Washington Redskins vs Dallas Cowboys: WSH +4.5
To begin with, DAL shouldn't be favored by more than a field goal even with their guys healthy. When you consider who is banged up and out of this game this line just baffles me. Austin is already ruled out and Bryant and Jones join Romo on the "questionable" list. Costa is listed as "probable" with a sprained MCL, but he was limited in practice and the last thing Romo needs is an injured center. But he's not the only offensive line injury this week. Week 2 starter Derrick Dockery is out this game and a rookie will take his place. Newman and Jenkins are slated to play at cornerback, but they are new in this system and not 100% healthy just yet. There will be a rust/timing issue there.
What all this adds up to is a tough test for the home team. NFC East games are usually competitive by nature regardless of who's on the sidelines, but WSH has rid itself of bigtime distractions this year (Mcnabb/Haynesworth). The team is finally on the same page and aligned with the same goal. Harmony in the locker room is a very underrated aspect of success. I'm not about to crown Shanahan as a genius or nominate Grossman for the player of the month, but things seem on the up and up for this squad.
Not many people were high on WSH entering the year thanks in large part to Rex Grossman. It's hard to blame them because I think he's a glorified backup too. But there was universal agreement that this defense should be very good. It's early, but so far so good. London Fletcher has taken this unit by the balls and really stepped up as the leader. They are throwing a lot of confusing looks at opposing offenses with guys like Orakpo and Kerrigan. Bowen was a nice addition up front and gets his first chance against his old team. Landry is questionable, but says he will play. Collectively, they should have some nice success against a beat up DAL team. The offensive line will need to play above their heads to keep Romo upright. It would help a lot of Jones was healthy so he could alleviate some of the pressure, but you have to wonder about his effectiveness given his shoulder injury. Those are going to be tough yards inside. Not having Austin will hurt the big play ability and it's doubtful Bryant will be at full strength. This means we'll be seeing a lot of Witten, and even he is playing with injured ribs!
I anticipate a much more even matchup on the other side of the ball. Grossman has played well for the most part, but he is only required to limit his mistakes to be effective. Hightower and Helu are good enough to keep DAL honest and possibly off-balance. Helu's carries could increase as he gets more comfortable with the scheme. Moss has a great history against DAL and there's little doubt that he'll be up for this one. Cooley has been non-existent so far, but he will draw attention to himself and open up opportunities for others. The big challenge will be accounting for Ware every play. The guy is usually good for a game-changing play or two per game. If it becomes more than that then WSH could be in trouble.
In truth, I think WSH can win this game outright. I'll gladly take the points, but DAL is too banged up to be this favored. At worst I expect a nail-biter--in which +4.5 points will come in handy. Roll with the divisional dog in prime-time. Prediction: Bank WSH +4.5.