ASHBURN, Va. - Surrounded by all the preseason Super Bowl talk - which has come to a sudden halt recently for the Washington Redskins - coach Norv Turner said in August there will be one sign to let others know what kind of team he has:
How the Redskins handle adversity.
Turner could have substituted Dallas for adversity. A loss by the Redskins (1-1) in tonight's nationally televised game at FedEx Field to the hated and undermanned Cowboys (0-2), and Turner will experience adversity unlike any in his six previous seasons as Washington coach.
And that is saying a lot. Before last year's division title and playoff win, Turner had been criticized for not getting the Redskins to the playoffs.
Turner joked about being a survivor, a spin from the hit television show. But a loss tonight would spark a wave of criticism for Turner and the Redskins, and it would be the team's sixth straight loss to the Cowboys.
"We had a wild game here in the opener a year ago, and they beat us in overtime," Turner said. "Then they beat us down there. When we play them, it is a very physical, competitive game. And this one will be also.
"You are going to see two teams that need to win very badly. We're coming off a loss. They had a very difficult loss in Phoenix. We both have an extra day to prepare. It will be a heck of a game."
The Redskins will play, though, without receiver Michael Westbrook, who tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in last week's loss to the Detroit Lions.
Irving Fryar will start in place of Westbrook alongside Albert Connell, who is now the team's only proven deep threat.
With Westbrook gone and the offensive line playing well, the Cowboys should expect to see a healthy dose of running back Stephen Davis.
Dallas has the worst run defense in the NFL, and the Cowboys gave up a franchise-high 306 yards in a 41-14, season-opening loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
Davis said he is looking forward to this game, as are many of his offensive linemen. The Redskins got away from the run last week, as Davis had only six attempts for 14 yards in the second half.
"Regardless of who we are facing, that is what makes our offense go, running the football," guard Keith Sims said. "That opens up everything else. If we turn Stephen Davis loose for 100, 150 yards, you will see the Redskins' offense of old."
The Cowboys will not have quarterback Troy Aikman, who suffered a concussion in the opener and has not played since. He practiced last week, but Dallas coach Dave Campo has decided to go with Randall Cunningham.
It is not a bad second option. Cunnigham's mobility should present a problem for the Redskins' defense. He substituted for Aikman last week and put up 31 points in Arizona.
"We saw him play last week," Turner said. "Certainly when Randall is in there, we have to contain him. We were prepared for both. They are going to run the same offense. They just feature certain things when Randall is in there."
If Cunningham leads Dallas to its 10th victory in the past 14 games against Washington, it would be a hurtful loss considering the high expectations for the Redskins.
The teams thought to be Washington's main contenders for the conference title, Tampa Bay and St. Louis, are 3-0. The Bucs blew out Detroit by three touchdowns yesterday in the Silverdome, a week after the Redskins lost there.
"All eyes are on us and the Cowboys," linebacker LaVar Arrington said. "It's time for people to shine. It is time for the Redskins to shine."
NOTES: Cornerback Lloyd Harrison, running back Skip Hicks, center Cory Raymer and guard Michael Moore are the early inactives. ... The Redskins will decide before 4 p.m. today whether to sign kicker Michael Husted. Brett Conway aggravated a quadriceps injury and may not be able to kick tonight. If Husted signs, the Redskins will have to release a player. ... Sims will start tonight after practicing only once last week because of an Achilles tendon injury.