1. There’s a good chance Sunday will be receiver Santana Moss’ last home game. He’ll turn 35 in the offseason and, though he can still contribute, it’s hard to imagine him returning. That’s not a guarantee, of course, and he could be re-signed on the cheap. I don’t think he’ll have a lot of suitors. It could be that Washington brings him back as insurance in case Leonard Hankerson’s recovery from knee surgery takes a while (if this staff remains, Hankerson would get a lot of time in the slot). But even then Moss would still have to make the roster.
2. For what he’s done in Washington, he deserves as much applause as anyone. Moss has caught 567 passes with the Redskins. He’s been as steady as anyone I’ve covered in Washington in terms of how he’s dealt with the media. He doesn’t come with an agenda; he doesn’t shy away from any questions; he doesn’t play games. Moss sits at his locker during the open locker room sessions, listening to music and if you ask for a minute he always accommodates. He’s been a true pro since joining the team in 2005.
3. Corner DeAngelo Hall also could be playing his last home game. He said he’d love to return to Washington but, “I think I’ve done enough; I think a lot of guys have done enough to definitely get a job somewhere, whether we’re playing for the Washington Redskins or one of these 32 teams. That’s all we can do.”
4. A win over Dallas would not suddenly erase the stench of this season, but it certainly would make next week feel a little better for the players. So this has become a de facto playoff game for them, knowing it’s their last home game, knowing it might eliminate Dallas from playoff contention. London Fletcher’s retirement added a little incentive. “It’s not just for Fletch, it’s for each other, it’s for the fans, it’s for the rivalry,” Hall said. “But knowing it will be the last time out there with him, absolutely it gets you more excited to go out there and hit somebody and make a play and celebrate with him on the field.”
5. It’s not hard to see why Dallas’ defense struggled a week ago. The Cowboys were decimated at linebacker and needed to shuffle players around, leaving some out of position. The same could happen Sunday. Without Sean Lee on the field, this defense really struggles. It’s not just on coordinator Monte Kiffin.
6. Two other factors have led to the decline. DeMarcus Ware is fading as a player, which automatically weakens the pass rush. Ware has been in and out of the lineup for a couple years because of injuries and it’s taken a toll. He made a couple plays against the Redskins, and can be a backside threat against the run. Still, the sense is that he’s on the downside. Also, the Cowboys’ transition to a 4-3 has been rocky. There are times when one defensive back, for example, is playing a leverage that does not match with another defensive back on his side. That leads to gaps; that leads to completions.
7. Keep this number in mind Sunday: 4.85. That’s how many yards the Cowboys have allowed per carry this season, putting them 31st in the NFL. They also rank last in the NFL in allowing 297.36 passing yards per game. They’ve allowed 5.07 yards per carry in the past two games; the Packers ran well last Sunday in part because of a couple long runs rather than a steady diet of solid rushes.
8. And that’s what Redskins running back Alfred Morris did against them in the first game, cracking a 45-yard touchdown run on a stretch-zone to the right. The linebackers flowed hard playside, he cut back and broke a tackle and scored. With all this shifting at linebacker, the ability to do that will be there again. Which, of course, will set up nicely for Kirk Cousins to run play-action off the stretch-zone. It can buy almost as much time as play-action off zone-read. The Cowboys used plenty of eight-man boxes in the first game, especially when facing I-formation. Hello, play-action. I’ll be curious to see what defense Dallas plays inside the 10; some soft zones against Green Bay last week that led to easy scores. Later, the Cowboys played man in these spots.
9. The tricky part, of course, will be Washington’s ability to stop the Dallas offense, which ranks seventh in the NFL in scoring at 25.4 points per game. But the Redskins have done a solid job against him over the years. In fact, Romo’s career passer rating against them is 85.4, his worst against an NFC East team (not by a lot as it’s 85.7 against Philadelphia; 95.4 versus the New York Giants). And another fact: that 85.4 rating is his second lowest against any team he’s faced at least four times in his career. He has an 81.3 rating in four games against the Chicago Bears. Romo has thrown 22 touchdowns and 14 interceptions against the Redskins.
10. Romo owns four fourth-quarter comeback wins over Washington, his most against any team. He has three against Philadelphia and two over the Giants. Yes, he’s had some spectacular interceptions to stymie fourth-quarter comebacks. Since 2006, he’s thrown an NFL-high seven picks when tied or up by one score in the fourth quarter or overtime. And I don’t get this stat: Dallas has thrown 65.4 percent of the time when leading this season, second to Cleveland. DeMarco Murray is a good enough back that this shouldn’t be the case. They will try to spread the field and run him into a six-man box. That’s why Murray has averaged 3.87 yards before any contact, most in the NFL.