One of professional football's most spirited rivalries resumes Sunday night when the Washington Redskins visit the Dallas Cowboys. Despite the teams owning a collective 3-6 record, a win Sunday would propel one of them into first place in the struggling NFC East. Dallas is coming off a wild 51-48 loss to Denver, while the Redskins enjoyed a bye last week.
Here's the breakdown in our betting tale of the tape:
The Redskins have boasted a solid offense despite quarterback Robert Griffin III's early-season struggles. Washington ranks eighth in the NFL in passing yards per game at 284.8, with No. 1 receiver Pierre Garcon racking up 44 targets through the first four games. The running game has yet to get untracked, with the Alfred Morris-led rush attack sitting 17th in yards per game (106). Griffin, who ran for 815 yards as a rookie, has just 72 so far this season.
While no doubt inflated by last week's shootout loss to the Broncos, the Dallas pass attack has been equally as impressive. The Cowboys rank one spot ahead of the Redskins at 285 yards per game, while their 13 passing touchdowns tie them with San Diego for second-most in the league. Like the rival Redskins, Dallas has struggled to move the ball on the ground; the Cowboys are 20th in yards per game and have just two rushing scores through five games.
The Redskins can only hope the week off provided some much-needed rest and reflection time for a defense that is allowing a league-worst 440.5 yards per contest. As bad as the pass defense has been - ranked 28th in the NFL at 298.3 yards allowed per game - the rush defense has been even worse. No team in the league has surrendered more yards per game than the Redskins (142.3), while their 4.7 yards-per-carry against is 26th.
The loss to Denver also blew up the Cowboys' defensive stats, though they weren't all that impressive to begin with. The Cowboys own the second-worst pass defense in football, surrendering 326.4 yards per game and 14 touchdowns - tied with the New York Giants for the most in the league. The one area in which Dallas owns a sizable advantage is in run defense; the Cowboys are allowing the fourth-fewest yards per game in the NFL at 82.8.
Washington's return game is lacking through the opening six weeks. The Redskins are averaging just 20.3 yards per kickoff return - the sixth-lowest total in the league - with a longest return of just 28 yards. The punt-return game has been equally deficient, with Washington ranked 27th at 5.6 yards per attempt. Kicker John Potter is 3-for-4 on field-goal attempts but will be relegated to the backup role with the return of Kai Forbath, who hasn't played since Week 1.
The Cowboys have been strong on their returns so far in 2013. They're averaging 27 yards per kickoff return and 11.9 yards per punt return - both ranking them sixth in the league. Veteran placekicker Dan Bailey has been solid to date, connecting on nine of 11 field-goal attempts while making all 15 of his extra-point kicks. He hit from 43 and 48 yards out in last week's narrow loss to Denver.
"Make no mistake about it: Tony is excellent. And he gives us our best chance of winning a Super Bowl. A lot of people say, 'Well, Jerry, shame on you for making that our very best chance.' I like trying to get there the way we're trying to get there better than the alternative." - Cowboys owner Jerry Jones on quarterback Tony Romo
"I'd like to get (Roy) Helu out there more. It's always a hard thing when you've got two guys you believe in and with the success (Alfred Morris) had last year and how much we do believe in Alf, so we don't like to just keep rotating those guys all the time." Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan on his running back situation