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Big Picture: 10 Storylines for Dallas & Washington


The Cowboys head to D.C. this week with a chance to secure an NFC East title. The Commanders have lost seven straight games but wouldn't mind playing spoiler to one of their biggest rivals.

Here are the 10 big storylines for the week, with five for the Commanders and five for the Cowboys.


  • The Commanders put up a fight for the first half against the 49ers last week, but ultimately dropped a 27-10 decision for their seventh straight loss of the season. Washington hasn't won a game since Nov. 5 against the Patriots, a streak that includes a 45-10 loss to the Cowboys on Thanksgiving.
  • Currently, Washington is sitting on the No. 2 overall pick in the draft. A loss on Sunday to Dallas would likely secure that for the Commanders. However, the future for head coach Ron Rivera is in jeopardy, so it's unlikely the Commanders coaching staff will be focused on anything other than spoiling the Cowboys' chances of winning the division on their own field.
  • A last-second change at quarterback sent Sam Howell back on the field for Sunday's game to start against the 49ers. Jacoby Brissett was inactive because of a hamstring injury, putting Howell in the game, just two weeks after he was benched. Howell played decent, throwing two picks but had 169 passing yards and a touchdown. No decision has been made yet on whether Brissett or Howell will start on Sunday.
  • Washington ranks last in the NFL in total defense this year, but the defensive tackle bookends of DaRon Payne and Jonathan Allen have always given the Cowboys fits. And it would be a good time for them to play well considering the Cowboys' issues running the ball lately,
  • Commanders receiver Terry McLaurin is seeking to become the first player in franchise history to have four straight 1,000-yard receiving seasons. With 946 yards this year, he needs just 54 against the Cowboys, who limited him to just 50 yards in the last game on four catches. For his career, McLaurin is averaging 52.8 yards per game in the eight matchups against the Cowboys.


  • The Cowboys had a few bounces go their way over the weekend from the close win over the Lions on Saturday and then Arizona's upset over the Eagles Sunday, which gives them a chance to win the NFC East with a win this week. The Cowboys would clinch the division by beating the Commanders, or if the Eagles lose to the Giants.
  • The Cowboys worked out a couple of familiar faces on Tuesday and could be close to signing both La'el Collins and Damien Wilson. Both of them joined the Cowboys in 2015 but have since gone to other places but currently available to sign. Wilson, a fourth-round pick, could provide some depth at linebacker and special teams. Collins, who was a highly-coveted undrafted free agent in 2015 after his stock dropped him from being a first-round pick, was a starter in Dallas at either guard or tackle for six years before joining the Bengals. If brought back, he could likely start on the practice squad and be elevated on game day.
  • CeeDee Lamb has already broken Michael Irvin's records from 1995, making him the most productive receiver for any one season in Cowboys history. He has the mark for most catches (120) and receiving yards (1,651) and was able to do it in 16 games, just as Irvin did in 1995.
  • The Cowboys are hopeful for a pair of big linemen to return to action on both sides of the ball. Johnathan Hankins has missed three games with a high-ankle sprain he suffered against the Eagles and Tyler Smith suffered a foot injury last week vs. Detroit and did not return. Head coach Mike McCarthy said "there's a chance" both of them could play this week.
  • The Cowboys will need to get the running game going against the Commanders, especially around the goal line. Dallas had trouble running out the clock with Tony Pollard, who now has 935 rushing yards, looking for a second-straight 1,000-yard season.

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