Posted: Monday September 19, 2005 11:43AM; Updated: Monday September 19, 2005 11:48AM
Mark Brunell completed eight of 14 passes in Week 1 against the Bears.
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The Redskins haven't been in an exciting game since Joe Gibbs first retired, but ABC will air the NFL's greatest rivalry for the second straight year. There are many storylines, including the Gibbs-Bill Parcells rivalry; the question of which team will emerge as a bona fide threat to the Eagles in the NFC East; and the induction of Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin and Troy Aikman into the Cowboys Ring of Honor. And give credit to Gibbs for trying to bring some bitterness back to this feud by calling Cowboys fans "ugliest people in the world."
The Redskins Win If ...
... defensive coordinator Gregg Williams figures out how to force Cowboys quarterback Drew Bledsoe into mistakes. Williams coached Bledsoe in Buffalo and presumably knows all the veteran quarterback's strengths -- and weaknesses. The Redskins have allowed 18 points or fewer in seven straight games, but just keeping Dallas off the board may not be enough. Washington needs to use its blitz-heavy scheme to create turnovers because its offense isn't going anywhere.
Gibbs decided to replace quarterback Patrick Ramsey with Mark Brunell after the 'Skins beat the Bears 9-7 last week. Brunell was benched last season after amassing a 63.9 passer rating in nine starts. But the 35-year-old veteran outplayed Ramsey in the preseason and will likely make fewer mistakes.
Running back Clinton Portis carried 21 times for 121 yards against Chicago and looked more like the back who ran so well in Denver. Washington is 6-0 when Portis eclipses 100 yards, so establishing the rushing game is a priority.
The Cowboys Win If ....
... they stop the Portis. Under Parcells, Dallas is 0-6 when an opposing back surpasses 100 yards. The Cowboys switched to a 3-4 defense this year and it paid immediate dividends last week when Dallas held San Diego to 291 total yards and RB LaDainian Tomlinson to just 72 yards rushing.
Julius Jones ran for 93 yards and a touchdown against the Chargers last week.
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Bledsoe looked like the Bledsoe of old last week against San Diego, throwing three TDs and no INTs to give him a 143.4 passer rating. Bledsoe faces a tougher assignment this week, since he will have little time in the pocket with the 'Skins blitzing as often as possible. One way for Dallas to counter the pass rush would be a big day from running back Julius Jones. Jones was ineffective in his one game against Washington last season, rushing for 57 yards on 22 carries. The Cowboys need more from him tonight.
The Cowboys have won 14 of 15 games in this series. Redskins owner DanielSnyder has beaten his mentor, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, just once in a dozen attempts.
Even though Dallas has owned the series, Washington has kept the games close when they're in primetime. Give the Cowboys a big emotional edge tonight, since its their home opener and there will be all sorts of historical hoopla with the Ring of Honor ceremony. But don't expect Dallas to move the ball as well as it did last week. Even though the Cowboys know the blitz is coming, the 'Skins will still be able to get pressure on Bledsoe and create a defensive slugfest. Turnovers and special teams will make the difference in a Monday night clunker.