The Dallas Cowboys are seeking the No. 2 seed in the NFC if they can win on Sunday. Getting the No. 2 seed would put them in a good position going into the playoffs. It would mean that they would receive two games at AT&T Stadium, where they have been almost automatic this year. Most of all, it would make it so the only way that they would have to see San Francisco would be in the NFC Championship, if they happen to reach that far. Prolonging a trip to Santa Clara for as long as possible would be preferred.
First, Dallas must take on the 4-12 Washington Commanders in a game that has been in Washington's favor for quite some time.
Washington has not lost in the last week of the season since 2019. In 2020, the Commanders knocked off Philadelphia to finish 7-9 and still win the NFC East division during the regular season. They would eventually lose in the Wild Card round to Tampa Bay.
In 2021 and 2022, while being out of playoff contention both years, Washington beat the Giants and the Cowboys, respectively, with the latter of the two games being current quarterback Sam Howell's first career start. The Commanders know how to win in the season finale no matter what is on the line, if anything at all.
Washington has not been great this year and are a lock for a top pick in next April's draft, but history can repeat itself if Dallas is not too careful.
History proves Cowboys can't overlook Commanders in Week 18
We usually see every year when there are teams that try to ruin another contender's chances in some way and this will be no different. Plus, the division game of course always ups the will to win a little bit on both sides from a competitive aspect. This could very well be Coach Ron Rivera's last game at the helm for the Commanders as well, so you know he wants to go out on a good note.
Plain and simple, Dallas must come ready to play.
From the first whistle, the Cowboys have to get out fast and dominate. The have to put on display the type of game-plan that they have for majority of the season which is to lead quickly and keep the foot on the pedal and bank on the defense to keep putting Prescott and company in position to stay ahead.
The Commanders rank near the bottom of the league in total defense especially against the pass, therefore Prescott and the Cowboys passing attack can have a field day. Defending the run, Washington has not been much better either, but seemingly this season no matter the rushing defense Dallas has faced good or bad, the Cowboys running game has under-performed. So ultimately, there are still ways Dallas can struggle in this game.
Lucky enough Tony Pollard had nearly his best game of his rocky season the last time these two teams collided. He finished with 79 yards and averaged 6.1 yards per carry, both which were Pollard's second best efforts over the course of the year. Luck could be on Pollards' side. If we were playing off of the last meeting between these two, expecting DaRon Bland to have a good game again as well (broke NFL interception return record on Thanksgiving), is also a good bet.
As for Washington's offensive attack, the Commanders quarterback Sam Howell has had an interesting sophomore season. He put together a hefty amount of passing yards while enduring a hefty amount of sacks, although he is still inching at an all-time team record. By the numbers, Howell is sitting close to the top five in team history in passing yards in a single-season. When a quarterback is having an up and down year and it is their last game of the year, they tend to want to display their best or at least try. Skill-players Brian Robinson and Terry McLaurin will also be effective and guys Dallas needs to watch for.
This means that Howell can throw the ball all over the field and be effective and put some points on the board for his team.
When a team has nothing to play for but dignity and something to build on for the following season, they can still be dangerous to go up against. They have nothing to lose therefore they will play tough, at times reckless, but ultimately can give you an unexpected challenge.
The Cowboys have the edge in weapons. They have had the better year and they should win this game with ease. But never underestimate a division opponent who would love to spoil your teams' chances and especially not a team who has been perfect in seasonal finales' over the years.
The Cowboys would love to go into the playoffs riding their two game win streak and began their quest for Las Vegas by beating Washington Sunday afternoon.