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Cowboys vs. Commanders: Each team’s X-factor player for Sunday

The final week of the regular season is upon us and the Cowboys still have much to play for.

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Washington Football Team Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

A lot has transpired in the last week across the NFL, and with the promising news for Damar Hamlin it finally feels right to be able to look forward and be excited for this week’s upcoming games. As it pertains to the Cowboys and their matchup with the Commanders in the nations capital, let’s hope they are able to take care of businesses versus a checked out and undermanned Washington team. The Commanders are turning the page on this season and looking ahead to the offseason and another year of trying to find stability franchise wide. With that comes the first real look at rookie quarterback Sam Howell as he will get the nod against this Cowboys defense.

The Cowboys Week 18 is an interesting one. They still technically have things to play for with seeding opportunities to advance and earning a first-round bye still on the table. However, with the way some teams around the league, mainly the New York Giants, are looking to rest starters this week, the Philadelphia Eagles losing might not be viable.

Anything can happen in the NFL and there is a reason why they play the game, but with the NFL scheduling the two contests at the same time it eliminates the choice being made for the Cowboys, and while they may be scoreboard watching, they still have to go out there and compete to win.

Dallas Cowboys X-factor: Dak Prescott

Syndication: The Tennessean George Walker IV / / USA TODAY NETWORK

In most cases, Dak Prescott does not need to be mentioned in this category. As the quarterback and the leader of the team, he is always an X-factor and his performance greatly impacts this team’s chances week in and week out. What makes this week different is the idea of what he does this week is more about setting himself and the team up for success heading into the playoffs. Turnovers have been an issue, some his fault, some not, regardless they have been a part of the equation and going out on Sunday and playing a clean football game would be a huge boost for this team heading into wild card weekend.

Athletes like Dak have internal goals and motivations, things they know they need to work on week-to-week to improve from the week prior. Using a game against an inferior team on the road, and having his on eye on the price as his motivation will have him locked in this week to find that rhythm and flow needed to make a run. Finding that comfort zone can really help this team propel forward into the upcoming do-or-die situations. There is continuity to fine tune with T.Y. Hilton, a continued effort to get Michael Gallup more confident, getting more familiar with Connor McGovern under center just in case he is needed for an extended period of time at the position, and other in-game factors that will, in many ways, out-weigh the final score of this contest.

Washington Commanders X-factor: Sam Howell

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Washington Commanders Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

When a rookie quarterback is making his NFL debut, it certainly adds a layer of intrigue to a matchup. Add the fact that he is able to go out there and play carefree as this game is a glorified preseason game for his club, and then you might have a dangerous unknown threat under center for this Cowboys defense to defend. Howell is a tough quarterback that isn't afraid to tuck and run to pick up a first down. The Commanders like what they have in the rookie from North Carolina and are excited to see what he has in his first real action of his career and give also use his performance as something to feel good about heading into the offseason.

For the Cowboys. it’s tough to prepare for an unknown commodity like Howell with very limited preseason film containing vanilla play calls and poor talent around him. The Cowboys cannot afford to get lit up by this young man this week and have that bad taste in their mouths as they more than likely head to Tampa Bay for a playoff date with Tom Brady. Look for Dan Quinn and his defense to try and rattle Howell to get him off his game early. It doesn’t matter the opponent, this Cowboys team is built to be at their best when they are playing with a lead. Sam Howell has an opportunity to cut it loose and really make a name for himself this week. Going into the offseason with an impressive showing versus America’s Team may be all the motivation this team needs to get up for the game. It will be up to Micah Parsons and company to ensure that does not happen.

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