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What To Watch For: Three Cowboys, Redskins Storylines

By ZAC BOYER | @ZacBoyer

1. Seizing The Moment: Though much of the focus is on the Redskins’ need to defeat Dallas to advance to the playoffs for the first time in five years, their playoff future may be decided before the 8:20 p.m. scheduled kickoff. If Chicago loses at Detroit and Minnesota falls at home to Green Bay, Washington will be assured the final wild card spot. Players, though, haven’t focused on the contingency plan, instead devoting their efforts all week to one final victory over the Cowboys and their first NFC East title since 1999. The Redskins are in this position by virtue of a six-game winning streak, and a loss could bring an abrupt end to a magical ride for one of the league’s most hapless teams.

2. Hoping For Health: Robert Griffin III was physically limited by a sprained right knee in the Redskins’ victory at Philadelphia a week ago, though head coach Mike Shanahan and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan each said the decision to restrict Griffin from running was merely part of the strategy developed earlier in the week. With the season on the line, however, Griffin vowed to do what it takes to win the game, be it either running or passing. The Redskins have one other injury concern – whether right Tyler Polumbus will play after battling symptoms related to a concussion – but do have the advantage of Pierre Garçon, who was limited in his return from a right foot injury on Thanksgiving but has been stellar in his last three games.

3. A Defensive Stand: The Redskins hit Tony Romo nine times on Thanksgiving but sacked him just twice – something that may change today as the defense enters with a greater confidence off four consecutive strong performances. Ryan Kerrigan had two sacks against Philadelphia a week ago to highlighting an improved pass rush, and the run defense has consistently ranked amongst the top 10 in the league all season. A greater focus will be on the secondary; Dez Bryant has been the most productive receiver in the NFL in the second half of the season and had eight catches for 145 yards and two touchdowns on Thanksgiving. Will the Redskins’ defensive backfield, which struggled the first half of the season, continue its strong play?