The Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys have already been eliminated from playoff contention in the NFL, so you might think that both teams will give less than maximum effort on Sunday. That would be incorrect. This is a rivalry game. This is their Super Bowl.
And if your fantasy football playoffs start this week, then you're not far from your Super Bowl either. This is where the champions get separated from the casual players. Unless you get lucky or you drafted Michael Vick.
The Redskins and Cowboys game doesn't have a whole lot of national appeal this year for anyone other than fantasy football players. That's why you're here, right? So let's break down the matchups.
Say you've made it to the fantasy playoffs while riding Aaron Rodgers or Matt Cassell as your unquestioned leader at the quarterback position. Both may be out this week, and so you're left to choose between either starting whatever scrub is on your bench, or adding someone off waivers. Chances are that both Jon Kitna and Donovan McNabb are available for selection, but there's only one that I would recommend playing. It's McNabb. The Cowboys have given up 27 passing touchdowns this season, second only to the Texans. McNabb is coming off a very nice 17.12 fantasy point performance in Yahoo! public leagues, and he could do even better this Sunday. Don't trust the reports that Rex Grossman could get some playing time. This is McNabb's team, and this will be his game.
Kitna did well against the Eagles defense, and may look like an attractive start against the Redskins defense that is ranked 29th in the league against the pass, but the Redskins have given up only one passing touchdown the past four weeks. Not each of the past four weeks. Just one touchdown in the past four weeks. That's a whole freakin' month.
The Cowboys are ranked 16th in the NFL against the run - right in the middle of the pack. Ryan Torain abused Tampa Bay's undersized and inexperienced defense last week, but he shouldn't expect as easy a time in Dallas. Still, we feel that the Redskins will commit to the run early once again, and Torain could continue to improve on his 4.9 yards per carry season average.
Felix Jones and the Cowboys running attack has had success against Washington before, and the Redskins are the 28th ranked rushing defense. Jones had a solid 14.30 fantasy point performance against the Eagles last week. Marian Barber may return this week, but won't steal too many carries away from the healthier Jones. My main question is whether Tashard Choice will seek an autograph from John Beck after the game.
Santana Moss and Miles Austin have fairly similar numbers this year. The problem with Moss is that he's wildly inconsistent. Over the past five weeks he's scored four points or less three times, and over 14 points twice.Austin has put up decent numbers since Kitna took over as quarterback, but take note that the Redskins have shut down their opponents' top receiver each of the past four weeks. Just ask Mike Williams, Mario Manningham, Percy Harvin and Randy Moss.
Chris Cooley was publicly critical of how he's being used in the Redskins offense on the LaVar Arrington Show With Chad Dukes this week. He had only two catches against the Buccaneers, and could be targeted more this week. Cooley has dropped down to the No. 10 position among tight ends, which isn't great, but could be useful in larger leagues. Jason Witten on the other hand has quietly put together an excellent season that has him behind only Antonio Gates in fantasy points. He's a must-start every week.
Like the Redskins, I'm ready to jump off the Graham Gano bandwagon. Two missed field goals inside 35-yards is a major problem. And since I was never on the David Buehler bandwagon, both kickers should be avoided this week.
The Redskins and Cowboys defenses are 17th and 19th respectively in fantasy points this season. Right in between them are the Baltimore Ravens, who remain inexplicably owned by 83 percent of fantasy players. Go pick up the Cleveland or San Diego defense instead.