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X Factors

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X Factors: 10 key players for Cowboys & Seahawks


FRISCO, Texas – The Cowboys and Seahawks square off on Thursday night, a week after they both played games on Thanksgiving.

This is a tough stretch of the schedule for both teams, who not only face each other, but have matchups with the Eagles as well. This game could go a long way to clear up the NFC playoff picture.

Since the Super Bowl is always the goal for every team, we decided to rank the Top 10 X-factors for the Cowboys and Panthers, using roman numerals, since 10 = X.

Here we go, these 10 guys will likely be big difference-makers one way or another.

X – Boye Mafe – The Seahawks' sack leader with 7.5 has gone two straight games without a sack, but that's after a seven-game streak with at least one sack. He's going up against a Cowboys O-line that hasn't allowed a sack in three games.

IX – D.K. Metcalf– Seattle has three different weapons that can hurt you on the outside, but none like Metcalf, who leads the team with 678 receiving yards, but he's only had one 100-yard game this year.

VIII – Bobby Wagner – After 10 straight seasons in Seattle, Wagner spent last season with the Rams before a return to the Seahawks this year. Even as a tenured vet, Wagner still makes plenty of plays, evident by he's trying earn an All-Pro selection (first or second) for the 10th straight year.

VII – Geno Smith – If Geno Smith gets a lot of pressure, especially if the Cowboys get him on the ground, it could have a direct result in the final outcome. In the six wins this year, the Seahawks have allowed just nine sacks. In the five losses, they've allowed 18 sacks. If Seattle can keep him upright, he has the ability and receivers to make plays.

VI – Tyron Smith – The Cowboys left tackle has been playing his best football in several years, and perhaps it's because he's taking a day off from practice each week. Whatever it is appears to be working as the Cowboys haven't allowed a sack in three games and it starts on the left side to protect Dak's blind side.

V -Stephon Gilmore – With Stephon Gilmore being the most physical cornerback in the Cowboys' secondary, his ability to cover DK Metcalf will be important towards Dallas' defensive success on Thursday night. Metcalf's physicality and strength can be overwhelming at times, but it can also be eliminated with sticky coverage that Gilmore can provide. With Kenneth Walker not expected to play, eliminating an additional offensive weapon only increases the success rate for the Dallas defense.

IV - CeeDee Lamb – Seattle's strengths this season have been present on the defensive side of the ball, most notably with rookie cornerback Devon Witherspoon. The leading contender for Defensive Rookie of the Year, Witherspoon will have his fair share of matchups with CeeDee Lamb on Thursday night, and it'll be important for Lamb to win his battles and force the Seahawks' secondary to work from behind. Brandin Cooks has led the Cowboys in receiving for three consecutive weeks. It might be time for Lamb to re-enter that category.

III - Dak Prescott - If not for a handful of throws Prescott would like back against the Commanders, he might've thrown for 450+ yards and 5+ touchdowns on Thanksgiving, and that's a testament to just how elite he's been these past several weeks (finished with 300+ yards and 4 touchdowns vs. Washington). As Bobby Wagner and the Seahawks come to town, it'll be incumbent upon Prescott to keep the good times rolling with weapons like CeeDee Lamb, Brandin Cooks, Jake Ferguson, KaVontae Turpin and more; and hopefully fire off to a fast start that will force Geno Smith to play hero ball against the league's best pass rush and the king of pick-sixes — DaRon Bland.

II - DaRon Bland - It wasn't the best outing for Bland against the Commanders, that is until it was. They targeted him often and to the tune of 100+ yards in the air, but he ultimately got the last laugh with his record-setting fifth pick-sixof the season. His challenge won't get any easier this week, with D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett coming to town, and the name of the game is bottling them up in much the same way the Cowboys' secondary did Cooper Kupp and Puka Nacua; and a sixth pick-six wouldn't exactly hurt, either.

I - Micah Parsons - Parsons is back on track in the category of sacks, not that he was ever anything but disruptive (which includes freeing up his compatriots to feast) on a weekly basis. The challenge with the Seahawks is that while Geno Smith isn't exactly Michael Vick, he does have enough mobility to extend plays, so keeping him in the pocket and taking him down there is the name of the game. Smith is a very capable quarterback with nuclear weapons at WR1 and WR2, with a solid rushing attack to hand the ball off to. Delete the latter with a big lead and then make it a long day at the office for Smith.

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