The magic number for the Dallas Cowboys to win the NFC East is two! That would be great if there was more than just one week left in the season, but as fate would have it - it’s all got to happen this week. A Cowboys victory combined with a loss by the Philadelphia Eagles means bonus football in what would be such a Cowboys-way to squeak into the playoffs.
For that to happen, the Cowboys have to take care of business against the Washington Redskins. The good news is that the Redskins have the second-worst record in the NFL and are positioned to have the No. 2 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft as long as they don’t do something stupid like beat Dallas on Sunday. Washington has lost at least four straight games two different times this season, and they can make it three times if they lose to the Cowboys on Sunday.
Here are five things to be mindful of when the Cowboys host the Redskins in the season finale.
1. Scoreboard watching
You have to go back 14 years the last time the Cowboys had to rely on another team to help them get into the playoffs. On Sunday, fans will be pulling double duty not only watching the Cowboys game, but keeping a close eye on what’s going on in the Eagles/Giants matchup.
Some might question why the Giants would risk messing up their draft position in a meaningless Week 17 game; however, that question would’ve better served for the 2-11 team a couple weeks ago before they won two straight. The Giants are playing good football right now as both Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley came away with FedEx weekly Air and Ground awards for last Sunday. And to make it even better, we don’t even have to root for Eli Manning this time around. For this week only, go Giants!
2. It’s all on Dak’s shoulder
It may seem like deja vu all over, but once again - the shoulder of the Cowboys star quarterback makes this list. All reports say that he’s fine, yet he didn’t practice at all last week and he struggled mightily against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday.
So, here we are again. Prescott is still not practicing as he continues to rest the shoulder, but one has to wonder if he is physically able to lead his team to victory. It’s one thing to give him the benefit of the doubt and just trust he’ll be okay against the Eagles, but now after a miserable performance - when is enough enough? Is it possible we see Cooper Rush in this one?
The Redskins have put up two straight 350+ yard performances where they are averaging 31 points per game. If Washington’s offense keeps it going, the Cowboys offense better be prepared to keep up. They’re not going to beat the Redskins with just field goals.
3. What kind of Redskins offense will we see?
Last week, the Cowboys defense squared off against a banged up Eagles offense that featured several key players missing. While they held them to 17 points, they still had trouble getting off the field as Philadelphia churned out 431 yards on the Cowboys defense, which was the second-most yards allowed all season.
Similarly, the Redskins will be without their top receiver, rookie Terry McLaurin, who has 58 catches (leads all rookies) for 919 yards (second for rookies), and seven touchdowns (tied for first for rookies). Not only is McLaurin out, but the team is shutting down rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins after he suffered an ankle injury last week. Haskins was just starting to string together some good games as he’s coming off of two straight multi-touchdown performances without throwing a pick. The Redskins will turn to veteran Case Keenum on Sunday.
The Redskins offense is ranked 31st in both points scored and yards gained, so on paper - it looks like they are going to have a tough time moving the ball. But they are coming off their best offensive performance, scoring a season-high 35 points. The Cowboys defense at times has a tendency to bring out the best in their opponent, so we shouldn’t take this Redskins offense lightly. Washington will be leaning on their rookie receiving corps to attack through the air. That may not seem too threatening, but considering what the Eagles pulled off last week with so much less, who knows how this will go down.
4. Back to the Zeke/Pollard show
The Redskins have a middling pass defense that is very similar to Philadelphia. There are definitely plays to be made in the passing game for the Cowboys if they are up to the task of making them.
But unlike the Eagles, the Redskins are terrible at stopping the run. The Eagles are third-best in the league, which made things challenging for the Cowboys to get the ground attack going. The Redskins allow 141 yards per game on the ground which is the fourth-worst in the NFL this season.
Last week, the Eagles challenged Dak to beat them, and the Cowboys quarterback failed miserably. There is nothing like a strong running game to serve as a quarterback’s best friend. The Cowboys churned out 263 yards against the Los Angeles Rams when both Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard eclipsed the 100-yard mark. Look for Dallas to attack on the ground and don’t be surprised if this dynamic duo put up big numbers once again.
5. The last hurrah?
Should this be the final game of the 2019 season, it could mark the end for many players in a Cowboys uniform. There are several players in the final year of their contracts and considering how much money will be tied up in their star players, you’d have to imagine many of these players will be moving on elsewhere.
Defensive linemen Robert Quinn, Michael Bennett, and Maliek Collins will most likely find more money somewhere else. The team also could lose several members of their secondary as Byron Jones, Anthony Brown, and Jeff Heath all have expiring contracts.
It’s been nice to have these guys on the roster and it’s really a shame they couldn’t do more with them. It’s unclear who stays and who goes, but rest assured - careers in Dallas will be ending shortly for many players.
What will you be watching on Sunday?