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5 things to watch when the Cowboys host the Commanders

What will you be looking for on Sunday?

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

There is nothing like a good dose of the NFC East to help get the Dallas Cowboys on track. After a nice road win over the New York Giants on Monday night, the Cowboys return back to AT&T Stadium to take on the Washington Commanders. Dallas is looking to get their eighth straight win over a divisional opponent before the schedule gets a little tougher. Here are five things to watch when the Cowboys face off against Washington on Sunday.

1. Make Carson Wentz regret returning to the NFC East

We’re not going to lie, having Wentz back in the division brings about all kinds of feels to Cowboys fans. This former second-overall pick of the 2016 draft is now with his third NFL team. After the Philadelphia Eagles chose Jalen Hurts over him and traded him away, he took his talents to Indianapolis. That lasted one season and now he’s with the Commanders.

Wentz is capable of making some great plays, but he’s also a major risk-taker. There will be some plays where he’ll make some ridiculously awesome throws, but then there will be other times where ridiculous throws take on a whole other meaning. Like this one, for example.

Last week, Wentz was sacked nine times. Sometimes it's because of an offensive line breakdown and sometimes it’s because he holds the ball too long. Either way, that’s not good news for a quarterback who will face the NFL sack-leading Cowboys. The Dallas defense needs to keep the sack-fest going on Sunday.

2. Make them one-dimensional

If the Commanders want to keep the pressure off their quarterback, they are going to need to have success running the ball. The problem is, Washington doesn’t run the ball very well. Running back Antonio Gibson has had success against Dallas in the past, but he is struggling to get going this season. Gibson is averaging just 3.1 yards per carry and has 66 total rushing yards in the last two games combined.

The Cowboys have done a great job tackling this year. Linebackers Leighton Vander Esch and Anthony Barr have done a good job against the run and backup safety Donovan Wilson has filled in extremely well in Jayron Kearse’s absence. Washington poses no real threat in the running game, but if they can’t find a way to keep the Cowboys defense honest, Wentz is going to be under duress all day.

3. Jump out early and coast

The Commanders are slow to get out of bed this season and have found themselves in trouble early. In each of the last two games, Washington has allowed their opponents to put up 20+ points before they got on the scoreboard themselves. Those are hard holes to dig themselves out of.

The Cowboys need to strike first and put the pressure on a Washington team that isn’t built to overcome large deficits. If the Cowboys can jump out to an early lead, they can lean on a second-half rushing attack led by Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard. The Cowboys running game had tough matchups to start the season, but it’s starting to lighten up. They are coming off a game against the Giants where they rushed for 176 yards. Now, they’ll face a Washington team that surrenders 5.4 yards per rushing attempt, fourth-worst in the league.

4. Can the redhead stay red hot?

The Cowboys are the benefactors of some good play from their backup quarterback Cooper Rush. After a solid performance against Cincinnati, Rush doubled down with an even more impressive outing against the Giants. He has completed 63% of his passes this year for 514 yards and two touchdowns. He has yet to throw a pick.

The Commanders' defense has already given up eight receiving touchdowns on the year, which is second-worst in the league. The table is set for Rush to string together yet another quality performance, but how long can these good vibes last? If Washington is to have a chance in this one, they need Rush to make some mistakes that backup quarterbacks sometimes do.

5. It’s Turpin time

Nobody has punted more this season than the Washington Commanders. And nobody has a higher punt return average (16.3 yards/return) than KaVontae Turpin. When you combine those stats and consider how close the Cowboys' new punt returner extraordinaire has been to housing one, it’s only a matter of time before we see Turpin celebrating in the end zone. And it would only be fitting that it happens in front of the home crowd of AT&T Stadium against Washington.

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