anderson with his 10th win there. Roethlisberger led his team to victory despite an underwhelming performance, completing 23 of 36 for 167 yards and no touchdowns, but Le’Veon Bell picked up the slack with 146 yards and a TD on 28 carries. But the big play of the game came late in the 4th quarter, shortly before the 2-minute warning, when Ryan Shazier sacked Josh McCown on his own 2-yard line, forcing a fumble that was picked up in the end zone by Javon Hargrave for the score that put the game out of reach. It’s impressive the Steelers have kept their heads above water thus far, given Roethlisberger’s knee surgery that knocked him out for two week, plus drug suspensions for Le’Veon Bell and Martavis Bryant. If these guys had been at full capacity, they’d’ve been dangerous, but, well, you know…
Colts QB Andrew Luck connected on just 15 of 28 last against the Titans, though he ran up 262 yards and 2 TDs. But he also threw an interception midway through the 4th quarter that nearly proved costly, before the Colts defense came up big during the ensuing drive, stopping Tennessee’s DeMarco Murray on 4th-and-1 from the Indy 19 with under 2 minutes to play to secure a 24-17 win. Marcus Mariota of Tennessee had a nice day, completing 25 of 38 for 290 yards and a pair of touchdowns, but the Colts pass rush brought him down 5 times for a total loss of 109 yards. It was an unusually good showing from the Colts defense, which had only made 17 sacks in the previous 9 games, and has given up an average of 27.3 points per game, 7th-most in the league. They’re also in the bottom third in total yards (3,976), passing yards (2,845) and rushing yards (1,131), yards per play (6.1), turnovers (8), 1st downs (234), penalties (81), penalty yards (700) – they’re not the worst at any one thing, but they’re bad at lots of different things.
If Big Ben, Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown are clicking, Thanksgiving will get really ugly really fast for the Colts. The Steelers’ pass defense is vulnerable, and the Colts’ TY Hilton certainly has the juice to run past Pittsburgh’s secondary, but it won’t be enough.
Watch the Redskins vs Cowboys at 4:30pm ET on FOX, followed by Steelers vs Colts at 8:30pm ET on NBC by subscribing to Sling Blue