IRVING, Texas – Just like last year, it comes down to this final week of the season.
The Cowboys need to win on the road in the season finale to claim the NFC East and garner a home playoff game. A loss means the season ends with an 8-8 record.
They didn't get the job done last year in the Meadowlands, losing to the eventual Super Bowl champion Giants. The Cowboys also had the same situation in 2008 and lost to the Eagles, 44-6.
Will things change this year? We're about to find out.
Here are the gut feelings for staff writers Nick Eatman, Bryan Broaddus and Rowan Kavner.
Rowan: My eyes during the last matchup would tell me not to pick against the Redskins. My gut's telling me otherwise. Something about the adversity the Cowboys have overcome this year makes it seem like they're at least destined for the playoffs. When the Ravens dismantled the Giants, it furthered those thoughts. The string of injuries to the Dallas defense would be unbearable to most teams, but the additions have contributed well enough to keep the team in contention. The presence of DeMarco Murray changes everything from the last matchup, and the Cowboys' offense is in full swing with Tony Romo finding Dez Bryant every week. Both teams will put up their fair share of points, but the Cowboys will tack on a few more.
Bryan: Despite all these injuries on the defensive side of the ball for the Cowboys, my gut feeling tells me that Rob Ryan and this defense do a much better job of not allowing the Redskins to make big plays in this game and that is what their offense is based on. A lot of the problems for this Cowboys defense wasn't really on the physical side, yes Alfred Morris whammed the ball at them well but the mental mistakes is really what hurt this defense. Blown coverage are mental problems and those are things that can be corrected. In the folks I have a chance to visit with here at Valley Ranch, I am being told that no stone has been left unturned to try and figure out ways to get off the field on defense. I believe that the Redskins defense will struggle with this Cowboys offense but this Cowboys defense will hold up their share of the deal by limiting the big plays of the Redskins getting them into the playoffs.
Nick: Let's just get straight to it – the Cowboys will win this game. Unlike many other games this year in which I really could've done better flipping a coin because I just wasn't sure, I feel pretty confident about this one. It started right after the game Sunday night against the Saints, it carried on to Monday and it hasn't wavered. I just feel like the Cowboys are destined to go to the playoffs this year. I think it's their turn. No, they're not appreciably better than the Redskins at all. Washington has already proven to be a better squad. But the Cowboys just need to be a tad better in a three-hour window Sunday night. I think they will. I think the Cowboys' defense will play well and make enough stops. I see DeMarco Murray having a big game, too. And call me crazy, but Kevin Ogletree makes a big play to help this team win. Don't forget, he's an NBC player. But I think they find a way to get this win.