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Matchups to Watch for Dallas vs. Washington

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At Bleacher Report, I posted some matchups I’ll be watching on Sunday night:

The Dallas Cowboys have moved to become 6.5-point favorites over the Washington Redskins in Week 6. That is initially surprising when you consider these are relatively similar teams to those that faced off in Week 17 of the 2012 season—a game that the Redskins won to take down the NFC East.

So why are the Cowboys favored by so much?

To see why, let’s take a look at the teams’ ranks in four categories: adjusted net yards per attempt (ANYPA), yards per carry (YPC), ANYPA against and YPC against. Since these are league-wide ranks, lower on the chart is better.

ANYPA is the single most predictive stat in all of football.

If we had to predict the outcome of each game and we could only use one stat, the choice should be ANYPA. It’s a passing efficiency metric that incorporates sacks, touchdowns and interceptions.

The Cowboys rank better than the Redskins in both ANYPA and ANYPA against (marked as “ANYPA (D)” on the chart). The ‘Boys have the sixth-most efficient passing game and the 25th-most efficient pass defense. Meanwhile, the ‘Skins rank 15th and 31st, respectively.

So if you’re looking for a single, tangible reason the Cowboys are favored by nearly a touchdown, this is it.

As is customary in most games, the squad that passes most effectively and defends the pass the best will win. Let’s examine five important matchups that will help determine if the ‘Boys will be able to win through the air in order to come out victorious on Sunday night.

LB Sean Lee/S Barry Church vs. TE Jordan Reed

Reed is a rookie tight end out of Florida who has been efficient in his three games played. Reed has caught 13 of his 15 targets for 106 yards and a touchdown. With Fred Davis out, Reed will be the primary weapon for quarterback Robert Griffin III over the middle of the field.

The Cowboys have used a combination of linebackers and safeties to cover tight ends this year, led most notably by Sean Lee and Barry Church.

Church has been decent, allowing 124 yards on the 17 passes thrown his way (7.29 YPA), according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).

Lee has struggled badly, however. Despite a big pick-six against San Diego, Lee has given up a completion on 20 of the 23 passes thrown his way, yielding 233 yards and four touchdowns in the process. That’s a passer rating of 130.3 for opposing quarterbacks.

The Redskins could very well game-plan to get Lee isolated in coverage. Defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin needs to do his best to make sure that Church has way more exposure than Lee in covering Reed.

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