It wouldn’t be Thanksgiving if the Dallas Cowboys weren’t playing, and this year they have a critical NFC East matchup against the Washington Redskins. Kickoff is scheduled for 4:30 EST on Thursday, November 22, at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The game will be televised nationally on Fox.
The betting line has opened with the Cowboys favored by 7.5 points at home. The over/under for the game is set at 40.5 points. Click here for a full list of the Week 12 betting odds in the NFL.
Not long ago, the Redskins had a rather comfortable lead atop the NFC East. But that was before they suffered a case of double trouble over the weekend, losing at home to the Texans and losing quarterback Alex Smith to a season-ending injury. Washington will now turn to Colt McCoy as their starting quarterback with Mark Sanchez signed this week to be their backup.
Washington’s lead atop the NFC East is now down to just a single game over the Cowboys. That means a loss on Thursday will bring the two teams into a tie for first place. With four of their final six games on the road, including Thursday’s trip to Dallas, the Redskins could see their playoff hopes dissipate quickly if McCoy can’t step up and get them back on track quickly.
The Cowboys, on the other hand, are suddenly trending in the right direction. Most were ready to pronounce Dallas dead in the water after their Monday night loss to the Titans a few weeks ago. That defeat dropped them to 3-5 on the season. But the Cowboys have responded with two impressive road wins against the Eagles and Falcons to get back to 5-5.
Of course, with a showdown against the Saints next week and a rematch with the Eagles the following week, the Cowboys can’t afford to start feeling comfortable. A setback on Thursday would make it easy for their season to take another swift downward turn. On the bright side, this week’s game begins a stretch of three straight games at home, where the Cowboys are 3-1 this season.
When these two teams met last month, the Redskins were able to hold on for a 20-17 win. However, that game broke a stretch of four straight wins over the Redskins and eight wins in their last 10 head-to-head meetings with Washington. Dallas also beat Washington when they met on Thanksgiving two years ago.
I know the Cowboys have won two in a row and are looking like a playoff contender. But that doesn’t mean I’m ready to swallow more than a touchdown for them. The Cowboys are far from perfect and the Redskins aren’t nearly as bad as they appear to be after losing Smith. I’ll give Washington the benefit of the doubt and lean toward them to at least beat the spread.
Obviously, McCoy is going to be a key figure in this game. Prior to last week, he hadn’t taken a snap in a regular season game since 2015. But McCoy starting doesn’t necessarily mean the Redskins are hopeless. He’s been in the league a long time and will be better suited to take over than a younger quarterback. Also, it’s not as if he’s replacing an elite quarterback. The Redskins were having Smith more or less serve as a game manager. It’s not a stretch to think McCoy can fill that role as well.
No matter who’s playing quarterback, the Redskins need to run the ball to have success. When these two teams met earlier in the season, Adrian Peterson ran for 99 yards on 24 carries. To be fair, Peterson has been a little up and down since that game. But he still found the end zone twice last week, and despite some injuries on the offensive line, the Redskins are still a competent running team. That’s also an area where McCoy is capable of contributing. If Washington can run the ball, they’ll be fine offensively.
We also have to keep in mind that the Dallas offense is capable but not exactly explosive. Even with Dak Prescott playing better the past couple of weeks and Amari Cooper making a positive impact in the passing game, the Cowboys need their running game to lead the way. The Cowboys can be one-dimensional at times. Also, I’m still not sold on Prescott after a couple quality performances against a pair of subpar defenses.
The Redskins are much strong defensively than the teams Dallas has played the last two weeks. When they met last month, Washington limited Elliott to 33 yards on 15 carries. That’s not a winning formula for Dallas. Keep in mind that the Redskins are giving up less than 20 points per game on the season. If that trend continues, winning by more than a touchdown will be difficult to pull off for the Cowboys.
To be fair, Washington’s path to victory in this game is somewhat narrow. But the Dallas offense will have to have their best game of the season in order to win this game going away. The Redskins have a strong enough defense and a good enough running game to keep this game close. Even if a win is unlikely, I like Washington to beat the spread.