Which Dallas Cowboys players do the Washington Commanders need to keep quiet to have a chance of beating the old enemy at FedEx Field in Week 18?
A lot has changed for the Washington Commanders in the space of a season. But you wouldn't know it when looking at Week 18's matchup at home to the Dallas Cowboys.
Ownership is different, but there's a heavy sense of deja vu. Washington is looking to beat the old enemy just for a positive end to an otherwise disappointing campaign.
That's what happened a year ago when Sam Howell led the hosts to a 26-6 victory at the expense of the Cowboys. The quarterback's been benched and reinserted into the starting lineup since, but the struggling signal-caller will have a hard job repeating last season's heroics against a Dallas team loaded on both sides of the ball and with plenty still at stake.
The Cowboys can secure the NFC East title and No. 2 seed for the playoffs with a win. As Sports Illustrated's Jennifer Piacenti noted, "The No. 2 seed will avoid a matchup with the 49ers until the NFC Championship game. Plus it gives Dallas a home-field advantage in the Wildcard and Divisional rounds."
Having this much to play for means the Cowboys are unlikely to rest starters, including their dual-threat running back. He's one of three players the Commanders must keep quiet in Week 18.
Commanders must swarm upon Tony Pollard
He's 65 yards short of a second-straight 1,000-yard rushing season, so Tony Pollard has his own motivation for thriving against the Washington Commanders. It shouldn't be too difficult to gain those yards against a defense giving up 4.5 yards per carry.
The number is tough to take from a unit directed by head coach Ron Rivera, a former NFL linebacker. Unfortunately, he hasn't been able to build a stout run front. This is despite the presence of twin pillars, defensive tackles Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne.
Allen and Payne need to create a push in the middle and fill the cutback lanes Pollard loves to attack. It will also help Rivera to have safety Kamren Curl spy the backfield threat in coverage. The latter is a dangerous receiver out of the backfield, a prolific checkdown the Commanders need to deny Cowboys' quarterback Dak Prescott.
Washington's own quarterback must avoid two key members of the Dallas defense.