The second installment of Thanksgiving football gives us an NFC East (yikes) showdown (?) between the Washington Football Team and the Dallas Cowboys from AT&T Stadium in Texas.
Thanksgiving Prime Time Picks: Washington (+130) vs Dallas (-3) O/U 46 – All lines via DratKings
Prime Time Picks: 12-11
The Dreadful NFC East
The NFC East is the worst division in football and it’s not even close. The Eagles currently lead the division with a record of 3-6-1, and all three other teams, Washington, New York, and Dallas sit in 2nd place at 3-7. A true dumpster fire. The four teams’ combined record of 12-27-1 is just awful. But, it is making a very contested race for the division crown, and Washington and Dallas will have a chance to get to win number 4 on Thanksgiving day–which will put them in first place for at least a couple days.
Both Teams Looking for Back-to-Back Wins
The Washington Football Team defeated the Bengals last week at home by a score of 20-9. The win snapped a two-game skid, and got them back in the win column after they had lost six of seven. The Cowboys were also able to get back in the win column last week as they took down the red-hot Vikings 31-28. The Vikings had won three in a row, and the Cowboys had lost four in a row before that contest. Now, both Washington and Dallas find themselves in positions to get their first back-to-back wins of the season.
These two teams met in Washington on Oct. 25, and it was a very one-sided affair. Washington won by a score of 25-3, and the game was never really in doubt. The Football Team out gained the Cowboys by a whopping margin of 397-142, and steadily controlled time of possession 36:24-23:36. Washington was able to gain 21 first downs, compared to Dallas’ 12, and RB Antonio Gibson went off, carrying the ball 20 times for 128 yards (6.4 YPC) and a touchdown. Dallas QB Andy Dalton went down with an injury, and backup Ben DiNucci tried to fill the void as best he could, but it was ultimately a moot point as the game was already pretty much decided. However, a lot has changed since that game occurred.
There have been some changes to both teams offensively since the last time they met. After missing two games, Andy Dalton returned last week for Dallas. He had a very strong performance, completing 22 of his 32 passes for 3 TD’s and one interception. He was able to spread the ball around, as he targeted four receivers 5+ times, and three receivers had 4+ catches. Ezekiel Elliott finally got going on the ground, running the ball 21 times for 103 yards (4.9 YPC). It was his best game of the season and he eclipsed the 100-yard mark for the first time in 2020. Seeing that offensive display has to give Cowboy fans a good feeling, and they will look to build off that success the second time around against Washington.
On the other side, Washington has turned to veteran QB Alex Smith to be their starter. Smith’s journey back to the NFL is truly remarkable, and his veteran presence is certainly helping this young Washington team. The past two weeks as a starter, Smith has completed 68.8 percent of his passes for 278 yards per game, with a touchdown, an interception and an 87.3 passer rating. Those aren’t off-the-charts stats, but Smith has brought a steady hand to the QB position, and the Washington offense has definitely looked more put together in recent weeks. WR Terry McLaurin continues to shine, catching 62 passes on the year for 871 yards and three touchdowns. Amazingly, McLaurin has 11 games with 80+ receiving yards in his two seasons thus far, despite having a revolving door at quarterback. His 1,790 receiving yards to date are 12th most all-time through 24 games and ahead of the likes of Jerry Rice (1,757). RB Antonio Gibson is coming into his own, leading the team in rushing with 530 yards and 4.5 YPC on the season. He has scored at least one touchdown in four straight games, and had an impressive 5.9 YPC against the Bengals last week.
With both offenses seeming to be putting things together, let’s take a look at the defenses. Washington has been impressive on the defensive front, spearheaded by rookie Chase Young. The WFT is tied for third in the league in sacks with 32, and have really been able to generate a lot of pressure on opposing quarterbacks. They are the best defense against the pass, as they are allowing only 195.4 passing yards per game, and are holding opposing QB’s to a rating of just 88.9 this season, which is 7th in the league. They are a little weaker against the run, giving up 120.4 yards per game (18th in the league), so look for Dallas to use Elliott on the ground throughout the contest. For Dallas, their defense has been pretty lackluster so far this season. The Cowboys are giving up 31.8 points per game, which is the most in the league, and are the 2nd-worst team against the run, allowing 153.8 yards per game. Dalvin Cook ran for 115 yards against them last week, and Antonio Gibson was able to run for 128 yards against them the first time around. The WFT was able to have 208 yards on the round in total in that first matchup. All in all, Washington definitely has an edge defensively, and they will look to use that advantage on Thursday.
The Washington Football Team may not have the best record, but they are playing good football as of late. In Washington’s last five games, they have won two of them, and lost the other three by 1, 3, and 3 points, including a last-second FG from Matt Prater to beat them in Detroit two weeks ago. Their offense looks much more steady with Alex Smith at the helm, and he has thrown for over 300 yards in two of his three starts. Andy Dalton and the Cowboys had a solid showing last week, but are we convinced they have finally gotten back on track for good? I am just not convinced yet. They have so much talent, but have underperformed all season. As good as the Dallas offensive weapons are, Washington is the best defense in the league against the pass (just 195.4 yards per game), and they have held teams to 23 points or less in four of their last five games. Their ferocious front four have been getting pressure on everyone, and Dallas’ offensive line has given up 27 sacks this season. I think Washington will be able to get to Andy Dalton and give him issues in the pocket. The Cowboys are a staggering -12 in the turnover differential this year, so Washington’s stingy defense will be sure to capitalize on opportunities for takeaways. Combine that with an improved offense under Alex Smith going up against the team allowing the most points per game in the league, and I think it’s a good combination for the Football Team. I like Washington +3.
Title Photo: NBC Sports