Dallas Cowboys vs. Washington Football Team: Matchups, prediction in this crucial NFC East battle

What is our prediction for this week's Dallas Cowboys vs. Washington Football Team game? What matchups could be crucial on Sunday?

In a matchup that could have a major impact on the NFC playoff picture, what is our prediction for this Dallas Cowboys vs. Washington Football Team game? Let’s take a look at who has the edge when it comes to individual matchups before examining the NFL odds for Cowboys at Washington.

Dallas Cowboys vs. Washington Football Team predictions | Cowboys offense vs. Washington defense

It has been a strange few weeks for the Cowboys on offense. With CeeDee Lamb and Amari Cooper either limited or absent over the past few weeks, the offense has struggled at times. However, they have still averaged 30 points over the last two games despite their weapons being limited. Overall this season, this is a top-five offense across a number of metrics, and they will look to keep that rolling.

In the Washington defense, they have an intriguing challenge. Over the past four weeks, they’ve allowed an average of just 17.5 points per game. That is in stark contrast to the first half of the season, where they allowed an average of 30 points per game through seven weeks. However, outside of the Buccaneers, this unit will face its sternest test against the Cowboys this week.

Dak Prescott vs. Washington defense

Overall this season, Prescott has largely performed well. According to PFN’s Offensive Value Metric (OVM), Prescott is providing the third-most value to his offense within his environment. Still, inconsistencies have crept into his play in the past few weeks, which have been reflected in the offense.

Prescott consistently provided above-average value to his offense through the first six weeks of the season. Since then, his performances have been more varied. In Weeks 9 and 11, he provided below-average value to the offense while providing above-average value in Weeks 10, 12, and 13. Heading into the final few weeks of the season, he needs to get back to that early-season consistency if the Cowboys are going to have a shot at two home playoff games in 2021.

The Washington defense has also had a season of two halves. Through the first seven weeks, they allowed both 30 points per game and over 250 passing yards per game in five of seven matchups. Since then, they’ve allowed just 17.4 points per game and not allowed over 250 passing yards once.

Things started to change for this defense in Week 5. Prior to that, they had forced just 2 turnovers through the first four games. In Week 5, they then forced 2 turnovers and went on to force 5 turnovers in the next three weeks. Overall, the numbers for Washington are not great, but the improvement in the past six weeks has been stark. The edge has to go to Prescott, but the difference is not as vast as a few weeks back.

Advantage: Cowboys (marginally)

Cowboys skill-position weapons vs. Washington secondary and linebackers

The Cowboys’ receiving corps gets back to full strength in Week 14. CeeDee Lamb returned against the Saints, and now Amari Cooper should be a full go this week. This will be just the third game this season where Lamb, Cooper, and Michael Gallup have all been fully healthy this season.

Additionally, the Cowboys have had Dalton Schultz perform well this season. The tight end is second on the team in targets with 71. He has a 73.2% catch rate at 11.2 yards per reception with 4 touchdowns. They have also leaned heavily on Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard out of the backfield. Combined, they have 84 targets, 71 receptions, 489 yards, and 1 receiving touchdown.

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This season has been tough overall for the players in Washington’s secondary. However, none of them have been outstanding. William Jackson III has had a mixed year, allowing a 53.6% completion rate but also 6 touchdowns (which is tied for fourth-most in the league). In contrast, Kendall Fuller has allowed just 2 touchdowns but allows completions on 70.6% of his 85 targets.

Their safety and linebacker play in coverage has been a concern. Landon Collins has been targeted 53 times, allowing a 69.8% completion rate and a league-high 7 touchdowns. At linebacker, both Cole Holcomb and Jamin Davis are allowing a 108.9 passer rating against. Holcomb has allowed 3 touchdowns and 10 yards per completion, while Davis is allowing a completion rate against of 88.2%.

Advantage: Cowboys

Cowboys offensive line vs. Washington defensive front

The Cowboys’ run game appeared to get back on track in Week 13. They rushed for 146 yards after having rushed for over 100 yards just once since their Week 7 bye. It was no surprise that the improvement coincided with Tyron Smith’s return to health.

An intriguing element is at right tackle, where the Cowboys played Terence Steele prior to the return of La’el Collins from suspension. Steele then shifted to left tackle with Smith out. Now with Smith back, it will be intriguing to see how the Cowboys use the combination of Steele and Collins at right tackle, where Jerry Jones said both will see snaps this week.

The Washington defense has largely been good against the run this season. They have allowed over 100 rushing yards in four of their 12 games and just once in their last six. If Washington can contain the Cowboys’ run game (especially with Pollard struggling with injury), they have the chance to test out the inconsistencies we’ve seen from Prescott in recent weeks.

The Washington pass rush has been extremely underwhelming this season. Their 24.7% pressure rate and 9.9% hurry rate are marginally below average. That has manifested itself in them having the eighth-worst sack rate in the league in 2021. If they cannot get after the passer, Prescott and this passing attack could shred a secondary that has had trouble this season.

Advantage: Cowboys

Cowboys at Washington prediction | Washington offense vs. Cowboys defense

The past two months have been up and down for Washington. In the three weeks leading up to their bye, they scored 11 points per game. Then, coming out of the bye, they scored a total of 56 points in the next two weeks, to only then average just 17 points per game against the Raiders and Seahawks in the last two weeks. It is tough to know which version of the Washington offense we will see.

This week, they face a Cowboys defense that has largely been good in the past couple of months. In four of their last six games, they’ve allowed fewer than 20 points. However, allowing a total of 66 points against the Broncos and Raiders is head-scratching. Let’s look at whether the Washington offense can exploit this Cowboys defense.

Taylor Heinicke vs. Cowboys defense

Heinicke had an inconsistent start to the season but seemed to have it figured out coming out of the bye week. Per OVM, Heinicke provided the most value to his offense of any QB in the league in Week 11 against the Carolina Panthers.

Nonetheless, he has struggled in the past two weeks, as Washington has managed just 34 combined points. Those struggles are something that the Cowboys’ defense could exploit if he makes mistakes on Sunday.

The Cowboys’ defense forced turnovers at an incredible rate prior to their bye. They had 14 turnovers in their first six games with just 5 in the following five games. However, they demonstrated just how opportunistic they can be with 4 turnovers against the Saints in Week 13.

Despite the criticisms of this unit coming into the season, they have 19 interceptions to just 17 passing touchdowns allowed. Additionally, the Cowboys allow third-down conversions on just 31.8% of opportunities. However, opponents have an eighth-best 7.6 yards per attempt against this Cowboys defense, so big plays can be made against them.

Advantage: Cowboys

Washington skill-position weapons vs. Cowboys secondary and linebackers

The Cowboys have leaned heavily on Terry McLaurin this year. He has 50 more targets (103) than the next highest player on the team. He is having a slightly down year with a completion rate below 60% and a career-low 7.8 yards per target. With the injuries to Curtis Samuel and Logan Thomas, McLaurin has had to carry this offense and be the focus of opposing defenses.

The positive for Washington is that J.D. McKissic cleared the concussion protocol after missing Week 13. He is second on the team in targets and catching 81.1% of those targets for 9.2 yards per reception. He has been a reliable weapon for Washington this year. Both Curtis Samuel and Ricky Seals-Jones have been limited this week in practice and should play, which is a huge boost for the offense.

A number of the Cowboys’ secondary and linebackers have had a great year. Trevon Diggs leads the league with 9 interceptions. Additionally, he is allowing just a 54.9% completion rate. He is susceptible to the big play, giving up 3 touchdowns and 15.7 yards per completion. On the other side, Anthony Brown has 3 interceptions and a 57.3% completion rate allowed, but he’s given up 13.5 yards per completion and 3 touchdowns himself.

It will be intriguing to see how the Cowboys cover McKissic. Micah Parsons has allowed just a 63.3% completion rate when dropping into coverage. Safety Jayron Kearse is allowing a 64.2% completion rate and just 6.6 yards per completion. In contrast, Keanu Neal has allowed an 84% completion rate at 6.7 yards per target, and Leighton Vander Esch is allowing a 75% completion rate at 8.3 yards per target.

Advantage: Cowboys (marginally)

Washington offensive line vs. Cowboys defensive front

The Washington run game has gotten rolling in recent weeks as the line has become somewhat healthier. Overall, it has been a mid-tier unit run blocking this season, which has been part of the problem regarding the consistency of this offense.

It has been a similar story with their pass blocking. Their sack rate allowed has been below average at 5.9%. However, those numbers have at times been helped by Heinicke’s mobility under center. As they have gotten somewhat healthier, the line has started to look better.

The Cowboys’ defense has allowed 100 yards rushing in their last seven games and eight of the last nine. As they get healthier on defense, they can hopefully get back to where they were to start the season.

Their pass rush has been frustrating. They have been excellent at getting pressure, with the fourth-best mark in the league at 27.8%. However, that has translated into the ninth-best hurry rate of 11.8%. They have struggled to convert that into sacks, with a below-league-average sack rate of 5.6%. With the Cowboys getting healthier, Washington might have their work cut out. However, if they can win this matchup, they could spring a surprise.

Advantage: Push

Cowboys vs. Washington betting line and game prediction

  • Spread: Cowboys -4.5 (Odds courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook)
  • Moneyline: Cowboys -200, Washington +170
  • Total: 48

Unless the Cowboys make mistakes in this matchup, it’s hard to see how Washington can win. The Cowboys have the edge across several matchups. They likely do not have enough weapons to really test this Cowboys defense. Meanwhile, their own defense faces a tough test in this Cowboys offense.

The one chance Washington has is if they can win the battle in the trenches. However, with Dallas getting healthier on both sides of the ball, that will be tough. Washington’s offense simply doesn’t have the firepower to win this game if Dallas avoids self-inflicted wounds on offense.

Cowboys vs. Washington Prediction: Cowboys 27, Washington 20

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