The Washington Redskins believe the demise of the Dallas Cowboys has been greatly exaggerated.
"Anytime you have No. 22 in the backfield, and No. 88, those guys are Hall of Famers," said Redskins cornerback Cris Dishman, referring to Cowboys Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin. "Sooner of later, they're going to get into their offense. Hopefully, it'll be another week before they do."The Cowboys (3-2) are coming off more than a 20-17 loss to the New York Giants. They're coming off a week in which the supposed fall of their empire was the cover story of Sports Illustrated. Coach Barry Switzer then appeared to support the theory, saying age has diminished the skills of offensive stars Smith, Mark Tuinei and Nate Newton.
In fact, Switzer said one of the best things in the Cowboys' favor right now is that no one else is tearing up the NFC, either.
"There are a bunch of us 3-2; we're all about the same," Switzer said. "It's how we play from here on in. This is kind of a desperation game for both of us. Both of us need this one."
Indeed, Washington (3-2) probably needs a victory tonight more than Dallas because the Redskins are a young team whose confidence could shatter easily. It doesn't help that their first Monday night appearance in four years comes one week after they were run off the field by the Eagles.
"It's a nationwide game," Redskins guard Joe Patton said. "In order for you not to look embarrassed, in order for you to get recognition, in order for you to get some kind of regrouping, you've got to go out and play a heck of a game against the Dallas Cowboys. We know we squandered a chance, and you can't squander too many chances."
While Washington is perceived as a team on the rise and Dallas is considered in decline, their predicaments on the field are similar. A slew of injuries means there will be inexperienced starters at key positions on both sides.
The Cowboys will give rookie Antonio Anderson his first start after tackle Chad Hennings was lost for up to eight weeks with a groin injury. Another rookie, Omar Stoutmire, will replace strong safety Darren Woodson.