Plenty to Play For

Since Thanksgiving, the Washington Redskins have seen their record drop to 5-7, one of their best defensive players murdered and their quarterback suffer a season-ending injury.

But still, with a win on Sunday at FedEx Field against the rival Dallas Cowboys, the Redskins can clinch a playoff spot for just the second time since the 1999 season.

Oddsmakers from Bodog have made Washington -9 point spread favorites (View NFL Football odds) for Sunday’s game, the over/under has been set at 39.5 total points (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 56% of bets for this game have been placed on Dallas +9 (View NFL Football bet percentages).

"After all we've been through, we're still in position," Washington running back Clinton Portis said, "so we have to finish it out."

The Redskins (8-7) are in control of their playoff fate because of an unlikely three-game winning streak, capped by a 32-21 win at Minnesota last Sunday. That drew them into a tie with the Vikings for the final NFC wild card spot and earned them the head-to-head tiebreaker over Minnesota, meaning a win against the Cowboys (13-2) earns them a playoff matchup at Seattle next weekend.

Washington could still make the playoffs if it loses, but would need both Minnesota and New Orleans also to lose. The Vikings visit Denver on Sunday while the Saints play at Chicago.

The Redskins last qualified for the playoffs in 2005, when they won their final five games to earn the NFC's final playoff spot.

"Everything that we've worked for, for 15 weeks, goes on the line this weekend," Washington coach Joe Gibbs said.

Such a scenario seemed highly unlikely four weeks ago, when the Redskins, playing for the first time since safety Sean Taylor was killed in his Florida home, dropped their fourth straight game, a heartbreaking 17-16 home loss to the Buffalo Bills.

The next day was Taylor's funeral. The next week, starting quarterback Jason Campbell went down for the season with a dislocated kneecap in the first half. But backup Todd Collins came in and led the Redskins to a 24-16 win over Chicago, then two straight road wins against the New York Giants and Minnesota.

"I don't know of a team - I haven't been a part of one - that's overcome this much," Gibbs said. "It's almost like they're going to overcome whatever's out there. It's also caused a certain camaraderie and chemistry."

Collins, who until this month had not started a game since 1997, has completed 60.8 percent of his passes and thrown for four touchdowns without an interception in the three wins. He's coming off perhaps his best game of the three, going 22-of-29 for 254 yards and two touchdowns against Minnesota.

Portis also has played well, with at least 124 yards from scrimmage in each of the three games. He even threw a touchdown pass to Antwaan Randle El on a trick play against Minnesota.

Last week, the defense held the NFL's best rushing offense to 87 yards, including just 27 for rookie phenom Adrian Peterson.

Of course, shutting down the Cowboys has been a tough task this season, but it could be made easier this week if Dallas decides to rest some starters considering it has the No. 1 seed in the NFC wrapped up.

Terrell Owens will not play due to a high ankle sprain, but Cowboys coach Wade Phillips has not confirmed he will sit any other starters or limit their playing time, saying he will play to win for "the integrity of the game."

"Regardless of what's going on with them, we can't worry about that. We've got to take care of us," Washington wide receiver Santana Moss said. "Regardless of if they're playing nobody, we've got to go out there and win the game."

Phillips pointed out Dallas would set a franchise record for regular season wins if it can beat the Redskins, having already matched the 1992 team record. The Cowboys also haven't lost a road game this season, as they and the New England Patriots will look to become the first teams to go 8-0 on the road since the 2001 St. Louis Rams.

"There's a lot of considerations and we'll consider them all," Phillips said. "But we're still approaching the game to win the game."

Dallas has done that eight of its last nine games, and clinched home-field advantage throughout the playoffs last week by virtue of Chicago's win over Green Bay, but the Cowboys have hardly looked a dominant team of late. They barely outlasted Carolina 20-13 last week, when Owens was hurt in the first half.

One week earlier, they gained a season-low 240 yards in a 10-6 home loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, and the week before that it took a 13-point fourth-quarter comeback to beat the struggling Detroit Lions 28-27.

Quarterback Tony Romo has been battling a thumb injury suffered against the Eagles and seems unlikely to play the entire game, meaning backup Brad Johnson could be the first Cowboy other than Romo to attempt a pass this season.

Romo may play at least some of the game to get on the same page with wide receiver Terry Glenn, who is expected to see action after missing the first 15 games while recovering from knee surgery.

"It won't be a full game, but I'd like to get him playing, get him back in the rhythm of it, catch some passes," Phillips said. "If he wants to start, he can start."

For Dallas, Jason Witten is six catches away from joining Kansas City's Tony Gonzalez as the only tight ends in NFL history with 100 receptions in a season. Running back Marion Barber, meanwhile, is 19 yards away from his first 1,000-yard season.

Washington will be happy not to see Owens, who caught eight passes for 173 yards and four touchdowns in the teams' meeting at Dallas on Nov. 18. The Cowboys needed all of his scores as they held on to win 28-23, but the Redskins have won the rivals' last two games at FedEx Field.

"It's going to be a great game, because it's a rivalry, it's Redskins-Cowboys, it's at our place," Redskins linebacker London Fletcher said. "I guess you can't really write a better script."

By: Staff Writers - Email Us

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