Welcome to Week 14 of the 2021 NFL season. December is the month that separates the contenders from the pretenders, and your Dallas Cowboys sit squarely in the middle of those two worlds. After a smoking hot September and October, the Cowboys came crashing back to reality in November. Last week, Dallas started the process of heating up once again. This week, however, looms large for many reasons.
For one, it would be beneficial to the confidence of this team to start stacking some wins together. For another, this Sunday marks the first of two games against the second-best team within the NFC East. At 6-6, the Washington Football Team is the closest thing to a divisional challenger the Cowboys will likely see this season.
Thankfully for the Cowboys, they continue to get healthier as the season comes to a close. Last week, defensive end Demarcus Lawrence came back into the fold. This week, more defensive line help is on the way as Randy Gregory and Neville Gallimore should see significant playing time.
Know thy enemy: Everything Cowboys fans need to know about the Washington Football Team
Will the additions along the defensive line lead to a second straight victory and a stranglehold on the NFC East? Let’s settle in and get to know thy enemy a little better as look at the strengths and weaknesses of the Washington Football Team.
After losing four straight games, Washington has really turned things around, winning four straight to get back to even in 2021. This all started with an upset victory over the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. With WFT’s latest victory over the Las Vegas Raiders, Washington has now defeated two teams in the last four weeks who have beaten Dallas.
The Washington defense has been the major catalyst for their turnaround. Over the past four games, they are giving up just over 17 points per game. No team has scored more than 21 points in this stretch, which considering they were giving up almost 30 points per game prior to that, is impressive Of course, coming into the season, Washington leaning on their defense for success would not come as a shock. However, given that the team has played without their two best pass rushers for most of the last four contests, the defensive unit has really stepped up when it was most needed.
In fact, Washington is taking this whole winning streak down the old-school road, coupling their defense with a strong dose of running back Antonio Gibson. Gibson has 95 rushes in these four wins, going over 100 yards once and coming close two other times. Washington is using the running game to do two things. First off, they are dominating time of possession. Over the last four games, Washington has had the ball for seven minutes, 11 minutes, 18 minutes, and 23 minutes longer than their opponents. This is also limiting their turnovers as they have had just one per game during this span. Seeing as how they were averaging two per game beforehand, this is working out very well for them.
This game plan will likely continue to be in play Sunday which is why the Cowboys getting reinforcements along their defensive line will be huge. As we know, Dallas is struggling with their own running game due to lackluster offensive line play and injuries to both of their backs.
Not only is starting running back Ezekiel Elliott nursing a knee injury, which likely isn’t going to get better until the offseason, but backup Tony Pollard is now dealing with a torn plantar fasciitis. On the flip side, the Cowboys’ passing game will be at full strength for the first time since Week 1. This could be the key to the Cowboys’ success as Washington is currently 30th in the league against the pass.
Prior to the season starting, I predicted that Dallas would take this one 23-17. With the Dallas offense still struggling and Washington’s defense playing well, that outcome seems appropriate. I believe this is the time for the Cowboys to get into playoff mode. A win in the nation’s capital would do just that.