Through a pretty wild luck of the draw, the Cowboys now control their destiny in the NFC East. A win over the Commanders would seal it up, though there are also potential paths to the division title even with a tie or loss. Still, the easiest path is by winning this week.
The last time the Cowboys faced the Commanders, they won in a blowout. Washington has gotten significantly worse since then, but that game was also played in Dallas. Will things play out differently with this game in the nation’s capitol? See what our writers think.
When Washington has the ball
Let those pass rushers feast
Against the coaches’ best wishes, Sam Howell remains the starting quarterback this week. It’s a fitting full circle moment for Howell, who made his NFL debut in Week 18 against Dallas last year. That catapulted him into the starter role for this year, while this game is likely to catapult the Commanders into an official search for a new head coach and, potentially, a new starting quarterback.
Which is to say that Howell hasn’t played well this year. He enters Week 18 leading the league in both sacks and interceptions. That’s what happens when you put a quarterback who holds the ball a long time behind an offensive line with minimal experience. Unsurprisingly, a majority of Howell’s interceptions have come under pressure. In the first game, Dallas sacked Howell four times and picked him off once. That’s the recipe to success against this pass happy offense.
When Dallas has the ball
Let it Rayne
The Cowboys’ season has generally gone as Dak Prescott has gone, which is why they’re one of the best teams in the NFL right now. Prescott has been empowered by Mike McCarthy’s play-calling in a way he’s never felt before, and it’s led to a stellar offense in Dallas.
One of Prescott’s best games of the year came against this Washington defense, and the Commanders actually fired their defensive coordinator shortly after Prescott torched them. Things haven’t improved, though, and this defense is still extremely vulnerable through the air. A healthy dose of Prescott throwing to CeeDee Lamb, Jake Ferguson, and Brandin Cooks should do the trick once again.
Now onto the predictions from your BTB writers, where Matt Holleran has already clinched the top record in regular season predictions
Tom Ryle (11-5):
Wow. I am still a bit stunned by the implications of this game, because I did not see this coming. The Cowboys can win the division by beating the Commanders. That is the easiest, cleanest path forward. I don’t know how much of an effort Washington is really going to make given Ron Rivera’s tenuous status and that they hadn’t even named a starting quarterback until the middle of the week. But Dallas would be foolish to not do what is necessary to win this one and get some home playoff games. I think they will.
The weather looks to be clear at the moment, and if that holds, this should be a 16 or 17 point win for the Cowboys to grab the NFC East crown.
Tony Catalina (12-4):
This should be a simple week. Handle business against a team that has their bags packed for the offseason. There is no reason why the Cowboys should play around at all this week, and I don’t expect they will.
Give me the ‘Boys 34-10.
Matt Holleran (14-2):
Week 18 games are always hard to predict, especially after what happened to the Cowboys in Washington one year ago. With the number two seed on the line, I trust this year’s Cowboys team will be up to the task.
Due to the weather in the forecast, I think this will be a low-scoring game that ends up being closer than many think. Dallas’ defense gets a critical takeaway on Washington’s final offensive possession sealing their 12th victory of the year.
Give me the Cowboys, 23-17.
Matthew Lenix (11-5):
The Dallas Cowboys could be facing a Washington Commanders team that won’t play some if it’s veteran players. So, they need to take advantage and try to establish the run game before the playoffs and keep Dak Prescott and the passing game clicking.
I see that happening easily, and the Cowboys win 34-10.
Mike Poland (11-5):
The Cowboys average 29.4 points per game, third-most in the NFL. The Commanders defense is allowing an average of 30.0 points per game, most in the NFL. The Cowboys defense has recorded 42 sacks this season, eighth-most in the NFL. The Commanders offensive line has allowed 61 sacks this year, fourth-most in the NFL.
The Cowboys win this one 38-14.
Brian Martin (12-4):
This Week 18 matchup between the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Commanders is simple. The Cowboys need a win to lock up the No. 2 seed in the playoffs and the Commanders need a loss to lock up No. 2 pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. Washington should do themselves a favor by losing in the most graceful way possible. Give me the Cowboys by two scores.
Cowboys win 24-10.
RJ Ochoa (12-4):
While I fully recognize that this is a road game, I do not see a way in which the Cowboys do not take advantage of the opportunity to win the NFC East and take the #2 seed.
It may be closer than we want in the beginning, but give me Dallas something like 27-13.
David Howman (11-5):
I really don’t have much concern about this game, and saying that out loud doesn’t add any concern either. The Cowboys have a golden opportunity looking them right in the eye, and I don’t anticipate they’ll let it slip away. Even if they do, though, this Washington team is so bad that it may not matter.
Everyone knows Ron Rivera is out after this season, and the announcement may even come later on Sunday after this game. The players seem to have quit a long time ago, and they weren’t exactly putting up much of a fight before then either. I think we’ll see a focused Cowboys team build an early lead and then pull their starters, giving the Commanders a chance to score in garbage time and temporarily make us all freak out.
Cowboys win 45-31.