2012 NFL Picks: Dallas Cowboys @ Washington Redskins Odds and Predictions – Week 17 Sunday Night Football Picks

2012 Week 17 NFL Picks: Dallas Cowboys @ Washington Redskins Vegas Odds and Predictions – Free NFL Picks 12/30/2012: For the second year in a row, the Dallas Cowboys (8-7) will go on the road in the regular season finale with a chance to win the NFC East and make the playoffs in a winner-take-all matchup with a division rival. They squandered the opportunity last season against the New York Giants, and this time around, they will face a 9-6 Washington Redskins team that will be looking to claim the division crown and playoff spot for themselves. The season is on the line for both teams, and you won’t find a regular season game that has more at stake. Washington already went on the road and knocked off Dallas earlier this season, and playing at home, the Redskins are three-point favorites.

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Although he always seems to be the subject of criticism, quarterback Tony Romo has the Dallas passing attack ranked third in the NFL this season. He has thrown for more than 4,600 yards to go along with 26 scores despite a running game that ranks dead last in yards per game. Dez Bryant has emerged as his main target, and the receiver has 12 scores and more than 1,300 yards entering Sunday’s game. Jason Witten also remains a reliable option for Romo, and his 102 catches this year are already a single-season record for tight ends. Meanwhile, the Dallas defense has been on a downward spiral throughout the year and now ranks outside the top 15 against the pass and outside the top 20 against the run. Overall, the Cowboys are allowing almost 25 points per game to opponents.

For Washington, a pair of rookies has keyed the NFL’s top-ranked rushing attack and the fourth-best scoring offense. Quarterback Robert Griffin III has done a lot of the damage, throwing for 3,100 yards and 20 touchdowns and running for more than 700 more while committing just seven total turnovers. However, fellow rookie Alfred Morris has done plenty of work, as well. He is currently fourth in the NFL with more than 1,400 yards and has found the end zone 10 times. On the flip side, the Washington defense has been decimated by injuries and is missing its two best pass rushers. As a result, the Redskins currently rank 30th in the NFL when it comes to stopping the pass. That being said, the unit does rank fifth against the run and is in the middle of the pack in points allowed.

The Cowboys Win If:

Romo threw the ball all over the porous Washington secondary in the first meeting, but it wasn’t enough. If Dallas is going to reverse the outcome this time around, its defense is going to have to help out, as well. In particular, corners Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne have to win their battles one on one so the rest of the Cowboys defenders can commit to stopping Morris and Griffin on the ground. If Dallas can make slow down the Redskins’ rushing attack, it will go a long way to limiting the big play opportunities available to Griffin off of play action and other designed rollouts and scrambles. Offensively, the Cowboys can help their defense by controlling the clock a bit with DeMarco Murray and the ground game, but at the end of the day, Dallas only wins this game if its defense can keep Griffin and company from hitting big play after big play.

The Redskins Win If:

Just like in the first meeting, Washington’s offense needs to come out firing on all cylinders if it wants to complete the season sweep of Dallas. In particular, the Redskins need to make sure to maintain a healthy balance between Morris and Griffin on the ground and Griffin taking shots through the air. The Dallas defense looked lost and confused the first time around, and if Washington’s play calling stays unpredictable Sunday night, the Cowboys are going to be playing a guessing game once again. Meanwhile, the Washington defense needs to take advantage of the one-dimensional, pass-happy Dallas offense. The Redskins don’t have the secondary to shut down Romo, but by forcing a couple of turnovers, they can tip the scales in their favor in what should be another high-scoring affair.

Bottom Line:

The Cowboys had this exact same opportunity last year, and they promptly went on the road and got clobbered by the New York Giants 31-14. In fact, when is the last time you can remember Dallas winning any type of big game? These two teams already met once this season in Dallas on Thanksgiving, and the Cowboys lost 38-31 and were down 28-3 before they could blink. Romo threw for 441 yards and four scores in that meeting, and his team still lost. Even if he has another big game against the Washington secondary, the Dallas defense still has to slow down Griffin. This is the same Dallas defense that just got torched by Drew Brees and the Saints last weekend and has already been torched by Griffin and fellow rookie QB Nick Foles for more than 30 points in the past few weeks. All the talk leading up to this game has been about whether or not Romo can handle the pressure of a big stage. The real question is whether or not the Cowboys as a team can handle this stage, and the Dallas defense has shown no signs of being able to handle anything lately. Griffin and company outscore the Cowboys once again in a high-scoring shootout.

Prediction: Washington Redskins (-3) Cover the Spread

Dallas Cowboys @ Washington Redskins
Line: Washington -3
Total: Over/Under 49
Time: 8:30 PM EST on NBC

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