The NFC East is up for grabs, and although the Dallas Cowboys look to be the class of the division, the Washington Football Team is not going away quietly. The WFT are winners of their last four games and hope to keep that streak alive against a Cowboys team looking to remind everybody who the big dog in the division really is.
No matter what happens on Sunday afternoon, it will have big implications for the division moving forward. Washington has a chance to tighten this race up and make it a contest down the stretch. Meanwhile the Cowboys have a chance to create some space and with this being the first of three division games in a row, including another contest with this very team in Dallas two weeks from now, it could signal the end of the others in the division's chances.
You can look at all three phases of both these teams and convincingly state that there is an X-Factor on all three units. However, these two individuals, one a Cowboy, one a member of the WFT, will have the biggest impact on Sunday’s game.
Dallas Cowboys X-Factor:
DeMarcus Lawrence is well-respected in the NFL, and rightfully so, as the man is one of the premier defensive ends in the entire league. However, what makes Tank so special is the intangibles, his leadership, and all the things you don't see on a stat sheet.
You know with Lawrence in the fold you are going to get relentless effort, an emphasis on the running game, and a seasoned pass rusher, all from dynamic player. To my second point, in regards to the running game, that is where he is going to make his most impactful plays for this team on Sunday. Lawrence is going to have to be stout in the run, he is going to have to be the one to make those impact plays that may not necessarily show up statistically, but is the one who fights through blocks, double teams, and find ways to disrupt timing and live in the backfield for this Cowboys defense, and its going to need to be 60 minutes of high effort. The Cowboys will want to win early downs, force the game into their quarterback’s hands in distance situations, and find ways to just get off the field to give the ball back to the offense. DeMarcus Lawrence is a tone-setter for this defense and that's why he is an easy choice for this week’s X-Factor.
Washington Football Team X-Factor:
Antonio Gibson has some of his best performances of his rookie year against the Cowboys last year, and has rounded into a quality NFL back that is capable of doing everything this WFT offense needs him to do. His background at receiver helps him be a dangerous pass catcher out the back field, and his fearless running style allows him to stick his nose in and get those tough yards.
Gibson is about as well-rounded of a back as the Cowboys will face all season, he is not in the upper echelon of backs just yet, but this offense surely goes as he goes and it will be in the Cowboys best interest to know and understand what Gibson is doing on every play. His big-play ability, mixed with the fact the WFT can lean on him to grind time off the clock to choke opponents out, makes him the X-Factor on Sunday. It is not too extreme to say how we feel about Antonio Gibson’s day after the fact will directly correlate to how we may feel about the Cowboys and if they pulled out a win or not.