The Dallas Cowboys will have a lot on the line when they play the Washington Redskins this Sunday. They may have to do it in heavy rain according to the latest weather report for the D.C. area. Thankfully, a rainy day would probably work in Dallas' favor.
Predictions of rain for Sunday are at 80-90%, with potentially “heavy rainfall” in the projection. For football, this means added emphasis on the run game. That certainly works in the Cowboys advantage, currently the 2nd-best rushing offense in the NFL. They are averaging 147.5 yards per game on the ground, compared to just 114.8 yards for Washington (14th).
Washington is very much a finesse offense. Of they're 15 offensive touchdowns this year, 12 have come through the air and only three from the run. When they do run well, it generally comes in big doses from tosses, sweeps, and stretch plays that utilize the speed of Chris Thompson. They are not a “ground ‘n' pound” offense in any way.
Rain not only makes it harder to catch and throw footballs but also harder to utilize speed-based running. Running backs and blockers get slower on a wet field, plus slick ground makes it harder to cut up-field.
To make matters worse for Washington, they could be without two of their best offensive linemen. Left tackle Trent Williams and right guard Brandon Scherff are dealing with knee injuries. They might be out even on a normal day, but a wet field makes teams even more nervous about playing guys with lower-joint issues.
The offensive focus for Washington will likely be the short-range passing game. They will probably go to tight end Jordan Reed a lot and try to hit Jamison Crowder on the move. RB Chris Thompson is also used a good bit in the passing game. This will be a big game for the Cowboys linebackers to handle business in the middle of the field as pass protectors.
That said, the point we made about bad knees and wet field should make us consider Jaylon Smith. This might be a good game to let Jaylon sit, or at least use him sparingly, given his well-documented knee issue. It already feels like we're playing with house money that Jaylon has been playing so much this season, but maybe this is a time to temporarily step away from the table.
One young guy we don't need to worry about is Ezekiel Elliott. He's coming off his best game of the year and his status for Sunday is confirmed after the court denied moving up his October 30th hearing. Elliott will be in Washington and ready to carry the heavy load that Dallas should put on him, especially if the weather is as projected.
Dallas was already looking like the favorite for this game, perhaps by a slim margin, and now circumstances should enhance their strengths while neutering Washington's. After getting back to .500 with the win in San Francisco, it's time to keep momentum going and get the first back-to-back victory of 2017. Staying undefeated in the NFC East is another big goal.
The weather may prove to be no big factor at all, or it could go against the Cowboys in the end. One costly fumble of a slick ball can swing the game. We'll see how much impact the rain has on Sunday.