Quarterback Case Keenum, who started the season for the Redskins, will finish it as well: He has replaced rookie Dwayne Haskins, who is out with a high ankle sprain. Keenum will be without the Redskins’ top wide receiver, rookie Terry McLaurin, who is recovering from a concussion. And with a depleted secondary, the Redskins will have a hard time slowing the NFL’s top offense. Here are five keys for Washington if it hopes to score an upset:
Slow the passing game
This will be a challenge. Without cornerbacks Quinton Dunbar and Jimmy Moreland and safety Landon Collins, Washington won’t have many experienced players chasing Dallas’s top receivers. Wideouts Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup and tight end Jason Witten could have big days unless the Redskins’ secondary plays better than anyone expects.
Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott is hard to pressure because of his elusiveness. The Redskins will have to hope he makes a lot of bad decisions.
Stop Ezekiel Elliott
The Cowboys running back has had big games against the Redskins, and given the way Washington has struggled to stop the run, Dallas probably will try to establish him early. The Cowboys have won five of the six games this season in which Elliott has run for at least 100 yards. Expect him to run early and maybe run a lot.
If the Redskins can control him and force Prescott into third-and-long situations, they at least will have a chance to get the Cowboys off the field. Otherwise, if Elliott gets going, Washington could be surrendering some long Dallas drives.
Let Keenum sling it around
Keenum joked Sunday that, after he came in for Haskins early in the second half of the overtime loss to the New York Giants, he was able to sling the ball around. He wound up leading the Redskins to three second-half touchdowns. Even though he won’t have McLaurin to throw to and Washington doesn’t have any pass-catching tight ends, wideouts Steven Sims Jr. and Kelvin Harmon have shown enough promise that Keenum will have some players to target.
Keenum struggled with accuracy early in the season, but he has always been a quarterback who will give his receivers a chance to make plays.
Find a way to get Adrian Peterson going
It has been an odd season for Peterson (820 rushing yards), who probably will fall short of a 1,000-yard season despite a late surge. After sitting out the opener when former coach Jay Gruden chose to emphasize Derrius Guice, he became a key piece of the offense when interim coach Bill Callahan focused on the run.
Peterson, a Texas native, would love nothing more than to break out for a big game.
Win the field position game
Punter Tress Way has been the Redskins’ most dependable player all season. He was rewarded for that consistency by being picked for his first Pro Bowl, and he landed a contract extension Friday. If the Redskins can move the ball close to midfield, they can use Way to pin the Cowboys deep. That would at least give the defense a chance to force Dallas to limit its play-calls.