Dallas Cowboys at Washington Redskins: NFL Week 16 preview

Richard Moore asks is the fading Dallas Cowboys can lift themselves against the woeful Redskins defense.

Logic and the Dallas Cowboys seldom go hand in hand, and this season has been no different, as despite two devastating losses - against both the Bears and Packers respectively, the now 7-7 Cowboys STILL have their fate in their own hands.

Win out and the NFC East title beckons. Lose, and it’s yet another offseason of inquisition and soul searching in Cowboy Nation.

With two straight loses at the hands of second-string quarterbacks , Dallas have once again conspired to pull the carpet from under their own feet with the post-season seemingly in sight.

That being said, on Sunday Dallas travel to the nation’s capital to take a divisional rival in complete disarray, having dropped six straight - but, will it be third time lucky against yet another back-up quarterback, this time in the form of Kirk Cousins?

"We still control what we feel like we can get done," quarterback Tony Romo said. "It just doesn't feel like it right now because we let it slip away."

Had Dallas held on to that seemingly impregnable 26-3 halftime lead Sunday against the Matt Flynn led Packers; they could have clinched the NFC East this weekend.

Dallas shot themselves in the foot, meaning a loss against a Washington side baying for Cowboy blood would consign Romo and co to yet another January on the golf course. Emerge with a victory, however, and the Cowboys have the chance to seal a 22nd NFC East title against Philadelphia.

"The trend's not going to continue because we're going to do what we need to do," opined receiver Dez Bryant, who produced a season best 11 catches and 153-yards against Green Bay. "This whole group in this locker room, we believe and we're going to keep working."

The 37-36 reverse against Mike McCarthy’s Packers was just the latest in the sorry saga of Tony Romo inspired capitulations for the Dallas Cowboys. He threw two interceptions in the final three minutes, the first of which set up the Packers' go-ahead touchdown with Dallas in position to run out the clock with a five-point lead.

Romo and the Cowboys have now lost their last four December games after closing 2012 with back-to-back losses.

While the focal point of Dallas’ December woes invariably focuses on Romo, a woefully inept defense that appears well on schedule to break the record for yards allowed in a single season, eclipsing the staggering 7,042 yards shipped by the 2012-13 Saints, has merely exacerbated the pressure on the $108 million dollar triggerman.

The Cowboys are 2-3 since Nov. 10, and they've allowed a league-worst 35.2 points in that time. They allowed Jay Cutlers understudy Josh McCown to come away with points on every possession during that 45-28 pasting at Soldier Field.

"If you have the right kind of guys on your team, you handle the inevitable adversities of the season better than if you don't," Garrett told the associated press. "If you put emotion into something, passion into something and it doesn't work out, sometimes that's hard to swallow. But again, you have to regroup."

Through 2013 they’ve allowing a league-worst 427.3 yards per game, a massive 297.4 of which come through the air.

The romantic inside may hope for the third time lucky theory to strike (against Washington), but given what Kirk Cousins did to an only marginally better Atlanta defense (going 29 of 45 for 381-yards, and three touchdowns), a defense that ranks 29th in total defense, that may come to represent wishful thinking against a side that would love nothing better than to end playoff aspirations for ‘Big D’.

Interestingly enough in 29 career starts, Griffin hasn't come within 50 yards of Cousins' yardage total, prompting questions as to whether there was room for competition come 2014. Redskins coach Mike Shanahan reiterated Griffin is the starter, but didn't shut that door entirely.

"The thing that you want on your football team is that you want competition, legitimate competition," Shanahan said. "The better players you have, the more people compete. When you look behind your shoulder and you know that guy's pretty good, it makes you work a little bit harder."

Cousins' audition continues against a Cowboys team that beat Griffin 31-16 on Oct. 13 in Dallas despite being outgained 433-213.

Dallas' defense, already in dire straits, placed linebacker Justin Durant on season-ending injured reserve Tuesday due to a hamstring injury suffered against the Packers. The Cowboys played most of the game without their top four linebackers, and whether they'll be any healthier against the Redskins hinges on if Sean Lee can return from a neck injury.

If he doesn’t Dallas and Romo’s dismal December record, currently standing at 13-21 may continue. Ensuring plenty to ponder for Jerry Jones if Dallas makes it a three-peat of winner takes all failures.

Given the fact that the Dallas defense hasn’t shut out an opponent since January 3, 2010, the omens don’t look good against a team that despite propping up the NFC East basement at 3-11, boasts the third best rushing attack in the league, putting up 1,973 total yards.

Veteran linebacker London Fletcher, due to retire at the end of the current campaign was quoted in the Dallas Morning News blog as saying “(but) I just thought with this being the final home game, this being Dallas Cowboy week, an opportunity to go out in a bang, get the fans riled up, say thank you to them and beat the Cowboys. What better way to end it?”

Cowboy fans could think of a better way, but will the curse of December rear its ugly head once again?

We wait in anticipation…

image: © ddyates

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