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Big Picture: 5 Storylines for Dallas & Washington

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It's on to an ever-crucial NFC East heavy section of the schedule for the Cowboys following their 38-10 loss to Arizona on Monday night. With back-to-back road trips to Washington (1-5) and Philadelphia (1-4-1) over the next two weeks, Dallas still has a unique chance to separate themselves and hold on to their division lead. This week, the offense will look to get back on track against a stout Washington defensive line after a season-low 10 points scored last time out. Here are five important storylines for each team heading into Sunday's matchup with Washington.

Football Team

  • Washington suffered a heartbreaking one-point loss to the NFC East foe New York Giants, 20-19 on Sunday. The loss came after a late fourth quarter drive and score led by Kyle Allen that pulled Washington within one. Instead of kicking the extra point and playing for overtime, head coach Ron Rivera made the bold call to go for the win by attempting the two-point conversion. Following pressure off the edge, Allen rolled out to his left and send a fluttering pass to the front of the endzone that fell incomplete and allowed New York to hold on for the win kicking Washington to 1-5.
  • It's been an uncertain start to the season for Washington behind center as a trio of different quarterbacks have seen significant playing time. The year started with Dwayne Haskins, 2019 first-round pick as the initial starter, but he was soon replaced by Kyle Allen, who was permanently named the full-time starter quickly thereafter but had to leave the game against the Rams due to a hit to the head. Alex Smith stepped in and threw 17 passes in the loss in his first game action since suffering a grewsome leg injury against Houston back in 2018. At the moment, Rivera still expects Allen to be the starter come Sunday afternoon, but history has shown the Cowboys could see a couple different looks at signal caller throughout the game.
  • Washington has one of the best defensive lines in football and enter Week 7 as a top 10 pass rush team overall. Newly-added second overall pick Chase Young is the newest of five total first rounders on the Washington defensive line, Ryan Karrigan, Jonathan Allen, Montez Sweat, and Da'Ron Payne. With a four-man front, the rotation has accounted for 16 sacks, tied for eighth in the league so far. Kerrigan and Sweat lead the way with 3 individual sacks but Young is not too far behind with 2.5 sacks in just four total games.
  • It's not just the Cowboys that are struggling out of the gate. Washington has been rather slow to start games as well, getting outscored 108-44 in the first half of its six games. Washington has been exceptionally bad in the first quarter, as opponents own a 47-14 advantage. But maybe the Cowboys will be the cure for Washington at home this week, as Dallas has been outscored 137-80 in the first half and 57-26 in the first.
  • With the NFC East still fully within reach for Washington, Ron Rivera and the whole organization is in a 'win now' mode. This mindset has influenced not only the call to go for the win against New York last week, but also the decisions in the quarterback depth chart and other personnel choices. Early in the season, Rivera utilized opportunities late in games they were trailing to give extra rest to some key players and prioritized the health. At first, this seemed like an odd way to start the year but now, with the mounting list of injuries around the league, Rivera looks to be ahead of the curve in terms of keeping players safe for a late season run at the division title.

Cowboys

  • The Cowboys found out what life was like without Dak Prescott … and it wasn't pretty. Veteran backup Andy Dalton stuck to the script of 2020 as the Cowboys fell behind early, falling to 21-0 in the second quarter. But unlike Dak, Dalton couldn't engineer a furious comeback as the offense continued to stall even into the second half. Dalton completed 34 of 54 passes for 266 yards, one TD and two picks for a 65.8 QB rating.
  • When it comes to turnovers, the Cowboys continue to be the worst team in the NFL. The turnover bug reared its ugly head again Monday night as the Cowboys turned it over four times, including two more fumbles by Ezekiel Elliott, who has lost four this whole season in six games. The Cowboys lead the NFL with 15 turnovers and also have the worst turnover margin in the league with a -12.
  • The offensive line has been a mess for the Cowboys all season, thanks mostly to injuries. But it got worse Monday as All-Pro Zack Martin left the game with head injury. He was ruled out after extensive medical attention in both the tent and in the locker room. Martin will be monitored all week as his status for Sunday's game in Washington will be in question.
  • Help should be on the way for the defense as Randy Gregory is expected to play. He's been on the reserve/exempt list for six games this season after suffering a year-long suspension by the NFL. Gregory supposedly wowed his teammates and coaches in practice last week with his quick first-step and ability to rush the passer. Along with Gregory, cornerback Chido Awuzie (groin) and linebacker Sean Lee (sports hernia) are getting close to a return. It's possible both could play this week against Washington.
  • Another player might return to action, but his status remains questionable, is offensive tackle Cam Erving. On Monday, the NFL initially placed Erving on the reserved/COVID-19 list after the veteran reported flu-like symptoms. The NFL later changed its ruling and said Erving would remain on injured reserve with a sprained knee, although he is getting close to being activated to the roster. If Erving can return to practice, it's possible he could compete for a starting tackle spot as the Cowboys continue to play both Brandon Knight and Terence Steele on the edges.

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