Dak Prescott

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Cowboys vs. 'Skins Differences: A 'Sliver' Or A 'Hole'?

October 31, 2018 - 10:49 am
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FRISCO (105.3 The Fan) - By virtue of their respective records and their presence in the NFC East, the Dallas Cowboys at 3-4 are trying to keep pace and catch up with the 5-2 Washington Redskins. ... a pace that saw each team involve itself in the trade-deadline arms race, Dallas adding receiver Amari Cooper and Washington adding safety Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix.

But the comparisons -- and our search on 105.3 The Fan's "Shan & RJ'' show to dissect similarities and differences between the two teams -- doesn't stop there.

In fact, when we engage in a bit of surface stat comparisons, the parallels jump off the page.

The separations between QBs Alex Smith vs Dak Prescott? Smith, the Redskins' veteran "bus driver,'' is ahead by 1.1 percent in completions, ahead by 144 more passing yards and has thrown two fewer interceptions.

We've drawn a lot of comps between these two QBs over the years, often noting that Dak's eventual upside may be an "elite bus driver'' like Smith. The numbers help promote that comp.

How about elsewhere in the backfield, where it's Adrian Peterson vs Ezekiel Elliott? Zeke has five more carries and 32 more yards, but one fewer TD. So again, while this speaks to some failings in the Dallas running game -- the Cowboys' O-line, blocking for Elliott, should be more successful than what Washington is doing -- there is a "sameness'' that doesn't split Washington away from Dallas.

How about each team's two best pass-catchers? Washington's have combined for 47 catches for 552 yards, and happen to be a tight end and wide receiver. The Cowboys' two best -- you guessed it -- happen to be a tight end and a wide receiver, and have combined for 52 catches for 555 yards. We're not trying to cheat the system here; Washington tight end Jordan Reed is an unusual talent. But the production essentially matches. How about defensively? The Cowboys have delivered 19 sacks this season, and the Redskins 21. Is there anything else that stands out? Yes: Takeaways. The 'Skins have six picks, the Cowboys - for the last three-and-a-half years the NFL's poorest takeaway team -- have two. The Redskins have forced an uncanny 11 fumbles, the Cowboys five. Washington's 13 combined takeaways compared to the Cowboys' six is, statistically, the biggest difference between the 'Skins at 5-2 and the Cowboys at 3-4.

Except for one thing that's bigger: The head-to-head matchup. On Oct. 21, the Cowboys lost at D.C., 20-17. The outcome was decided in literally the final second, the margin as wide as a sliver, the balance as delicate as a long-snapper's slight shuffling of a pre-snap football. And that's the number that bites Dallas the most, causing Jerry Jones to tell us this week, "We've dug a hole for ourselves.''

Beyond the passing, the catching, the running and the takeaways, a slightly different outcome on Oct. 21 would put Dallas at 4-3 and would put Washington at 4-3 -- tied for the lead in the division.

That's how close the two teams really probably are ... with a thin sliver turning into a deep hole.