Cowboys, Redskins battle for division crown
NEW YORK - Agence France-Presse
The Dallas Cowboys will be relying on quarterback Tony Romo (R) against the Washington Redskins, who won the two teams’ first meeting on Thanksgiving Day last month. REUTERS photo
The battle for the NFL’s NFC East division crown will come down to the wire on Dec. 30 when the Washington Redskins host the Dallas Cowboys in the last game of the regular season.
For the Cowboys, winning is their only ticket into the playoffs, while the Redskins might advance as a wildcard even if they lose.
But Washington’s sensational rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III doesn’t want to do it that way, and the Cowboys know it.
Dallas defenders are focused on containing the versatile young star, something they failed to do in a 38-31 loss to Washington on Thanksgiving Day last month.
“I think one thing you have to do with him, especially when you have an option quarterback who’s exposed: You have to inflict him with pain,” said Dallas linebacker Brady Poppinga.
“Not that you’re trying to knock the guy out or anything, but you have to tackle him ... You want to get some good shots on him and you want to test his toughness.”
Since the teams last met, Griffin has been sidelined by a knee injury, but Dallas linebacker Ernie Sims said the Cowboys are preparing for Griffin’s best.
“Stopping RGIII, that’s our goal,” Sims said.
Offensively the Cowboys will be relying on quarterback Tony Romo and receiver Dez Bryant to continue the kind of inspired play that has seen the team claw back into playoff contention after falling two games below .500 midway through the season.
Romo must avoid the inopportune interceptions that led to defeats against Chicago and the New York Giants.
“He makes a ton of plays,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “He’s just not making very many bad plays. He’s done a great job with the football. His decision-making, his care of the football has been very good.”
The Minnesota Vikings can lock up one of two remaining playoff berths with a victory over visiting Green Bay.
The Packers will be trying to secure a first-round bye and prevent Vikings’ Adrian Peterson from capping his comeback from a torn knee ligament by surpassing Eric Dickerson’s record of 2,105 rushing yards in a season.
If the Vikings lose, it could open the door for the erratic Chicago Bears, who visit Detroit, and maybe even for the New York Giants, who maintained the slimmest of playoff hopes heading into their season finale at home to the Philadelphia Eagles.
AFC South division winners Houston will try to lock up home field advantage and a first-round bye when it visits Indianapolis.
The Colts are locked into the fifth seed in the AFC. Baltimore, assured of at least the fourth seed, take on playoff-bound Cincinnati.
Seattle secured a playoff berth with a win over San Francisco last week. Now it will try to claim the NFC West Crown over the 49ers with a win over St. Louis, while San Francisco, also assured of a playoff berth, hosts Arizona.
New England hosts Miami, and Denver hosts Kansas City. Atlanta wraps up its regular season against Tampa Bay.
In other games, Buffalo hosts the New York Jets, New Orleans welcomes Carolina, Pittsburgh entertains Cleveland, Tennessee hosts Jacksonville and San Diego is at home to Oakland.