Dallas Cowboys @ Washington Redskins
Sunday October 29nd, 21:25 BST
TV - Live on Sky Sports Action
With the Redskins hobbled, and Ezekiel Elliott's suspension still looming for Dallas, there are a plenty of questions facing both of these teams going into what could be a pivotal game.
For the Redskins, their loss last week not only cost them the chance to even up tiebreakers with the Eagles and close on the leaders of the NFC East, it cost them bodies. Their injury report this week is longer than John Gruden's on-air silence when his brother makes a bad call.
There were 17 players listed on Friday's roll call of the infirm, nine of which are questionable and three are already definitely out. The secondary was depleted going into Philadelphia, both Josh Norman and Bashaud Breeland missing Monday's game. There's a chance both play this week, but they won't be at full capacity. Linebacker Zach Brown should also play despite a back injury. That's the good news.
Of his colleagues in the linebacking corps, Mason Foster is out and Preston Smith is questionable having missed time this week with a groin complaint, so three of their starting linebackers are in trouble. Jonathan Allen is gone for the season, and their safeties are also carrying various knocks. And that's just the defence.
Their biggest problem this week will be on the offensive line, where tackle Trent Williams has postponed season-ending surgery since Week 3 to continue playing with damaged knee ligaments. Their other starting tackle, Morgan Moses, was limited in practice on this shortened week after injuring both ankles against Philly. Despite spraining his MCL on Monday night, guard Brandon Scherff will try to play, but center Spencer Long has been ruled out. That means four of their five offensive-line starters are either not playing or hobbled.
Behind whatever line they piece together, Kirk Cousins will continue to be acceptable as an NFL quarterback. Jordan Reed's absences have been tough to bear for a team that lost experienced, reliable performers like DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon this summer, but he is, mercifully, not one of the injuries they've to worry about this week, and Chris Thompson has been contributing out of the backfield in the passing game. But they're irrelevant if Cousins is getting crushed.
And the Cowboys can exploit O-line problems.
DeMarcus Lawrence has 9.5 sacks for the season, second most in the league, while David Irving has put in two intimidating performances since returning from suspension, and Tyrone Crawford has had some success this season too.
Most crucial of all, Sean Lee is back as well. His presence on the field is huge for this Dallas defence. He missed Week 4 and Week 5 this season, where Dallas gave up 35 points to both the Rams and Packers, allowing over 120 yards on the ground to Todd Gurley and Aaron Jones in each game.
Another stroke of luck for the Cowboys is the timing of Judge Katherine Fallia's holiday. Thanks to her vacation, Ezekiel Elliott remains active this week, his ever-imminent six-game suspension continuing to lurk on the horizon.
Elliott's possible absence after this game is worth bearing in mind for several reasons in this game. The Cowboys must make the most of him now, he has been improving each week, and he has all the motivation to throw himself into this match-up if it's going to be his last game until Week 15. Every rush, every yard, every inch he gains this week could make a difference come Week 17 and the postseason shakeup.
The Cowboys passing game is also improving. Dak Prescott is building a rapport with Brice Butler, taking the pressure off Dez Bryant and Jason Witten as the focal points in passing situations.
The Cowboys, even on the road, are hard to resist -2 at 1.981/1 on the Exchange. They are a good team, they are healthy, improving each week, and with plenty of motivation. In Elliott, they have a dominant running back with every reason to give it his all this week. They're facing a team on a short week, riddled with injuries, and who have shipped some tough losses over the opening half of the season.
I would expect the Cowboys to score this week given the injuries to the Redskins defence. They have scored over 30 points in their last three games, and the Washington D won't be as stout this week as they have been so far this season. The total points should go over 47.5 points at 1.9210/11.
For the same reason, the Dallas team total, set at 24 points, also looks good to me, and is available at 4/5 on the Sportsbook.
Back the Dallas Cowboys -2 on the Handicap Win market at 2.001/1
Back the Over 47.5 on the Total Points market at 1.9520/21
Back the Dallas Cowboys over 24 points on the Away Team Total Points market at 4/5(Sportsbook)