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Flawed Cowboys tough to back

At this point, there’s not much left to like about the Dallas Cowboys, who are riding a broken-down donkey of a coach and following a quarterback, Tony Romo, who can’t shoot straight under pressure.

Romo epitomizes the chaotic Cowboys. He’s got rare talent, and sometimes makes amazing plays with his improvisational ability, yet has an undeniable inclination to implode at inopportune times.

Jason Garrett sounds like a strong NFL coach when he’s talking in bold tones to the media, but when he’s trying to manage a game from the sideline, he’s a weak link.

Off a dumbfounding loss to Green Bay, Dallas (7-7) is desperate for a win to stay in the hunt for the NFC East title, if there is such a thing this year. In the Cowboys’ way is a team that’s even more dysfunctional, the Washington Redskins, who are 3-11 and on a six-game losing streak.

The Redskins are headed for an offseason overhaul, with coach Mike Shanahan on the way out. Their new starting quarterback, Kirk Cousins, probably won’t be around next season, either.

Dallas is a 3-point favorite at Washington, and it’s not an easy game to call. It certainly is not my best bet this week, but I will pick a side. Who’s more of a mess? The Kardashian sisters or Miley Cyrus, the Cowboys or Redskins?

In the big picture, the obvious answer to the latter question is the Redskins, but all that matters is how they show up and perform on this given Sunday. They showed positive signs last week in a one-point loss at Atlanta, as Cousins passed for 381 yards and three touchdowns and Alfred Morris rushed for 98 yards. Washington dominated the game statistically, rolling up 476 total yards, but committed seven turnovers.

The Redskins will move the ball on Dallas’ 32nd-ranked defense that is coordinated by a dinosaur and missing its most imporant player, linebacker Sean Lee.

The Cowboys also will be without another playmaker, Dwayne Harris, who totaled 222 return yards in a 31-16 victory over Washington in October.

Romo will have his moments, and Dallas stands a good shot to win if Romo remembers to use running back DeMarco Murray and hand him the ball 20-plus times.

Maybe the Cowboys will stand tall with their backs against the wall, but I can’t count on that or lay any points. I’ll take the field goal with the Redskins, who might have one rally left in them for a rivalry game.

Four more plays for Week 16 (home team in CAPS):

■ PANTHERS (-3) over Saints: There is a 50 percent chance of heavy rain in Charlotte, and that alone means there is more than a 50 percent chance the Saints will lose. New Orleans’ defense is not as dangerous away from the Superdome, and neither is Drew Brees, who has 34 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions on the season but 11 TDs and seven interceptions on the road. The bipolar Saints are 1-6 against the spread on the road. Carolina’s strong defensive front will pressure Brees into backpedaling. Cam Newton will be on the run, and the Panthers are seeking revenge.

■ Bears (+3) over EAGLES: What was coach Chip Kelly thinking last week, when Philadelphia passed 48 times and ran only 13 times in a 48-30 loss at Minnesota? His thinking will be more focused this week, and running back LeSean McCoy will gash the Chicago defense. We know the Bears will be highly motivated with a chance to win the NFC North, and I hope quarterback Jay Cutler plays at a high level.

■ Raiders (+10) over CHARGERS: This is a potential flat spot for San Diego, off a stunning win at Denver as a 10½-point underdog. Philip Rivers can rip Oakland’s defense, but covering double digits won’t be easy. The Raiders always get up for this rivalry, so they should stay competitive.

■ Patriots (+2½) over RAVENS: Two factors are working against Baltimore, which is off a dramatic Monday night victory in which a knee injury hobbled quarterback Joe Flacco. New England is angry off a loss and getting points, two reasons to bet on Tom Brady.

Last week: 4-1 against the spread

Season: 39-32-4

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports betting columnist Matt Youmans can be reached at myoumans@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2907. He co-hosts “The Las Vegas Sportsline” weekdays at 2 p.m. on ESPN Radio (1100 AM). Follow him on Twitter: @mattyoumans247.

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