The last time the Cowboys took the field 10 days ago on Thanksgiving, they lost by 19 to undefeated Carolina and quarterback Tony Romo fractured his collarbone for the second time since September.
So much has gone wrong for the Cowboys this season, from injuries to missed opportunities. Yet, at 3-8, they could find themselves one game back in the NFC East race with a win Monday night at division rival Washington (5-6).
DallasCowboys.com staff writers Bryan Broaddus, Rob Phillips, Nick Eatman and David Helman give their gut feelings for the Cowboys' first and only Monday Night Football appearance of the season:
Bryan Broaddus: The magic number for the Cowboys is 28. That number has nothing to do with points – when Kirk Cousins attempts that many passes or less, there is a good chance that his club is going to win. The more that he throws, the more difficult it becomes for him to not make mistakes. The Redskins have allowed eight sacks in the last three games, while Dallas has been close in pressure all year but yet to have those opportunities where they have been able to finish. My gut feeling is that the Redskins are able to have offensive balance and are able to protect Cousins, thus allowing him not to throw a great deal in this game. Washington plays well enough on both sides of the ball and they win 27-17 to bring their home record to 6-1.
Rob Phillips: Having covered this rivalry a few times, I've learned records and week-to-week momentum mean next to nothing. The Redskins seem to have more answers at this point in the season, and they've been nearly unbeatable at home, but I fully expect Matt Cassel and the Cowboys to play an inspired game after hearing for 10 days that their season is lost. Cassel says he's more comfortable in the offense now, and I believe that from an 11-year veteran who's seen just about everything. But Ryan Kerrigan and the Redskins' front can challenge a quarterback, and Cassel has to be careful with the football – he threw more interceptions than touchdowns in four starts earlier this year and the Cowboys are ranked last in turnover differential over the entire season. Washington has averaged two takeaways in its last eight games, and I think one extra possession will prove the difference for Kirk Cousins. Redskins 28, Cowboys 21.
Nick Eatman: It feels like three weeks since the Thanksgiving Day game. I'm not sure if that helps or hurts them come Monday night but usually teams that are rested play with some energy. You could tell that the Giants' loss has gotten people's attention. Then again, the Redskins should be just as excited knowing what they've got in front of them. I see the Cowboys playing well because this division has been this way all year. As soon as you think you know ... You don't. I see Jason Witten playing well and going well beyond his 1,000th catch. Robert Turbin is going to make some nice runs and I see maybe two touchdowns from Dez. It'll be a close game but why not ... Give me Dallas 27-24 in overtime. After a stop, Dan Bailey hits the game-winner.
David Helman: Tony Romo is back out of the lineup, so I'm going back to my proven strategy of picking against the Cowboys until they prove me wrong. Washington is 5-1 at home this year, and that one loss came back during Week 1. The Redskins are also plus-4 in turnover differential when they play at home this year, while the Cowboys are minus-3 when they play on the road. To put it simply, I'm not sure I trust the Cowboys can put together a turnover-free game. Meanwhile, the key to beating Kirk Cousins is to make him turn the ball over – but this Dallas defense has just seven takeaways on the year. Darren McFadden and Robert Turbin should have success running the ball, as Washington is allowing 127 rushing yards per game. But I also think the Washington defense, with nine interceptions on the year, will force Matt Cassel into two or three mistakes. It's not going to stop the Cowboys from scoring points, but it's going to sink them in crunch time. They'll have a chance to grab a late win, but I don't trust them to do it. Washington will force turnover to prevent a late touchdown, and they'll hang on to beat Dallas – something like 24-20. As some sort of silver lining, Dez Bryant will have his second 100-yard day of the season.