What could be some of the critical aspects in this game that could be game changers for both teams?
Dallas Cowboys vs. Washington Commanders Game Preview
The Cowboys are favored by 11.5 points in this matchup, but a few aspects of their game need to come together to ensure another “should-win” for this team.
The Cowboys’ offense needs a quick start in this game to get points on the board early. This could be another favorable matchup for the run game to lean on what Tony Pollard can do, but with a struggling Commanders’ secondary, Dak Prescott could drop dimes to the weapons in his receiver and tight end rooms.
As for the Cowboys’ defense, the run defense can be tested a lot during this time. Quarterback Sam Howell is a mobile quarterback who can use his legs when needed, so linebackers must contain him in the box.
However, the Commanders’ offensive line struggles with pass protection for Howell, making him the most sacked quarterback in the NFL this season.
So, if the pass rush, especially with Micah Parsons and DeMarcus Lawrence, can bully Howell, there will be opportunities to keep them behind the sticks, creating long-yardage situations.
Cowboys-Commanders Stats From Inside Edge
- The Cowboys have scored on 50.9% of their drives in the first half this season — third-best in the NFL.
- The Commanders’ defense has allowed scores on 46.8% of opponent drives in the first half this season — third-worst in the NFL.
- Sam Howell (WAS) has thrown seven TD passes in the fourth quarter this season — tied for most among NFL QBs.
Analysis: The Cowboys will need to start quicker and not rely on the second half to make adjustments. The slow starts during games have been a recurring trend for the Cowboys’ offense, making them more of a second-half team.
As well, Howell can turn it on in the fourth quarter. So, all three phases of the game will need to help get points on the board to put the game away well before the fourth quarter.
- The Cowboys are 7-1 (.875) when forcing one or more turnovers this season — tied for third-best in the NFL.
- The Commanders have turned the ball over 21 times this season — tied for most in the NFL.
Analysis: The Cowboys’ secondary can take advantage of Howell and the pressure he will feel in this game because he is fearless in attempting chunk plays.
In this game, DaRon Bland and Stephon Gilmore must contain Terry McLaurin, Jahan Dotson, and Logan Thomas. Bland’s ability to cut off routes can come into play during this game to help him break the NFL record this week for most pick-sixes in a season with one more.
- Cowboys TEs have six receiving touchdowns this season — tied for third-most in the NFL.
- The Commanders have allowed 24 receiving touchdowns this season — most in the NFL.
Analysis: The Cowboys have been on an upward trend to figuring out the ball distribution on the offensive side of the ball, which includes getting the tight ends more involved. Jake Ferguson and Luke Schoonmaker are becoming red-zone threats for Dak Prescott, so it will be critical for the Commanders to keep them contained.
- Commanders RBs have rushed for 10+ yards on 13.7% of 73 carries since Week 8 — fifth-best in the NFL.
- The Cowboys have allowed 10+ yards on 13.8% of carries to RBs since Week 8 — fifth-worst in the NFL.
Analysis: Although the Cowboys’ run defense has been a drop-off in the otherwise strong unit, it has improved. They have allowed 1,092 yards so far this season and an average of 4.1 yards per carry.
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If the Commanders can get Brian Robinson Jr. going early, they have a shot to test this unit, especially if they establish a run early.
- The Commanders have gone three and out on 30.8% of their drives in the first half this season — fifth-worst in the NFL.
- The Cowboys have forced three-and-outs on 32.8% of opponent drives in the first half this season — second-best in the NFL.
Analysis: If the Cowboys’ defense can put pressure on Howell and contain him in the pocket, it will be more likely that they can create more three-and-out opportunities for the Commanders’ offense.
However, if Howell or Robinson Jr. can test the run defense well, this could allow them to get down the field successfully.
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