- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 2, 2001

Today, the Washington Redskins' 5-5 record is on the line. They play the Dallas Cowboys at home in FedEx Field. The 'Skins are favored by 8 1/2. But this is not just any 'Skins-Cowboys matchup. It's the rematch since Dallas left Washington 0-5 on Oct. 15. Indeed, this is a serious grudge match between two teams that still have a lot to prove.
The Redskins were the first team to win five in a row after starting the season the other way around. Now, they are sitting in second place behind Philadelphia (7-4) in the NFC East the same Eagles, by the way, they beat just last week in Veterans Stadium to validate themselves.
"I don't think it's premature to say the Redskins are a playoff contender," former Dallas quarterback Troy Aikman said the other day. "Regardless of how they got there, the reality is that they're in the hunt. Four of their final six games are within the NFC East so they have very little room for error, but that's what happens when you start out 0-5." His comments are not your average Monday-morning quarterbacking. After all, he managed more than a few come-from-behind miracles, including taking the 0-2 Cowboys to victory in the Super Bowl in 1993.
Right now, Dallas is 2-8 and four of those losses were consecutive. In fact, Dallas is playing so poorly that, even with the NFL five weeks shy of regular season's end, running back extraordinaire Emmitt Smith still gets razzed about ending his career with the hapless Cowboys. C'est la vie, of course, unless you're a 'Skins fan.
Smith, you see, is certainly on the mind of Coach Marty Schottenheimer, who, as usual, is silent about today's game strategy. But he's as aware of Dallas' rushing threats (Dallas is fourth in the league) as he is of Philadelphia's offensive passing the team, by the way, we meet again just two weeks from today. Nonetheless, neither player nor coach can afford to get ahead of himself. As Aikman said, the Redskins have little room for error the remainder of this season, and before the 'Skins can seriously think about a playoff berth, or even the Eagles, they have to stop Smith & the 'Boys. That would snap Washington's eight-game losing streak to Dallas the streak that really matters as this rivalry takes to the field today.

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