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The 5 O’Clock Club: About them Cowboys

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It’s 5 o’clock somewhere…

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Washington Redskins Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The 5 o’clock club is published Wednesday to Saturday during the season, and aims to provide a forum for reader-driven discussion at a time of day when there isn’t much NFL news being published. Feel free to introduce topics that interest you in the comments below.

A quick peek backwards

Before we move forward to look at the challenge the Redskins will be facing when they visit the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving, let’s take a quick look back at the Houston Texans game.

Houston Texans v Washington Redskins Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

Last weekend, ahead of the Houston game, 5 o’clock club readers were invited to vote on over-under predictions for the game. Let’s see how we did.

Predictions & actual results for last week’s Houston Texans game

19.5 points scored by the Texans against Washington

  • prediction: over (51%)
  • actual: The Texans put up 23 points, leading 17-7 at halftime, and winning the game by a final score of 23-21.
Houston Texans v Washington Redskins Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Redskins +1.5 turnover margin versus the Texans

  • prediction: over (61%)
  • actual: The Redskins defense created 3 takeaways, but Alex Smith uncharacteristically threw 2 interceptions — one of them a 101-yard pick six — resulting in a +1 turnover margin for the Redskins. Not bad, but not good enough. That pick-six was tough to overcome in a battle between two top defensive teams.

Mason Foster had an interception for the Redskins, but the defensive play of the game for Washington may have come on the defensive series that followed the Alex Smith injury when Preston Smith got in Deshaun Watson’s throwing lane, batted the ball high in the air, caught his own deflection as it came back down, then lumbered three yards to the Houston 13.

NFL: Houston Texans at Washington Redskins Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Colt McCoy, who hadn’t played in a regular season game since 2015, walked on the field, handed off on first down, then threw a strike to Jordan Reed for a touchdown on the second play following the interception.

This was the second consecutive Houston drive killed by a turnover. The drive that came immediately before Redskins drive in which Smith’s leg was broken ended in a fumble by Deshaun Watson that was forced by HaHa Clinton-Dix and recovered by Mason Foster, the linebacker who had the Redskins first interception late in the first half.


3.5 punts downed between the goal line and Houston’s 20 yard line

  • prediction: over (54%)
  • actual: Tress Way punted only 5 times, as the Redskins had 3 drives end in touchdowns, with 2 killed by interceptions, one missed field goal and one with the end of the first half. Of Way’s five punts, 3 came down inside the 20 yard line, where two of them were downed between Houston’s goal line and 20 yard line. The third, however, was returned 16 yards, to the Houston 31 yard line.

Way had a rare bad punt in this game with 4:38 left in the game, when he booted a ball just 31 yards to the Houston 42 yard line. His inability to pin the Texans back further on their own end of the field, as he usually does to the opposing offense, is an overlooked factor in the field position battle between the two teams at the end of the game.


229 passing yards for Alex Smith versus Texans

  • prediction: under (64%)
  • actual: With Alex Smith being knocked out of the game with a broken leg midway through the third quarter, it’s no surprise that Alex threw for only 135 yards. The bigger surprise was that he threw two interceptions.

The Redskins offense showed some signs of life against the Texans, with both quarterbacks. Alex had one or two big drops that hurt his yardage and scoring stats for the game, and Colt came off the sideline red-hot, throwing a touchdown on his first pass of the game,

Yet, even when you add together the yardage totals for both quarterbacks, the Redskins offense put together just 189 passing yards for the game.


Which team will be flagged for more penalties on Sunday?

  • prediction: Redskins (61%)
  • actual: The Texans were penalized 7 times, the Redskins 6. Of course, Josh Norman shouldn’t have been flagged for the hold late in the 4th quarter, and the NFL has already admitted that the refs failed to throw the flag for a mugging an interference call on a deep pass from McCoy to Josh Doctson that likely cost the Redskins the game, as it resulted in a 63 yard field goal attempt that fell short instead of a very makeable one that would have resulted from the correct flag being thrown against the Texans.

53 yards rushing for Adrian Peterson against the Texans

  • prediction: over (82%)
  • actual: I think Redskins fans underestimated the strength of the Texans’ No. 6 ranked rushing defense. I think Texans fans underestimated the ability of the Redskins patched-together offensive line and the power & burst of Adrian Peterson.

Prior to the game, Texans fans were boasting that Peterson would not be able to run on their defense. Well, he was limited to 51 yards — 2 yards below the over/under mark — but then, his yardage was limited because he ran out of open field two times when he crossed the goal line for touchdowns.

When the opposing running back puts two touchdowns on the board untouched to the end zone, you can’t brag about limiting him to 51 yards and 3.2 yards per carry. Peterson beat up on the Texans ‘elite’ defense.


Who will lead the Redskins in number of receptions versus the Texans?

  • prediction: Maurice Harris (34%)
  • actual: It shouldn’t seem unusual, but for the first time in a long time, Jordan Reed led the team in receptions (7), yards (71) and receving touchdowns (1). This used to be so routine as to be unremarkable, but Reed had been pretty quiet through the first 9 games. Reed caught 4 passes from Alex Smith and 3 from Colt McCoy.
NFL: Houston Texans at Washington Redskins Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Trey Quinn finished 2nd in receptions with 4. Maurice Harris tied for 5th, with just one catch for 13 yards.


Shifting the focus to the Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys will show up to the Thursday game on a bit of mini-streak, having won consecutive road games against the Eagles and Falcons to move into 2nd place in the NFC East. Parenthetically, the entire division is playing itself this weekend, as the Giants travel to Philadelphia and try to extend their 2-game winning streak (and the Eagles try to break their two-game skid).

The Cowboys are 7-1 all time against the Redskins on Thanksgiving, when they are always at home on a short week. The sole Thanksgiving victory for the Redskins came in RG3’s rookie season when — on the same date, 22 Nov, in 2012 — the Redskins scored 38 points in the second of 7 consecutive wins the Redskins put together to win the NFC East.

Washington Redskins v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Colt McCoy, this week’s starting QB for the Redskins, had a strong outing against Dallas in his last regular season start, leading a 34-23 win against the Cowboys in Week 17 of the 2015 season, when the Redskins had already clinched the division championship.

I am sensing a pattern:

  • 2012 - RG3 - 38 points - Redskins win - division champions
  • 2015 - McCoy - 34 points - Redskins win - division champions
  • 2018 - McCoy -

Poll

30.5 points scored by the Redskins on Thanksgiving day, 2018.

This poll is closed

  • 21%
    over
    (61 votes)
  • 78%
    under
    (223 votes)
284 votes total Vote Now

In Week 7, Zeke Elliott rushed for 33 yards against the Redskins.

Dallas Cowboys v Washington Redskins Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Elliott rushed for 151 yards against the Eagles, and 122 yards against the Falcons.

Many people attribute Elliott’s recent rushing productivity to a change in the defensive schemes as a result of the acquisition of Amari Cooper from the Raiders.

The Cowboys rank 4th in rushing offense, averaging 133.3 yards per game. Elliott is leading all running backs, averaging 95.3 yards per game on the season.

Poll

Zeke Elliott rushes for 95.3 yards against the Redskins

This poll is closed

  • 34%
    over
    (104 votes)
  • 65%
    under
    (199 votes)
303 votes total Vote Now

Dallas has scored 203 points this season in ten games, for an easy-to-calculate average of 20.3 points per game.

Their low score for the season came in Week 1 versus the Panthers, when they scored just 8 points. The high was in Week 6 when they put up 40 against the Jaguars (before everyone realized that the Jags had turned back in to a pumpkin).

Taking out the two outliers, the Cowboys have scored between 13 and 27 points in the eight other games. They have scored under 20 points in every loss this season, and 20 or more points in every win.

The Redskins are ranked 5th in the NFL, giving up 19.8 points per game.

Poll

The Cowboys score 19.5 points against the Redskins on Thursday afternoon

This poll is closed

  • 54%
    over
    (159 votes)
  • 45%
    under
    (131 votes)
290 votes total Vote Now

The Redskins are ranked 2nd in the league in turnover margin at +12.

The Cowboys are ranked 20th, with a turnover margin of ‘zero’. In other words, the Dallas offense has the same number of giveaways as the Cowboys defense has takeaways.

Denver Broncos v Washington Redskins Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

The offenses for Dallas and Washington have each given away 5 interceptions.

The Redskins have intercepted 11 passes, while the Dallas D has managed just 4 INTs this season.

With fumbles, the Redskins defense has forced 10 fumbles in 10 games, while the offense has lost 4 fumbles.

The Cowboys have forced 6 and lost 5.

Recap:

Washington:

  • Takeaways = 11 INT, 10 FUM - total 21
  • Giveaways = 5 INT, 4 FUM - total 9
  • Margin = +12

Dallas:

  • Takeaways = 4 INT, 6 FUM - total 10
  • Giveaways = 5 INT, 5 FUM - total 10
  • Margin = 0

The wildcard for Washington is the change from Alex Smith, known for being extremely careful with the ball, to Colt McCoy who has a TD:INT ration of 27:23, and has 23 INTs in 37 career game appearances. Colt’s career INT% is 2.7% while Alex’s career number is 2.0%.

Poll

The Redskins will be +0.5 takeaway margin on Thursday in Dallas

This poll is closed

  • 78%
    over
    (208 votes)
  • 21%
    under
    (57 votes)
265 votes total Vote Now

The Dallas Cowboys have given up 34 sacks this season (3.4 per game), tied for 3rd most in the league with the Bills. Only the Giants (36) and the Browns (35) have given up more.

The Redskins offense is ranked #19, having given up 24 sacks in 10 games.

The Redskins defense and the Cowboys defense are tied, each having 28 sacks on the season (2.8 per game).

Poll

The Dallas offense gives up 3.5 sacks against the Redskins this week

This poll is closed

  • 48%
    over
    (121 votes)
  • 51%
    under
    (130 votes)
251 votes total Vote Now

Against the Eagles, the Dallas Cowboys’ leading receiver was Amari Cooper, who had 6 receptions for 75 yards. Against the Falcons, the leading receiver was Ezekiel Elliott, with 7 receptions for 79 yards.

Across the two games, the leading Dallas receivers are:

  • Zeke Elliott 13 receptions, 113 yards
  • Amari Cooper 9 rec, 111 yards
  • Cole Beasley 9 rec, 88 yards

Against the Buccaneers, the Redskins leading receiver was Maurice Harris, who had 5 receptions for 52 yards. Against the Texans, the leading receiver was Jordan Reed, with 7 for 71.

Across the two games, the leading Redskins receivers are:

  • Jordan Reed 11 rec, 122 yards
  • Josh Doctson 7 rec, 78 yards
  • Mo Harris 6 receptions, 65 yards
  • Trey Quinn 4 rec, 49 yards (Texans game only)

Again, the wildcard here is the change from Alex Smith to Colt McCoy. It’s hard to know how much Colt will throw, how well he’ll throw, or who he is most likely to target.

Dallas Cowboys v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The first time these two teams played this season, the leading receivers were Michael Gallup and Kapri Bibbs.

Poll

Who will have the most receiving yards on Thursday?

This poll is closed

  • 26%
    Jordan Reed
    (75 votes)
  • 5%
    Zeke Elliott
    (14 votes)
  • 13%
    Josh Doctson
    (37 votes)
  • 21%
    Amari Cooper
    (60 votes)
  • 15%
    Trey Quinn
    (43 votes)
  • 12%
    Cole Beasley
    (36 votes)
  • 3%
    Maurice Harris
    (10 votes)
  • 1%
    Someone else
    (4 votes)
279 votes total Vote Now

Adrian Peterson is averaging 72.3 yards per game. So far this season, when he has rushed for over 65 yards, the Redskins have won; when he has rushed for less than 55 yards, the Redskins have lost.

Carolina Panthers v Washington Redskins Photo by Todd Olszewski/Getty Images

The 6th ranked rushing defense of the Texans gives up 96 rushing yards per game, and AD rushed for 51 against them.

The Cowboys are ranked 4th in rushing, giving up 95 rushing yards per game. In Week 7 AD rushed for 99 yards against them in a home win.

Poll

Adrian Peterson rushes for 60 yards against Dallas on the road this week

This poll is closed

  • 79%
    over
    (213 votes)
  • 20%
    under
    (55 votes)
268 votes total Vote Now