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Cowboys vs. Redskins: Thanksgiving Showdown

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Two division rivals meet on Turkey Day, which should only spice things up and enhance this year's game. A preview of what to watch for and the keys to the game.

Rob Carr

It's officially hate week for the fans of the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys. The NFL always has the Cowboys play on Thanksgiving, but the schedule makers decided to juice this game up and have the Cowboys take on a division rival.

The Redskins are a in a full-fledged rebuilding mode. Their head coach Mike Shanahan has even admitted that, although their rookie quarterback gives them a chance to stay competitive in nearly every game.

Meanwhile, the Cowboys are the team with more talent, but they are also in a rebuilding mode of sorts. Their season hasn't gone as expected, but Dallas now finds themselves just one game out of first place behind the New York Giants. If the Cowboys want to make the playoffs, then they must secure a win on Thanksgiving.

What should we watch for in this game? Here are three storylines that you should be watching for:

Robert Griffin III

The past few years, there was no player more exciting to watch in college football. While the Redskins gave up a king's ransom to trade up for his services, RG3 has been well worth it. When Mike Shanahan got to Washington, he needed a QB to run his offensive system. The Redskins must surround him with more weapons, but that may be difficult without some of the draft picks they surrendered to acquire the Baylor star.

This will be the first game for RG3 against the Cowboys. This will be sort of a homecoming for Griffin, and you know that he is looking forward to performing at a high level in Cowboys Stadium in front of his family and friends.

Dallas faced a dynamic quarterback in Cam Newton who can run and throw, but RG3 is the better quarterback and he presents the harder challenge. Sunday against the Cleveland Browns, defensive coordinator Rob Ryan decided to not get after and blitz rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden. He better not make that same mistake again. Griffin is dangerous with his feet, but you cannot give him time to throw the ball deep down the field because he will tear you apart.

RG3 is the real deal folks; don't be surprised if he has a huge day against. The Cowboys have completely turned around their defense this year, but they simply have not faced a dual-threat quarterback like Griffin yet.

The Dallas Offensive Line

Right now, this is the Achilles' heel for the Cowboys. They entered the season with major issues on the offensive line because they didn't do enough to upgrade the unit in the offseason. The only upgrades made to a questionable line were free agent signings Mackenzy Bernadeau and Nate Livings.

Livings looks to be a keeper, but Bernadeau has struggled mightily this season. However, he did have his best game of the season last week at center. The Cowboys had both centers Phil Costa and Ryan Cook unable to play, so they went with Bernadeau and he played pretty good football. With Costa and Cook still unable to practice, we may see him there again.

The biggest loss on a line that is beginning to rack up the injuries is left tackle Tyron Smith. Smith suffered a ankle sprain against the Browns. Jeremy Parnell replaced him and actually played pretty well in place of Smith. If Smith is unable to go this Thursday, the Cowboys will have no choice but to go with Parnell again.

However, if you're going to watch any offensive lineman this Thursday, watch #68 Doug Free. Free has been awful this season and has become a major culprit in the hits and sacks that Tony Romo has taken this season. If Free doesn't improve his play quickly, then Romo will have a tough time getting anything done offensively against the Redskins.

Dez Bryant

Bryant is easily one of the most physically gifted players in the NFL. He has the talent to become one of the elite wide receivers in the league, but his mental lapses have prevented him from entering that category. Dez had one of his best games as a pro against the Browns. He carved the Cleveland secondary up for 12 catches, 145 yards and one touchdown.

It looks like he is beginning to improve his route running and understanding of Jason Garrett's offense. If Romo is can develop a chemistry with Bryant, watch out. The Cowboys need to get the ball into Bryant's hands because he is a big play waiting to happen. He is just too big and too strong for smaller cornerbacks, but he also has the athleticism to be dangerous against larger ones.

Dallas needs to jump start their offense. They have been out of rhythm and flat for nearly the entire first half of their games this year; on paper, the Redskins don't have a cornerback who can shutdown Dez Bryant. If Garrett gets him in his game plan, then the Cowboys offense may have a big day.

Photographs by jamesbrandon, jdtornow, phlezk, flygraphix, mcdlttx, tomasland, and literalbarrage used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.