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Five things to watch when the Cowboys play the Washington Football Team

What will you be watching on Sunday?

NFL: Washington Redskins at Dallas Cowboys Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

After three straight games at AT&T Stadium, the Dallas Cowboys now travel to Washington to play the Football Team. Although things have not gone well for the Cowboys thus far, Dallas has a great opportunity to put a strangle hold on the division over the next two weeks if they can come away with wins against Washington and Philadelphia.

Before the season started, this game against Washington was seen as one of the easier games on the schedule, but some poor football by Dallas has made things interesting as this game is now a pick’em. It’s hard to know what to expect when this team plays, but here are five things to keep an eye out for on Sunday.

1. Dalton, part II

Over his 10-year career, Andy Dalton has played in 136 games, and seven times in that span he’s aired it at 50+ times in a game. Each time that’s happened, Dalton came out on the losing end. In his first start with the Cowboys, Dalton threw the ball 54 times. That’s certainly not a recipe for success, and that’s a hard way to get your feet wet in a new system.

With one game under his belt, look for the veteran quarterback to be a little more comfortable this time around. He showed good rapport with Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb, who each had double-digit targets. With plenty of good receiving options at his disposal, the pieces are in place for Dalton to have success. He’s just going to have to step up in the pocket and make the plays. The offense depends on it, the defense depends on it, and the Cowboys season depends on it.

2. Living on the edge

The Cowboys have had four different offensive linemen play tackle for them this season. With both Tyron Smith and La’el Collins lost for the year, the team has relied an the undrafted free agent combo of Brandon Knight and Terence Steele to hand the bulk of the work. At one point, they needed to slide Zack Martin out there for part of a game. Unfortunately, Knight underwent knee surgery and will be unavailable for at least the next couple weeks, so that means tackle no. 5 - come on down!

And that tackle may be Cam Erving, who the team is hopeful makes his return after suffering a knee injury back in the opener on a special teams play. His return comes in the nick of time as he will be asked to protect Andy Dalton’s blindside on Sunday.

Not only are the Cowboys vulnerable on the edge, but they’ll have to deal with some good Washington edge rushers. Ryan Kerrigan will lead the charge, but they also have couple young guys in Montez Sweat and this year’s number two overall pick, Chase Young. Look for Washington to attack around the edge as they try to force Dalton to make mistakes.

3. Make a run for it

The Cowboys run defense has been rotten this season, especially as of late as they have been torched for 260+ rushing yards twice over the last three games. That is a level of badness that we haven’t seen in a long time.

On what should be good news for someone, Washington enters the week with the absolute worst rushing offense in the league. Their 3.5 yards per attempt ranks 32nd in the NFL. Washington’s leading rusher is 2020 third-round pick Antonio Gibson, but he’s been very ineffective this season. He hasn’t eclipsed 55 yards rushing in a single game this year.

With a weak run defense, look for Washington to try to establish some type of running game. Keeping the pressure off of quarterback Kyle Allen will be crucial for their offense.

Keep an eye out for: J.D. McKissic. He may not get as many carries out of the backfield, but his involvement in the passing game could help Washington move the ball.

4. Finish the deal

The Cowboys offense only put up 10 points on Monday night, but it should’ve been much more. Turnovers played a big part in coming up empty several times, but so did dropped passes. Moving down the field is great, but it means nothing if they can’t turn them into points. Washington’s defense is ranked eighth in red zone stoppage, so it’s not going to be easy for Dallas to get it done.

It’s going to be really important to play a clean game and make the most of their scoring opportunities. This includes short passes to players like CeeDee Lamb and Dalton Schultz. It also means the offensive line needs to hold up well in protection as well as avoid costly penalties. If the Cowboys can have some better success when they get in striking distance, they should be able to put up enough points to win the game.

5. He who commits thy fewest turnovers wins

While the offense of these two groups are quite different, they both share one thing in common - they are notorious for giving the ball away. We all know the Cowboys are terrible at protecting the ball as their 15 turnovers are the worst in the NFL this season. And when you couple that with their putrid three takeaways (also worst in the league this year), it’s easy to see why they’re having such a tough time winning football games.

Washington has plenty of issues on offense, and taking care of the ball is one of them. They’ve turned the ball over 10 times this year, and have three different games with multiple turnovers. This includes five turnovers in their 34-20 loss to the Cleveland Browns.

Considering both teams have shown the propensity to try give the game away, we should expect more of the same. This matchup has sloppiness written all over it, and it wouldn’t be surprising if the victor was the team who can just be slightly less sloppy.

What will you be watching on Sunday?