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X Factors

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X Factors: 10 key players for Dallas & Washington


FRISCO, Texas – This will be the first meeting of the season between Dallas and Washington but these two franchises are no strangers to the Thanksgiving Day matchup. This marks the 11th time they've faced enough on Turkey Day.

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 - Sam Howell – The Commanders quarterback leads the NFL in passes attempted and completed. He's also tied for the league-lead in interceptions with 12 and he's been sacked more than any other QB as well. Washington will try to run the ball at times but there will be a point in which Howell has to pass it and that's when the game will be decided one way or another.

IX - Brian Robinson Jr. – The powerful running back is also dangerous out of the backfield in the passing game. Robinson will hurt teams with screens and he's hard to bring down in the open field. He's good as a pass-blocker but he'll sneak out for a reception that can turn into a big gain. He has seven receptions this year of 20+ yards.

VIII - Terry McLaurin – With Trevon Diggs out for the season, maybe McLaurin will have a better chance to make plays in this game. He's had just eight receptions in the last four games against the Cowboys. Of course, DaRon Bland has been a nightmare for opposing QBs as well so it'll be interesting to see how McLaurin fares in this game. This year, McLaurin has at least two catches in every game but has not surpassed 100 yards this season.

VII - Jonathan Allen – While he's known for stuffing the middle of the line of scrimmage alongside Daron Payne, Allen is now the team's leader in sacks with 5.5, thanks to the trades that sent Montez Sweat and Chase Young to other teams. But Allen can get to the quarterback, also providing 13.5 QB hits this year. He can be a game-changer in the middle of the line.

VI – Johnathan Hankins – The only chance the Commanders really have to win this game is to run the ball and slow down the Cowboys on offense. To do that, they have to get Brian Robinson Jr. and Antonio Gipson going between the tackles. That's where Hankins has to control the middle. He can clog up the running game, which allows the linebackers to make plays. But Hankins and Osa Odighizuwa have to be strong in the middle to force Washington to pass.

V – Tyler Biadasz – The one thing that hasn't changed much with the Washington defense is the middle of their defensive line. Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen cause all kinds of problems inside and that's where Biadasz has to be at his best as the Cowboys' center. He'll have some help with Zack Martin and Tyler Smith on his right and left, but if the Cowboys can run the ball and keep the pocket from collapsing, they'll have success. It starts up front with their center.

IV – Brandin Cooks – We know the Commanders are going to keep a close eye on CeeDee Lamb – no that it always matters. But something has to give if they choose to double-team him all game long and that's where Cooks is expected to shine. The crafty veteran has been more of a difference-maker here of late and look for him to have plenty of chances. In his last game at AT&T Stadium, he torched the Giants for 173 yards and a touchdown.

III - Dak Prescott – It wasn't a lights-out game for Prescott in Week 10 against the Panthers, but that's because it didn't have to be and, also, because Carolina's secondary deserves credit for playing good football. Here come the Commanders, however, and their defense isn't anything you'd wanna home about. Returning to AT&T Stadium where Prescott and the entire Cowboys' team has been dominant as of late, there's a great chance that he gets going early and shows the Commanders exactly what it felt like to be the New York Giants in Week 10; and that's a recipe for another blowout victory at home.

II - Micah Parsons – Just last week, there was a lot of national talk about Parsons being blanked in the demolition of the Giants and that was all The Lion needed to hear for days on end to make him ravenous against the Panthers. The offensive line of the Commanders isn't exactly a world beater, either, and that sets the stage for either Parsons to half another multi-sack day and/or for him to create havoc that leads to others dining heartily on Sam Howell. Either way, Howell is in for a long afternoon if Parsons and Co. turn him into their Thanksgiving pre-meal snack.

I - DaRon Bland –Will Thursday be the day when history is made? Bland currently stands in a three-way tie for the most pick-sixes ever produced in a single NFL season, and Howell's last throw was a, you guessed it, pick-six that secured the Commanders' loss against the Giants on Sunday afternoon. It's enough to have Bland salivating entering Thanksgiving, but it's fair to say wideout Terry McLaurin can be more than a handful. But if Trevon Diggs can consistently handle him, there's no reason to believe, at this point, that Bland can't as well.

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