What: Dallas Cowboys at Washington Redskins, today, 1 p.m., Redskins Stadium.

TV/Radio: WTTG-5, WBFF-45; WJFK-FM-106.7, WBQB-FM-101.5, WPLC-FM-94.3, WKIK-FM-102.9, WAGE-1200, WNAV-1430, WFMD-930.

Line: Redskins by 3.


1.Protect Brad Johnson.

The absence of Dallas defensive tackle Leon Lett helps the Redskins immensely, but DEs Kavika Pittman and Greg Ellis are dangerous.

2.Stop the Run.

The Redskins are bolstered by the arrival of defensive end Marco Coleman and strong safety Sam Shade, the move of Derek Smith to middle linebacker and the promotion of outside linebackers Shawn Barber and Greg Jones to the starting lineup.

3.Hope Deion Doesn't Play or Isn't Effective.

The Cowboys are a different team when cornerback Deion Sanders, left, isn't taking away half the field.


Will he or won't he? The Cowboys say they'll make a game-day decision about whether CB Deion Sanders's toe injury will permit him to play. Sanders, when he's healthy, changes a game as much as any player in the league by taking an opponent's best WR out of the offense. The Dallas defense already will be without CB Kevin Smith (back) and DT Leon Lett (suspended). The Redskins will try to control the ball with their short passing game, with QB Brad Johnson looking for TE Stephen Alexander and RBs Brian Mitchell and Larry Centers. But they also would like to get contributions from RB Stephen Davis and WRs Michael Westbrook, Albert Connell and Irving Fryar.

Key Matchup

Westbrook and Connell vs. Cowboys CBs Kevin Mathis and Charlie Williams.

If Sanders doesn't play or is limited, the Redskins must find ways to get the ball downfield to their wideouts. Not only will that make for some big plays, but it would force the Cowboys to use their safeties to help in coverage -- keeping them away from the line of scrimmage, and opening up some room for the Redskins' running game.


Dallas totaled 380 rushing yards in its two wins over the Redskins last season, including 224 in a 31-10 victory at Washington in Week 5. RBs Emmitt Smith and Chris Warren each topped 100 yards in that game. The Redskins believe they've upgraded significantly on defense. The starters surrendered only six points in seven quarters of work during the preseason. The Redskins have the league's only defensive line with four former first-round draft picks as starters, but they'll go against a Cowboys' offensive line that DT Dana Stubblefield said this week is the NFL's best.

Key Matchup

Redskins CB Champ Bailey vs. Cowboys WR Michael Irvin.

Irvin isn't what he once was, but he still is a dangerous receiver. Bailey looks like a special player in the making and has the size and speed to blanket Irvin, but this is his first NFL game. The Redskins need Bailey and veteran CB Darrell Green to be able to play opposing WRs one on one to be able to go after QBs aggressively.


Redskins PK Brett Conway was impressive in training camp but missed two of four FG attempts in the preseason finale after being given the job. P Matt Turk has been to three straight Pro Bowls, and Mitchell needs only 26 punt return yards to pass Vai Sikahema for third place on the NFL's all-time list. Sanders's injury also hurts the Cowboys on special teams. He's an electrifying return man with five career TDs on punt returns. WRs Jeff Ogden and Raghib Ismail take over in his absence, and Mathis and Ogden handle the kickoff returns. Richie Cunningham is 63 for 72 on FG attempts in his two seasons as the Dallas kicker. Toby Gowin averaged 43.4 yards per punt last season and had a team-record 31 punts downed inside the 20.