NFC East Battle

The Dallas Cowboys have put some distance between themselves and their NFC East foes the past two weeks, beating Philadelphia and New York to go two games up in the division.

On Sunday, the Cowboys try to make it three straight wins over their closest pursuers in the East when they host the Washington Redskins.

Oddsmakers from Bodog have made Dallas –10.5 point spread favorites (View NFL Football odds) for Sunday's game, the over/under has been set at 47 total points (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 70% of bets for this game have been placed on Dallas –10.5 (View NFL Football bet percentages).

The Cowboys (8-1) can improve to 4-0 in the NFC East and put a stranglehold on the division race if they can beat the Redskins, their oldest rival.

Though their only loss came in Week 6 to unbeaten AFC powerhouse New England, Dallas headed to Giants Stadium last week facing the possibility of leaving tied for the division lead.

The Giants had won six straight, but just like he'd done when the teams met in Week 1, Tony Romo threw four touchdown passes and Dallas went on to win 31-20 to grab a two-game lead over second-place New York.

"It's another step along the journey that we're trying to go through to get where we want to go,'' said Romo, who completed 20 of 28 passes for 247 yards. "A win like (this) just adds to your confidence. When you do something like this, you have a chance to do something special.''

In his first full year as a starter, Romo has thrown for 2,555 yards - third-most in the NFL - and leads the NFC in quarterback rating (103.3) and touchdown passes (23). No Cowboy has thrown for 4,000 yards in a season, but Romo is on pace for more than 4,500.

Of course, it helps that Romo has Terrell Owens as a target. The five-time Pro Bowler tops the conference with 855 receiving yards and is tied for the NFC lead with eight touchdowns.

"If you want to call it swagger, yes we have the confidence that we know we can go out and beat teams,'' said Owens, who had six catches for 125 yards and two TDs against New York, recording his third straight 100-yard game.

Owens never has played well against Washington, though. In eight games against the Redskins, he has averaged 38.3 yards - his lowest against any team.

While Romo has accomplished quite a bit in just 19 games as a starter - he was a Pro Bowl selection in 2006 - one thing he hasn't done is beat Washington. His one opportunity to do so featured perhaps the most bizarre ending in the 94-game series between the Cowboys and Redskins.

In his second game as a starter last Nov. 5 after taking over for Drew Bledsoe, Romo had thrown for 284 yards and two touchdowns, and led the Cowboys into position for a potential winning 35-yard field goal from Mike Vanderjagt with the game tied at 19 in the final seconds. The kick was blocked and returned 30 yards to the Dallas 44, and though no time remained, a 15-yard face-mask penalty gave Washington kicker Nick Novak a chance to win the game from 47 yards. He connected to lift the Redskins to a stunning 22-19 victory.

The Cowboys come into the first meeting of 2007 with the Redskins featuring the NFC's best offense. Dallas is averaging 32.9 points per game and 396.8 yards, marks bettered only by the AFC's Patriots.

Though Washington (5-4) is ranked 12th overall in defense, the Redskins have been vulnerable against the pass, allowing 218.3 yards a game through the air to rank 22nd in the league. Making matters worse, Pro Bowl safety Sean Taylor will miss at least two weeks with a sprained knee suffered during the Redskins' 33-25 loss to Philadelphia on Sunday.

Pierson Prioleau is expected to take Taylor's place.

The Redskins started 2-0 and appeared to be on their way to 3-0, leading the Giants 17-3 at halftime in Week 3. But New York scored 21 second-half points to deal Washington its first defeat heading into its bye week, and the Redskins have alternated wins and losses since then.

After blowing a 22-13 fourth-quarter lead against Philadelphia last week, the trend would suggest Washington's due for a win Sunday, although that could be a tall order in Texas against the high-powered Cowboys.

"I can't answer what is going to happen down in Dallas because they are one of the absolute best," Gibbs said. "They are stomping around on everyone."

The Redskins could have a chance to beat the Cowboys if they can continue to run the ball well. Washington owns the eighth-best rushing attack in the league at 132.1 yards per game, and has run for 454 yards in the past two weeks.

Despite a slow start to the season that reached a low point with a 27-yard performance against New England, running back Clinton Portis has powered the ground attack in the past two contests. He had at least 30 carries in both games, running for 196 yards against the New York Jets and 137 against the Eagles.

He hasn't been spectacular against Dallas in his career, though, averaging 74.8 yards in five games while scoring just once. The Cowboys have the league's fifth-ranked run defense this season.

"What we had talked about recently is that we need to get in a groove on offense, particularly with the running game," Gibbs said. "That is what jumped out against the Jets and that is what jumped out again (Philadelphia)."

The Redskins have won three of the past four meetings with Dallas, although the Cowboys took 14 of 15 prior to that. Dallas leads the all-time series 55-37-2.

By: Staff Writers - Email Us

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