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X Factors

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X Factors: Watch out for these 10 game-changers


This is the second time around for the Cowboys and Commanders, who met back on Thanksgiving. But the key players are pretty much the same this time around.

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

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

X – Terry McLaurin – He has a chance to become the first player in Washington franchise history to record four straight 1,000-yard receiving seasons. He's current sitting at 946 yards, needing just 54 to hit the mark. In eight career games against the Cowboys, McLaurin is averaging 52.8 yards in games against Dallas, although he's mostly been covered by Trevon Diggs.

IX – Sam Howell – He's expected to start this week over Jacoby Brissett, giving him a full season of starts, even though he was benched a couple of weeks ago. Howell hasn't had a great season for the Commanders but he's looking to finish the season strong as he did last year against Dallas, winning his first career start in Week 18 against the Cowboys.

VIII – DaRon Payne – Pick one, either him or Jonathan Allen, who has been on the injury report this week, but together, the duo can cause problems inside. Payne is an athletic rusher who is a force to move and has always been stout against the Cowboys, who have been battling injuries on the line with Tyler Smith dealing with a foot injury.

VII – Brian Robinson Jr. – After missing two games due to injury, Robinson came back for the Commanders last week against the 49ers and had 76 total yards of offense. He gives Washington a threat as a runner and pass-catcher with five rushing touchdowns and three more as a receiver.

VI – DaRon Bland – In the first meeting against Washington, it ended with Bland getting his record-breaking fifth Pick 6 of the season, but before that, he was giving up some catches to both McLaurin and Curtis Samuel, who had 100 yards. Bland, recently named to the Pro Bowl, needs to finish strong and help the defense get off the field with third-down stops.

V- Brandon Aubrey – He's made 35 straight kicks, looking to become the third kicker in NFL history with a perfect mark of kicks with at least 30 attempts. But the windy and cold conditions might be problematic for the kicking game. Look for this one to be close, especially early and those games always make the kickers even more of a factor.

IV – Tony Pollard – The Cowboys probably want to let Pollard get at least 65 yards and get to 1,000 yards for the second straight year. He did have 71 against Washington back on Thanksgiving and a big game would certainly give a needed boost to Pollard and this running game heading into the playoffs.

III - Micah Parsons – You know the drill here. Parsons is a game wrecker and, as such, will always be one to watch whenever he steps onto the field. He'll likely have to continue to find ways to impact the game despite the lack of holding (or illegal hands to the face) penalties, but it feels as if he's past due for a multi-sack game, and whoever the Commanders drop behind center might be in for a long day with so much on the line for Dallas.

II - Jake Ferguson Things have quieted down a bit for Ferguson over the last three games, but it's certainly not due to lack of effort (or targets in Week 17). Things just haven't broke in his favor as of late, but there's no better time than the finale against the Commanders to reignite his explosiveness heading into the playoffs. The dynamic tight end will have plenty of chances against Washington's secondary, and could end up having a[nother] big day.

I - Dak Prescott – As it stands, the Cowboys are 3-5 on the road and away games have put their biggest issues on full display. Prescott made it clear after the loss to the Dolphins, the second loss in a row on the road, that Dallas would work to put down the Lions and then try to use the Commanders as a tool to sharpen their execution on the road heading into the playoffs. And considering what the Cowboys are playing for in Week 18, there's no lack of motivation to make sure that sword can cut mole hair in January.

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