Game preview: Cowboys at Redskins

Game preview: Cowboys at Redskins
December 20, 2013, 8:45 am
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Fletcher: 'What better way to end it?'

Redskins Post Game Live

What: Cowboys (7-7) Redskins (3-11)

Where: FedEx Field, Landover, Md.

When: Sunday, 1 p.m.

TV: Fox

Redskins Kickoff and Postgame Live on Comcast SportsNet: noon and 4 p.m. 

Top 5 story lines:

1—London Fletcher’s last home game with the Redskins. The 38-year-old linebacker announced on Wednesday that he’s “99-percent” certain this will be his final NFL season. Fletcher will be appearing in his 255 consecutive game (most among active players) and will be making his 214 consecutive start (most ever for a linebacker.) Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said this week that Fletcher is one of the most prepared players he’s ever coached. “Wednesday, he’s focused in on he game plan,” Haslett said. “Thursday, he’s a little more grumpy because he knows what’s going on. Friday, I don’t even talk to him because he’s ready to play the game on Sunday.”

2—Despite suffering a one-point loss in his season debut as a starter last Sunday, Kirk Cousins increased his trade value with three-touchdown performance in Atlanta that included directing a clutch last-minute scoring drive. But if he’s truly ready to be a full-time starter in the NFL, his next challenge is being consistent from week to week. The good news for Cousins? The injury-plagued Cowboys own the NFL’s worst defense. And they’ve also lost back-to-back games against backup quarterbacks (Chicago’s Josh McCown and Green Bay’s Matt Flynn). Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan said Cousins will be better prepared against the Cowboys. “I know he’s enjoying the repetition that he’s gotten [in practice] and he gets to work with the first unit again,” Shanahan said. “You can see he’s more comfortable this week than he was last week.”

[Related: Kyle Shanahan disputes reports about Redskins]

3—Although the Redskins’ playoff hopes were extinguished weeks ago, the Cowboys, at 7-7, are still in control of their destiny. If they can close out the season with wins over the Redskins and Philadelphia (in Dallas), they’ll clinch the NFC East title and their first playoff berth since the 2009 season. But the Cowboys can also be eliminated Sunday with a loss to the Redskins and an Eagles’ win at home over the Bears. You can probably guess what the Redskins would like to see happen, can’t you? “It’s a great opportunity to go into a rivalry game and get a win and give our fan base something to feel good about,” Cousins said. “So there’s a lot to play for.”

4—Shanahan’s legacy will also be on the line. Although the coach’s future in Washington remains murky, this much is clear: If the Redskins lose to the Cowboys, he’ll be assured of the worst record in his 20 seasons as an NFL head coach. In fact, they'll need to win out just to equal Shanahan’s previous low water mark, a 5-11 record in his second season in Washington.

5—The injury situation. Keep an eye on fullback Darrel Young’s status. He left last Sunday’s game in the first half after aggravating a lingering hamstring pull. Against the Falcons, Alfred Morris averaged 6.8 yards on his first nine carries while running behind Young. But Morris’ average on his last nine attempts dropped to 4.8 yards after Young exited the game. Meanwhile, left tackle Trent Williams (knee) practiced fully on Thursday, which likely means he’ll be good to go against the Cowboys.

[RelatedRedskins' Williams returns to practice Thursday]