Keys to Victory

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Keys To Victory: Cowboys Must Maintain Balance

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Win or lose, Thursday's game with Washington will be an emotional one for the Cowboys, who experienced a tragic loss already this week in the sudden passing of strength coach Markus Paul.

Trying to handle those emotions in the middle of a game won't be easy, and the fact the team hasn't practiced much at all, won't help either.

Here are the keys to victory for both teams.

Washington will win if…

Ron Rivera's team relies heavily on the defense to set the table for potential wins. The unit is fueled by a frontline that features five former first-rounders in the rotation. The collective disruption and production from Chase Young, Montez Sweat, Ryan Kerrigan, Da'Ron Payne, and Jonathan Allen overwhelm opponents and enables the team to benefit from negative plays (sacks, turnovers, tackles for loss, and penalties) created from a dominant frontline.

If WFT controls the trenches and dominates the line of scrimmage, they will eventually put their offense in a position to cash in from a short field. Alex Smith is an efficient game manager and he will find a way to get the ball to Terry McLaurin and Antonio Gibson on the perimeter. If the dynamic duo produces three or four explosive plays, WFT will be in a position to chalk up another W on Turkey Day.

The Cowboys will win if…

Mike McCarthy has found a way to get his team to embrace a blue-collar approach heading down the stretch. The Cowboys are more committed to the run and the results have been solid since they've increasingly relied on the Ezekiel Elliott-Tony Pollard combination. Against WFT, the dynamic duo must combine for 35 rushing attempts to keep the game under control.

Although the Cowboys could struggle to move the ball on the ground against a formidable front, the persistence will eventually pay off in the second half against a beleaguered defense that's worn down from the ground and pound attack. That said, the Cowboys must keep the defense off-balanced with timely throws to Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and CeeDee Lamb on short- and intermediate routes. If the Cowboys' offense can set the terms with a solid effort, the surging defense should be able to put the clamps on a WFT that lacks significant firepower.

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