The Dallas Cowboys vs Washington Redskins rivalry once caused a scandal in my hometown of St. Louis. It was the mid-1980s and the Tom Landry Cowboys were in eclipse, but still America’s Team. With the Redskins traveling to Big D to take on the Man In The Hat, the entire half hour of “NFL Today” was dedicated to the Hogs and the Silver Star, with no mention of other games.
It was the national game, but there were regional broadcasts in those days too, and fans had gathered in the Gateway City to see the St. Louis Cardinals (now the Arizona Cardinals) play. The CBS network was so oblivious (and focused on the Dallas-Washington telecast) that the national contest simply began streaming everywhere.
Angry calls from both sides of the Arch followed, and CBS awkwardly switched-over in St. Louis…but not before Greg Gumbel (and this is the funny part) appeared in-studio to apologize to NFL fans in St. Louis for the network being forced to switch to the Big Red.
Maybe he was apologizing to the gamblers. Casual NFL fans in every city want to see their hometown teams play, win or lose. But when the Cowboys and Redskins meet, you can assume that the betting lines will be intriguing, the buzz immense on social media…and plenty of people watching on TV who wouldn’t accept Greg Gumbel’s apology.
Who: Dallas Cowboys at Washington Redskins
When: Sunday, October 21st, 1 PM EST
Where: FedEx Field, Landover, MD
Lines: Cowboys (+1) at Redskins (-1) / O/U Total: (41.5)
Dallas (3-3) enters this rivalry match-up fresh off its most impressive win of the season, a blow-out defeat of the Jacksonville Jaguars. QB Dak Prescott put up the 9th-best performance of any QB all season with a QBR of 95.3. It was a shocking level-up for the young signal-caller against a vaunted Jaguar defense, though it also represented a nadir in Jacksonville’s efforts to take a crushing defensive show on the road.
The Cowboy offensive-line deserves a lot of credit for the all-around performance of the offense, and for Prescott’s newfound success. But the defense seems to be getting a tad better too. Physically rehabilitated LB Jaylon Smith is currently tied for 6th in the NFL with 51 combined tackles, and his Cowboys are currently 2nd in the NFL in yards per rush attempt allowed. More on the rising star at LB:
Smith is doing more than just playing again two years after owner and general manager Jerry Jones gambled early in the draft on a player considered a top prospect before the career-threatening injury. He has helped the defense surge into the top five while Sean Lee missed three games with a hamstring injury, when the opposite often happened in recent years during the oft-injured two-time Pro Bowler’s absences. The Cowboys (3-3) visit Washington (3-2) on Sunday.
“It’s just about doing my job and understanding the player that Jerry drafted,” Smith said. “He believed in me. The Cowboys organization believed in me, that I would get back to this point of being a top-five pick. It’s not a surprise to me. It’s expected. It was just a matter of time.” With Lee out, Smith has a key companion in rookie first-round pick Leighton Vander Esch, who leads the Cowboys with 60 tackles while Smith has 57. No other Dallas defender has more than 35. But the 2015 All-America at Notre Dame is the middle linebacker making most of the calls and displaying leadership skills that attracted the Cowboys to him in the first place, when Dallas and plenty of other teams were wondering if he could play again. A case in point is also one of Smith’s signature plays this season. Before sprinting to the sideline to deliver a hard shoulder hit that stopped Houston quarterback Deshaun Watson on fourth down near the goal line, Smith told DeMarcus Lawrence, “I got you.” That was Smith’s way of turning Dallas’ star pass rusher loose on Watson, and believing he could clean up the play wherever Watson decided to scramble.
“It’s just the trust, the growth and my leadership and my respect on this team,” Smith said. “People understanding that they can count on me and this team believes that.”
The Redskins are also coming off an important win, having beaten the Carolina Panthers in their most recent outing. While any NFL win is a win, Washington was less efficient than Carolina and will need to play much better against a confident Cowboys team coming in off of a high-note.
Head Coach Jay Gruden should feel pretty good about how his veteran quarterback, Alex Smith, has taken care of the ball this season. As per usual, Smith should continue to be a very good game manager for the Redskins and will help keep them in what is expected to be a tight, heated battle on Sunday afternoon.
With a defense that can actually win the line of scrimmage, Garrett has half of his punishing block-and-tackle outline for success filled. On the upswing, the ‘Boys will score enough points to get by the Redskins.
Take Dallas to cover (+1) at FedEx Field.