- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 19, 2013

Five questions Redskins beat writer Zac Boyer has heading into Washington’s Sunday afternoon game against the Dallas Cowboys.

1. How will Kirk Cousins fare in his second game?

After completing 29 of 45 passes for 381 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions in a 27-26 loss to the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, Cousins will have played a full game, prepared the entire week as the starting quarterback and then entered a second game for the first time in his career. His two interceptions were glaring, though they weren’t costly mistakes. Having that consistency, and shaking away some of the anxiety he had entering the last game, should benefit him.

2. Can the Redskins get separation downfield?

Washington’s passing game was hampered in the teams’ first meeting, a 31-16 victory by the Cowboys on Oct. 13, when Dallas’ secondary did a very good job of covering the Redskins’ receivers. Cousins was more decisive at quarterback in his first start, but his two interceptions happened when he misread the defense. Being able to throw his targets open downfield will go far in helping Cousins have a productive afternoon.

3. How will the rash of injuries hamper the Cowboys?

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Several players missed at least some portion of practice this week, including six defensive starters — cornerback Morris Claiborne, defensive ends George Selvie and DeMarcus Ware, defensive tackle Jason Hatcher, middle linebacker Sean Lee and weakside linebacker Bruce Carter. The defense is already statistically ranked last in the league by allowing 427.3 yards per game, and the absence of any player in that group will only make the Redskins’ challenge easier.

4. Will London Fletcher go out with a bang?

After 16 seasons, the last seven with the Redskins, Fletcher announced on Wednesday that he will likely retire after this season. The announcement was made in advance of Sunday’s game to give Fletcher, one of the most emotional players on the team, one last send-off before the FedEx Field crowd. He hasn’t had a very special season, but these are the types of moments he gets up for.

5. What will the mood be like at FedEx Field?

What would typically be a festive week for fans — the Redskins, after all, are playing their rivals — will probably be more downtrodden. The opponent, and the unseasonably warm weather, should help boost turnout after only 56,247 were announced in attendance for the Redskins’ last home game against the Chiefs. The 3-11 record has soured many people, and as a result, this may also be the last time coach Mike Shanahan patrols the sidelines.

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