FRISCO, Texas — There's a lot on the line this weekend, for both the Dallas Cowboys and for the Washington Commanders, albeit for wildly different reasons. The former can clinch the NFC East and the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs with a win and, with a loss, the latter can clinch the No. 2 overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft.
That doesn't mean the Commanders will, in any way, opt to lay down against the Cowboys and let them through to a path that might grease the wheels to a sixth Super Bowl trip.
In other words, the Cowboys have to be ready to play some of their best football, and especially considering they haven't done so yet on the road in 2023.
"It's just about focusing," said Prescott, who earned his third Pro Bowl nod this season, when asked about balancing the magnitude of the game with not getting out ahead over their skis at FedEx Field. "We understand the magnitude of this game and what it means: winning the division, having the home field. But the last thing you do is focus on that when the whistle blows, or any time after that national anthem, honestly.
"You've got to understand where you are, and make that be the fuel to your preparation all throughout the week, which has already started. We honestly wrap things up over this, over this next day or so."
It's about remaining fundamentally sound, executing and eliminating self-inflicted wounds such as drive-killing penalties that have plagued the Cowboys this season during games played away from AT&T Stadium.
"You just go out there and play the game that we know we can play," said Prescott. "On the road — which would be important — just taking a bunch of confidence into this playoff game out of this game."
Zack Martin agrees, having secured another Pro Bowl nod (his ninth) this season, but ultimately focused on the real prize that tempts them from the future — in February.
"It's cool and, at some point, I'll look back on some of the things I've accomplished, but it's about trying to keep a level head this time of the year and trying to make a run down the stretch," said Martin. "You wanted to be able to control your own destiny, and we have an opportunity to do that this year. A lot of guys in the locker room were a part of that game last season and have that sour taste in [our] mouths. I don't think anyone's taking this game lightly.
"We talked about it all week. The playoffs start for us this week. It's a must-win for us, so we can get ourselves some home games and make a push in the postseason."
Should the Cowboys take care of business on Sunday in Landover, they'll win the NFC East for the second time in the past three seasons and walk into the playoffs as the No. 2 seed with an opportunity to potentially avoid playing on the road until the NFC Championship — if they win their way to that contest.
It's all thanks to a strong run in November that partnered with the Philadelphia Eagles floundering in December, including an upset loss at the hands of the Arizona Cardinals in Week 17 that made this weekend instantly and infinitely more meaningful for the Cowboys.
"It was great to get some help there from a division foe, but we've got to take care of what we can control," said Martin. "And what we can control is going into Washington and playing a complete game and solidifying that No. 2 seed."
It's all right in front of the Cowboys, after months of scratching and clawing against adversity to get to this point, and there's nothing left to do now but to reach out and grab it.