A share of first place in the NFC East is at stake on Thanksgiving.
The Cowboys (5-5) will look to pull even with the division-leading Redskins (6-4) after losing at Washington a month ago, 20-17.
Which team wins Thursday and why? The DallasCowboys.com staff gives their ‘gut feelings’ for the Thanksgiving classic at AT&T Stadium.
Lindsay Draper: How about that – I broke my streak! The Cowboys got their second straight road win, and guess what? They’re also getting a win on Thanksgiving. The lead for the East goes through the Redskins, but with their decimated offensive line and loss of Alex Smith, I just don’t see them overcoming that on such a short week. The Cowboys are definitely banged up too, but unlike many other teams at this time of the year, their offense is finally starting to sync and hit its stride. Adding the magical missing piece of Xavier Su’a-Filo to the offensive line and the sneaky presence of Amari Cooper on the outside have both worked in Ezekiel Elliott’s favor. Big time. In their last two road wins, Zeke’s raked in 388 total yards. I predict a third straight win for Dallas on Thanksgiving before their most electric matchup on the schedule – the Saints on TNF Nov. 29.
Bryan Broaddus: This game will come down to how well the Cowboys’ offensive line blocks the Redskins’ front seven. This was something they failed to do last time these two teams met. That loss led to a change by Jason Garrett and the dismissal of Paul Alexander as O-Line coach. Since Marc Colombo has taken over, they’ve done a better job as a unit, returning to a more physical style. In talking to scouts around the league, they’ve said that the Cowboys beat up both the Eagles and Falcons up front, which is a reflection of Colombo. I see this Cowboys offensive line having an outstanding game, handling the Redskins both run and pass. The victory will move them into a first-place tie for the division after playoff hope appeared lost. Dallas with a big victory, 31-17. Happy Thanksgiving!
Nick Eatman: When the schedule came out in April, many people quickly pointed toward the rematch in Atlanta considering how it derailed the team last year. And I’m sure the Thursday Nov. 29 game in New Orleans was circled as well. But who knew this Redskins game right here on Thanksgiving would come down to perhaps the biggest game on the schedule. This is the one that will arguably affect the NFC East standings the most. If the Cowboys can’t win this game, it’ll be really hard to think they can make up a difference to win the division, especially if they’re swept by Washington. But I don’t think that will happen. The Cowboys played a really bad game last month up in D.C. and still could’ve sent the game into overtime. The offense will be better and the running game will be the reason for it. I see them moving the ball more and the Cowboys’ defense should be able to control Colt McCoy and that offense enough. I see an ugly game, but prettier than the last meeting. I think Michael Gallup will score a touchdown – what a great story that would be for him – and the Cowboys get some field goals by Brett Maher to win it, 26-17.
David Helman: I’m going to go ahead and guess this game won’t be pretty. You’re talking about two good defenses, two bad offenses and a short week to get ready. That sounds like a recipe for an ugly slugfest if I’ve ever heard one. Fortunately for the Cowboys, I think they’ve got enough stuff working in their favor. As bad as the short week might be, they don’t have to travel. They’re also dealing with fewer injuries than this banged-up Washington group. And on top of that, they have added Cooper and Su’a-Filo to the mix since the last time these teams met. I think the last one is going to be big. Washington has allowed rushing totals of 154, 103 and 139 in the last three weeks, and I think Su’a-Filo helps Dallas capitalize on that. If Zeke Elliott can even have a moderately successful day, it makes a huge difference. I think he finishes with 96 yards and a touchdown. On the flipside, the Cowboys should be able to limit this Colt McCoy offense to 17 points or less. Add it all together and it comes out to an ugly but crucial Cowboys win – something like 24-16.
Rob Phillips: Dave makes a good point about Washington’s run defense. They’ve allowed some heavy totals the last few weeks. The fact that they’re still ranked sixth against the run shows you what they’re capable of, and what they were able to do against Elliott on Oct. 21. Zeke’s 2.2-yards-per-carry average was a season low and the second-lowest of his career. It’s just hard to pick against the momentum Dallas has gathered the last two weeks. They’ve rediscovered the formula that has made them successful the last several years, and it starts with the line controlling things up front. Gut feeling: The East will be tied by Thursday night.
Mickey Spagnola: Let’s cut to the chase. My gut says Cowboys 24, Redskins 17, and this has nothing to do with the Redskins having to start backup quarterback Colt McCoy. Would have picked the same score had Alex Smith been playing in this game. For let’s remember, even though the Cowboys lost the first time around to the Redskins, 20-17, the Cowboys defense held Washington to just 13 points. Those other seven were scored on a sack-fumble-recovery in the end zone. And even at that, if not for the ridiculous “snap infraction” penalty called on deep snapper L.P. Ladouceur, costing the Cowboys essentially 10 yards, the five they didn’t get for Washington jumping offside and the five they were penalized for, Brett Maher’s field-goal attempt from 52 yards out instead of what should have been 42 yards that hit the left upright would have been good before hooking too far left.