The playoffs start a week early in the NFC East. Thanks to a season that was disappointing for three teams in the division, and shocking for the fourth, we head into the final weekend of the season not knowing whether the Cowboys or the Redskins will win the division and host a playoff game next weekend. This is essentially an elimination game. If the Cowboys win they are in. The same goes for the Redskins, though they have a small chance of survival even if they lose. They would still advance if Chicago and Minnesota also lose, though they will know those results before their game kicks off, and it seems unlikely that neither will win.
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Both teams can blame themselves for being in the position of having to win this game, because both teams took too long to get rolling this season. Washington started out at 3-6, but the Skins have won six in a row since their bye. A win here would tie their longest winning streak since 1996. Dallas was 3-5 in the first two months of the season but has rebounded to go 5-2 to get into this position. For the Cowboys this is a sadly familiar spot — they also played for their playoff lives in the final weeks of the 2011 and 2008 season. They fell short both times. The Redskins will appreciate that it was the Giants that beat them last year, and they went on to win the Super Bowl.
Cowboys at Redskins Betting Storylines
You can’t talk about this Washington team without starting with Robert Griffin III. His rookie season has been nothing short of remarkable. He has missed a game and obviously still has one left, but he has already run for more yards than any rookie quarterback in history. He’s not a one-trick pony who can only gain yards on the ground, but his game is certainly more dynamic when the defense has to fear his mobile potential. That means that the status of his knee is a big concern in this one. After missing a game two weeks ago, Griffin returned last week but played in a knee brace. He tried to run only twice, and he gained only four yards when he did. The Redskins still won with Griffin limited, but they are up against a much tougher test here. If you have little faith in Griffin’s knee then it’s hard to have faith in his team.
Washington has an obvious edge playing at home. They are 4-1 both straight up and ATS in their last five at home, and Griffin has thrown six touchdowns without an interception in his last four games at home. On top of it all, the forecast for Sunday is for cold and windy — something the Redskins will be far more comfortable with than the dome-living Cowboys. The worse the weather is the better for Washington — Dallas is lousy on the ground and heavily reliant on their passing, while Washington is the best running team in the league — as long as Griffin is okay — and so much more suited to performing in poor weather. Dallas is far from a pushover on the road, though. They are a strong 5-2 ATS away from home — dramatically different than their 1-7 ATS mark at home.
A truly remarkable story in recent weeks has been Dez Bryant. The Dallas receiver has a broken finger that needs surgery, yet he has been playing through it to help his team get into the playoffs. His performance last week — 224 yards and two touchdowns — was one of the top performances by a receiver all year, and it was truly a difference-maker — even if the team ultimately fell short in overtime. Bryant has now scored at least one TD in each of his last seven games, and he has nine touchdowns over that time. The Washington secondary is the team’s biggest liability, so Bryant has the potential to be a difference-maker if he is healthy enough to contribute.
Dallas is a team that tends to take while to get rolling in a game. Last week they seemed out of the game until a furious charge in the closing minutes to tie it up. Against a team that runs as well as Washington, they can’t afford to wait too long to come back, though, because the Redskins can kill the clock very effectively. Dallas needs to find some jump to their game or they are going to be in trouble.
Cowboys at Redskins NFL Odds and Betting Trends
The final game of the regular season opened with the home team favored by 3.5 points. They have drawn a solid majority of the bets, yet the line has dropped to three points in some spots. That’s a clear sign that some smart money is coming in on the Cowboys. The total opened as high as 50 points, and it has fallen to 48 now.
Dallas has covered each of their last four games as a road underdog. Washington is 6-0 ATS in their last six games, and it has covered their last five against the NFC East. The Cowboys are 0-5 ATS in their last five against the Redskins. The road team is 7-2 ATS in the last nine meetings between these teams.
Cowboys at Redskins Picks and NFL Betting Predictions
At just three points I’ll happily take the Redskins. I don’t think Dallas will be able to contain them on the ground, and I don’t believe the Cowboys will be at their most effective through the air. Washington will get a huge boost at home, and their confidence and focus is very high right now. I don’t know how they have managed to make it this far, but they have, and they can keep it up. The Redskins will cover.
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