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It’s Not Who Plays, It’s What They Do

Dec 26, 2007, 9:11 PM EST

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The subject of the week is who will play for the got-it-all-wrapped-up Cowboys this Sunday against the gotta-win Redskins. Wade Phillips has been asked, Joe Gibbs has been asked, the players on both teams have been asked. Various media members are asking each other.

However, that’s only part of the question involving the Cowboys’ approach to the game. The larger part of the question is this: What will the Cowboys, be they Tony Romo or backup fullback Oliver Hoyte, do when they are in the game? In other words, what kind of game plan will the Dallas coaches employ?

There are many reasons to think that Phillips and Jason Garrett will have a plan that has a distinct, perhaps predominant, flavor of vanilla. The Cowboys could well play the Redskins two weeks from Sunday if the Redskins qualify for the playoffs and manage to win their Wild Card game in Seattle.

Let’s say that the Cowboys have noticed on film that LaRon Landry will bite on a particular type of run fake. Are they going to run a play that will exploit that weakness on Sunday and let Landry learn from it? Or will they keep that play in their back pocket and save it for a potential rematch in Texas Stadium?

Or, suppose that they see Todd Collins doing something that tips off a particular route and throw. Are they going to have their DB jump the route and get a pick six that is ultimately meaningless? It’s much more likely that the back will keep the play in front of him, make the tackle and smile, picturing running down the sideline for a touchdown in the playoffs.

The Redskins, on the other hand, will not have the luxury of holding anything back. They will have to exploit every matchup, empty out their bag of tricks and take advantage of every opportunity.

For the Skins, it’s do or die. For Dallas, it’s get it done now or give it another go in a couple of weeks in a game that has meaning to them. In terms of strategy, that situation gives the Redskins an edge this Sunday. Should they reach the divisional round, however, that advantage would then swing back to the guys with the stars on their hats.

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