Redskins or Cowboys? Slight advantage: Washington

By Connor Byrne  |   Thursday, September 14, 2006  |  Comments( 6 )

Washington Redskins
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It's hard to believe it's already been a year.

In Week 2 of the 2005 season, the Washington Redskins pulled off one of the most stunning comebacks in NFL history. Trailing 13-0 in Texas to their bitter archrival, the Dallas Cowboys, Redskins quarterback Mark Brunell flung two deep touchdown passes to receiver Santana Moss in the game's final minutes, giving D.C. a most improbable primetime victory.

The more things change, the more they stay the same, as far as the schedule makers go. This year, the Redskins will once again meet Dallas in Texas Stadium in the second week of the season. And yet again, it's a primetime showdown (NBC's Sunday Night Football).

After one week of the season, both teams are 0-1 and dealing with a bevy of different questions from plenty of doubters. The Redskins' concerns focus on the secondary and offense, while nearly all of the 'Boys' problems center on the QB position, which has led to a firestorm this week over the status of starter Drew Bledsoe, who was awful in an opening-day loss to the Jaguars.

In a strange way, these two bitter adversaries can relate. Whichever team loses this week could very well be left for dead by many, since an 0-2 hole will be extremely difficult to climb out of in the NFC East. If Bledsoe plays a poor game, the Tony Romo chants will begin in earnest. If Brunell doesn't subpar, the Jason Campbell chants will begin in earnest.

For these two enemies, there sure are a lot of similarities.

Ultimately, the Redskins' hopes for this weekend may rest with their running game, led by the banged-up Clinton Portis. The star runner was only able to carry the ball 10 times in Week 1 because of a shoulder injury, but he expects to get far more touches this weekend. The thought of Portis being a bigger part of the gameplan is great news for the Skins, but Dallas does have a good enough defense to stop the Pro Bowler.

Dallas, meanwhile, is hoping its aforesaid defense and passing game can lead it to victory. When Bledsoe has ample time in the pocket, he's capable of picking defensive backfields apart. The Cowboys' offensive line isn't one of the best in the league, but the Redskins' pass rush was nonexistent against Brad Johnson and the Vikings this past Monday, meaning Dallas does have a ray of hope in terms of pass blocking.

If Bledsoe does have enough time to stand back and fire throughout the game, he'll certainly be looking to Terrell Owens and Terry Glenn, his top two wideouts. Owens has recently played the role of good teammate in Dallas, defending his quarterback during the week. T.O. led off his term with the Cowboys in impressive fashion, catching six passes for 80 yards and a score last weekend.

Washington's secondary could have lots of trouble against Owens and Glenn, since No. 1 cornerback Shawn Springs is unlikely to play and safety Pierson Prioleau is out for the season. That means the struggling Carlos Rogers will have to stand up to Owens, and it will not be an easy task whatsoever.

The coaching factor in this game might be the most important thing to watch for. It's a battle of one Hall of Famer (Joe Gibbs) and versus an eventual Canton enshrinee (Bill Parcells). Neither coach has been too pleased this week. Then again, has Parcells ever been pleased with anything? Well, maybe his training DVDs, currently being pitched on the NFL Network.

Nonetheless, Gibbs told his team to "prepare for war," while Parcells still has last year's Week 2 image of Washington players dousing Gibbs with Gatorade burned in his memory. It didn't help Parcells, either, that Gibbs and the gang shellacked Dallas, 35-7, last December to complete the season sweep.

After taking all that in, who's going to win this epic 'war' between NFC East rivals? The difference, in the end, will be a big game from Portis and Redskins safety Sean Taylor, who is chomping at the bit to rebound from two costly penalties on Monday.

Back in Dallas for the first time in a year, Washington will pull the upset, 23-20. If you think it's gonna be easy for either team, think again.

--Got feedback? Connor J. Byrne responds to readers' comments and questions each day:

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