Game preview: Dallas Cowboys at Washington Commanders

Oct 30, 2022; Arlington, Texas, USA; Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) rolls out against the Chicago Bears during the first quarter at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Game preview: Dallas Cowboys at Washington Commanders


Dallas Cowboys (12-4) at Washington Commanders (7-8-1)

Game time: Sunday, 3:25 p.m. CST

TV/radio: FOX / SiriusXM 382, 105.3 The Fan, KVMK 107.5 La Grande (Spanish)

What’s at stake: There is plenty on the line for the Cowboys on Sunday afternoon, including the NFC’s No. 1, No. 2, and No. 5 seed. Currently, the No. 5 seed, Dallas can move to the No. 1 seed with a win over Washington, a Philadelphia loss to the Giants, and a 49ers loss to the Cardinals. Dallas can earn the No. 2 seed with a win, an Eagles loss, and a 49ers win, or stay put as the No. 5 seed with any other combinations of wins and losses on the final weekend of the regular season. As for the Commanders, their season ends with a win or a loss.

When the Cowboys have the ball: Unless this game turns into a blowout, it will be a full complement of starters for the Cowboys on Sunday. That means Dak Prescott at quarterback, leading the No. 2 ranked NFL offense loaded with weapons at running back – Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard, at wide receiver – CeeDee Lamb, Michael Gallup, Noah Brown, and T.Y. Hilton, and at tight end – Dalton Schultz, Jake Ferguson, and Peyton Hendershot. They will be up against a Commanders defense that has shut teams down, allowing just 312.3 total yards per game, which is fourth-best in the NFL this season. Led by linebacker Jamin Davis (104 total tackles), defensive tackle Daron Payne (11½ sacks), and cornerback Kendall Fuller (11 passes defensed and 2 interceptions), the Commanders are allowing just 21.1 points per game and have given up 20 points or less in nine of their last 12 contests.

When the Commanders have the ball: With nothing to play for, the Commanders will get a good look at the possible future by giving rookie quarterback Sam Howell his first NFL Start. Howell will have some weapons at his disposal in running backs Brian Robinson Jr. (797 yards on 205 carries) and Antonio Gibson (546 yards on 149 carries) and wide receiver Terry McLaurin (1,117 yards on 74 catches). But the Cowboys’ defense, which has the third most sacks in the NFL with 51, will have a chance to get after Howell, as the Commanders have given up 45 sacks this season, seventh most this season. Pressure on Howell could lead to more turnovers by a Commanders squad that has given up the football 22 times, tied for eighth in the NFL this season.

Key Cowboys to watch:

QB Dak Prescott – Prescott is having a season that is hard to describe. He leads one of the top offenses in the NFL, which is averaging 28.8 points per contest. It is even better in the games that Prescott has started, averaging 32.1 points in those 11 starts. He is completing 69.2% of his passes while throwing for 2,732 yards and 22 touchdowns. On the flip side, he is tied for the league lead in interceptions at 14 with Derek Carr and Kirk Cousins but has played in three and four fewer games, respectively. He has thrown interceptions in nine of his 11 starts, including six-straight games.

RB Tony Pollard – One-half of the Cowboys’ co-starting running backs, Pollard has a chance to cross the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the first time in his career with just 12 yards against the Commanders. That is easier said than done after Pollard had just six yards rushing on eight carries in the first meeting. Since the off week, Pollard has averaged nearly 105 total yards per game, which includes just under 69 yards on the ground.

LB Micah Parsons – The Cowboys’ defense needs Micah Parsons to be the offensive wrecker he was in the first 11 games of the season. During that stretch, Parsons had 50 tackles, 12 sacks, three forced fumbles, and one fumble recovery. In the last five games, he has just 13 tackles and one sack. He has played in just over 81% of the defensive snaps, with most coming as an undersized defensive end.

CB Trevon Diggs – After 11 interceptions last season, teams have learned to stay away from, for the most part, Diggs and his side of the field. This season he has just three interceptions, including one against Washington in Week 4, while leading the defense in snaps with 1,053. Diggs has made 49 tackles, knocked down 14 passes, and recovered a fumble with one game left in the 2022 regular season.

The bottom line: This is not the time for a Dallas letdown, with so much still in play with a win over Washington. Regardless of moving up in the playoff seeding, the Cowboys need to enter the postseason on a roll. Anything less than a big win over a team giving a fifth-round rookie quarterback the first start of his career would be a knock to the confidence as a possible road playoff opener stares them in the face. In all honesty, this Cowboys team could use a blowout victory to get the win needed for a possible NFC East title, continued confidence, and the ability to rest guys they are going to count on for, what they hope, is an extended playoff run.

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