'Boys - 'Skins preview & prediction

'Boys - 'Skins preview & prediction

The priority for Cowboys QB Tony Romo is to continue protecting the ball Sunday night against the Redskins.

KICKOFF: Sunday, 8:20 ET
GAMEDATE: 12/27/09
SURFACE: Grass
TV: NBC (Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Andrea Kremer)

KEYS TO THE GAME: Whether it's Quinton Ganther, Rock Cartwright or Marcus Mason, Washington has to find a way to move the ball on the ground. The Redskins' offense disintegrated with no pass protection against the Giants on Monday night, and the short passing attack isn't equipped to convert long passing downs. The priority for Cowboys QB Tony Romo is to continue protecting the ball. Dallas will try to run the ball early, and the Giants were highly effective using screen passes to thwart Washington's pass rush.

FAST FACTS: Romo has eight touchdown passes and no interceptions in his past four games. ... Redskins TE Fred Davis has a touchdown reception in four consecutive games.

PERSONNEL NEWS: Cowboys- TE Martellus Bennett is good to go for the Redskins game after missing the past two games with a concussion.

"He looked like he did when he went out," head coach Wade Phillips said. "He looks fresh. He's running routes good and it looks like he's blocking well."

--FB Deon Anderson practiced on Friday and will play against the Redskins after missing practice all week with an illness.

--WR Miles Austin didn't start until Week 5. But he has put up Pro Bowl numbers since. No receiver in NFL has more touchdown catches and only one has more yards since Austin moved into the starting lineup. Austin has 60 catches for 1,057 yards and 10 touchdowns during that time. Houston's Andre Johnson has 1,097 yards to top Austin.

--RB Felix Jones has been getting an increased workload of late. The Cowboys plan to make him a bigger part of the offense down the stretch.

For the first time in his career, Jones has had back-to-back double-digit carry games. He had 10 carries for 51 yards against San Diego and 14 for 58 against New Orleans. The Cowboys don't plan to take him off kick returns either.

"Hopefully we don't have a whole lot of that where we wear him out," coach Wade Phillips said. "Again it's number of touches. Actually he's been getting better and better (on kick returns). ... We've almost broke a couple there lately. I think he's getting a better feel where everything is."

Redskins- WR Devin Thomas didn't practice again on Thursday because of the right ankle he sprained on the second-half kickoff on Monday against the Giants. Malcolm Kelly might start in his place Sunday against Dallas.

--DT Cornelius Griffin was limited again on Thursday after sitting out against the Giants with a sprained shoulder. He's expected to play against Dallas.

--DT Anthony Montgomery (hip) took full practice after being limited on Wednesday.

--DE Andre Carter was limited again on Thursday with a torn left biceps and is expected to start against the Cowboys.

--CB DeAngelo Hall was limited on Thursday with the sprained right knee that kept him out of the three games prior to the one against the Giants.

--OT Stephon Heyer, who left the Giants' game with an ailing knee, took full practice again on Thursday and is expected to start against the Cowboys.

INSIDE THE CAMPS: Cowboys- Everybody associated with the Cowboys believes their victory against the Saints could be destiny-altering.

It could change negative perceptions of the Cowboys and end talk about slumping in December.

It could be the springboard to a championship season.

It could be all of that. But only if the Cowboys build on the win by closing the season with wins against the Redskins on Sunday and the Eagles next week.

A loss in either game could make the New Orleans win meaningless.

"I'm proud of us," tight end Jason Witten said. "I've been on other end of that where we've gone into a big game and mailed it in.

"I'm proud of our team to be able to go through that and focus and come away with a big win, and really be in control of the game the entire way."

"But as big of a win as that was against New Orleans, it will mean nothing if we let this slip. I think all of us know offensively when you look back we scored seven points against them earlier and 14 points last year. We haven't put up a lot of points against them."

Putting the euphoric win against the Saints behind them and moving on to the Redskins has been the point of emphasis from the team captains all week. Dallas beat the Redskins by a single point -- 7-6 -- in an earlier meeting this year. The Cowboys know the rival Redskins would love nothing more than to rain on Dallas' parade.

Said linebacker Bradie James: "We only won a game. We didn't win anything but a football game. It was an undefeated team, but it was one football game. You got 24 hours to celebrate a win. Then you got to move forward. ... We are actually playing for something."

Redskins- Just three weeks after he missed a 23-yard field goal try that would've sealed a mammoth Redskins upset of then-unbeaten New Orleans, Shaun Suisham returns to Washington on Sunday as the kicker of archrival Dallas.

Suisham was cut just two days after the errant chip shot, one of just three misses in his 21 attempts this season. Ironically, both of Suisham's previous failures came against the Cowboys: a 50-yarder and a 39-yarder that followed a lengthy delay during which the officials debated a ruling.

"It was really hard," holder Hunter Smith said of seeing Suisham go. "Under 50 yards, he's a 90 percent kicker, and Dallas saw the value in that. The NFL is a fickle league. It really is. A lot of value is placed on people or taken away from people based on what they've done in the short run. In the long term, a guy like Shaun's gonna go out and prove that he has a great value on the field."

Special teams captain Rock Cartwright already has Suisham coming back to haunt the Redskins, for whom he was the most accurate kicker in franchise history (81 of 101).

"I'm sure he wants to redeem himself against us," Cartwright said. "Hopefully, it don't come down to a game-winning field goal. I know he'll sink it."

Strangely, Suisham was also the kicker on Cartwright's lone career return touchdown in Week 2 against Dallas in 2006 when the Canadian was in his first tour of duty with the Cowboys.

"He was the last tackle I broke on my touchdown," Cartwright recalled. "He was the kicker."

PREDICTION: Cowboys 20-10

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